+Alzheimer's Reading Room
We met, fell in love and had a three-year whirlwind relationship. When that relationship ended, we became best friends – life partners really, in a relationship that would ever deepen and last until the very end, 30 years later.
Life was good for the first 20 years or so. But then Ed began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. I was devastated when the official diagnosis came.
In the beginning, the illness caused Ed to lash out at me sometimes but I never considered giving up.
He had helped me tremendously years before when I really needed it. Now it was payback time.
My first major challenge was getting him to stop driving. After no amount of begging and pleading worked, I came up with a creative solution. I simply drove him everywhere he needed to go. After that he never drove again. It made for some pretty long, difficult days but I tried to never complain.
In addition to the driving, I had to go out to his apartment several times a day to check on him and to respond to his urgent pleas for help with simple things he could no longer do by himself, such as getting dressed, operating the television or adjusting the thermostat.
After he moved to a nursing home my duties changed from doing nearly everything for him to engaging, entertaining and loving him. He returned to his former affectionate self. This was the most rewarding part of my journey as a caregiver.
Once I delighted Ed by hiring a classical violinist to come to the nursing home wearing a tux to play a concert just for him in his room.
Another time I discovered quite by accident that he would love playing with little stuffed animals, so I took him a long procession of them. He named the first two “The Little Yellow One” and “Adorable.”
The others had no names because two were the most he could both think up and remember. But he loved them all just the same.
Then I made up games to play with the little animals. It was like a three-year-old playing with his mother. It was fun. Sometimes we laughed ourselves silly.
Our playing together led me to love him even more. I had finally found a way to relate to him that was meaningful to us both. Our love had triumphed over this last and most daunting challenge it would ever face.
After Ed died I wrote a book dedicated to him. It’s about our life together and my caregiving experiences.
Many caregivers have said it is helping them carry out their own duties.
Former caregivers have said they wish they’d had it when they were caregivers.
One reader summed it up by commenting
“No one who reads this story will ever look at love, devotion and the human spirit the same way again.”
More Articles By Marie Marley
*Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. Her website contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
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