My daughter and I were talking the other day about how we felt all by ourselves when Jerry was first diagnosed. I suppose we were since he was only 50. The picture in this post was taken about 3 years into the journey, when he was 53. We had barely heard of Alzheimer disease, much less known anyone with it. Now, 13 years later, it seems there is hardly anyone who has not been affected by this disease or know of someone has it. People come to me in the early stages wracked with concern, overwhelming sadness and a sense of helplessness.
So, I’ve decided to start this blog up again. It has taken me a little over a year to feel healthy enough to continue to writing. Now, since I’ve been walking the road for so long, I feel it’s my duty to share what I know. This time it will begin with what I see on an every day basis with Jerry in his memory care facility. I’ll call it his home. That’s just what it is....his home, where he has lived for 15 months.
Let’s start with today, April 12, 2012. I went to see Jerry on my way up to Raleigh. I arrived around 11:00. Whenever I walk down the hall, on the way to the memory unit, I am greeted with energetic smiles from the staff and residents in the assisted living section. The feeling is of a warm, comfy home. There is a button I press that unlocks the door to the memory unit. A soft “ding” goes off when I open it. Once inside, Jerry happened to be coming around the corner. He had just been bathed and was dressed in a soft yellow henley and a pair of jeans. The minute he saw me, he stretched out his arms and came toward me. We must have held tight for atleast 10 minutes without moving. Behind him was a beautiful woman who’s arms were loaded with towels and his toiletries. I introduced myself and asked her name. “Haddie", she said. I thanked her for doing such a good job getting him bathed...that he felt so good and looked so good. She smiled and said, “Thank you. I came late today.” Jerry, then, reached over and gave her a tap on the shoulder as if to say, “She’s good.”
Haddie looked at him and said, “Jerry. Who’s this? Is this your wife?” His eyes looked past her in the opposite direction of where I was standing. She guided them back over to me and said again, “Jerry. This is your wife. This is your wife.” He was delighted to see me. (again) Then the three of us continued down the hall.
It turns out that Haddie is the hospice CNA that comes twice a week. She told me she usually comes around 5am, bathes him, then lays him back down and that he is always willing. No doubt her soft and compassionate demeanor enables him to be a willing participant. I cherish these hospice people and anyone who works with dementia patients. I hold them in such high regard. This is a thankless job and not very glamorous. Yet, there is no more important work than to help those who cannot help themselves. The fact that I know Jerry is well cared for has saved my life and provided blessed assurance.