As a caregiver, consistency in routine seems to keeps things working at their best. VIsits twice a week, once during the week and one weekend day, keep the time with Jerry pretty positive. We used to have lunch dates, but because of his declining state, I now go just after lunch, around 1:00. If the weather is nice, I still put him in the car and we drive around town to see his favorite waterfront, the birds and the boats. If the weather's too cold, we head to the facility dining room, which is white table cloth, and have a coke or coffee and a cookie. (I'm always prepared with cookies or peanuts.) After months on end, my mental energy tank begins to run low, so I've found that I HAVE to get out of dodge for a couple of weeks a year to refuel. I can feel myself sinking, my paintings lose their energy and so do I. Luckily for me, my son lives in California, so it's the perfect escape. In our 41 years of marriage, Jerry and I rarely left each other (accept for his business travels.) I wasn't one for girls weekends and he wasn't one for guys golf trips. I suppose you could say that we were stuck to each other like amyloid plaque and brain cells (not funny). The first time I ever left Jerry for over one night, was a year and a half ago. He was at the facility and I went to a two week art school in the mountains. We both survived. Then, last spring, I went to Santa Barbara for a week of intense painting. It was wonderful.
January and February are overcast and dreary in the Carolinas. That type of weather in Alzheimer world is a recipe for depression. So over the last few weeks, I went back to California. With my paints neatly packed, a rented car, and US 1, I drove through Carmel and Big Sur, then ended up in Pasadena with my "old same", my son, Mark. He's good for reenergizing me. We worked on a new website, created a new art video, played great music, laughed and celebrated being together. It was a beautifully crazy fun time. And even though I felt the need to call Jerry almost every day, just like in the old days, each day, his nurses who are well versed in knowing how to make the families feel good, would say, "He's fine. He danced with me today." This trip was the perfect thing to refuel my emotional and mental energy tank so that I could go back to him.
Refreshed after two weeks, I walked into the facility curious if Jerry would know who I was. The aide had him back in his room, bathing and dressing him, shaving and putting all his "smell good" on. When he walked out, I melted as usual. He put his arms out, but he did not know who I was. (He gets lots of hugs from everyone who sees him). I wrapped my arms around him, pulled away and told him it was me. Hugged him again and laid my head on his chest. As we walked down the hall, I could tell he had a happy countenance. His eyes had a brightness to them. Even though he didn't know who I was, he knew he was with someone who made him happy. We wandered down the hall to the living room but he wasn't content staying at the facility. WIthout words, I could see he wanted to go. This is our routine...go, get in the car, and drive around. He knew. He knew who I was.
If you have any opportunity to enable a caregiver to get away and have a re-energizing retreat. Please do so. It will help them go the distance. Thank you all for encouraging me.