Sunday, April 24, 2016

More Changes and More Challenges

Last fall, I saw evidence of Jim's difficulties with spatial relationships. When we replaced our bedroom carpet last September , I distinctly remember my shock and dismay at his inability to comprehend the simplest of explanations (by the installer) of how the carpet would be cut around the built in dresser drawers in the walk-in-closet. Finally the installer turned to me and said "I'll let you explain it".

We are in the process of replacing our living room sofa, love seat and chairs. I know that this will create a number of high stress situations for him. If I could, I would simply hang on to what we have, but they are about a year past needing to be replaced. I'll spare all the painful details, but the OCD behavior kicked into overdrive, along with his difficulty in processing and understanding the measurements needed for ordering the furniture.

This, from a man who brilliantly designed and made furniture as a hobby when he was younger. He always had a superior sense of spatial relationships.

I have learned how to psychologically manipulate (I know that sounds like a terrible word) so that he accepts what I have to say. It helps to bring peace to the situation and avoids having a prolonged, painful discussion where the outcome is often not good for either of us. For example, when he was obsessing about how to determine the dimensions of the sofa, I turned the conversation around by praising him and giving him credit for figuring out the best way to measure. Then I stated the conclusion that he came to (that he really didn't!) was the right answer. It worked. He was content, and the sofa was correctly measured.

We built our house 11 years ago. At the time, the hope was that we could age in place. We designed it as a ranch style home, thinking it would help to minimize any barriers as we aged. Little did we know that our biggest threat  (at least at this point) would not be physical disabilities, but Jim's cognitive limitations.

It still feels good to write about this. It helps for me to put this in writing; kind of a substitute for psychological therapy!  For the few who are reading my blog, thanks for reading! I know that I get a lot of support from reading other blogs, and hopefully my blog will also help others to know that they are not alone.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Another New Normal

We're home, after escaping the cold winter for three months. It feels good to be home! I spent yesterday with my elderly mom, helping her with errands, grocery shopping and also took her to lunch. She no longer drives and has serious mobility issues. A hired helper and her adult children all pitch in to help keep her quality of life as good as it can be, given her advanced age and her multiple health problems. She is still sharp as a tack, for which I am grateful.

While I was gone yesterday, I provided Jim with some guidance on things he could do to entertain himself while I was gone for the day. He, on his own, decided to do a bit of yard work (although it is too early in the season to do much of it). Also gave him a list with two items to pick up at the store, if he decided he wanted to do so. When I got home, the items he purchased were totally wrong. I was tired and a little grumpy after having been gone from home for almost 7 hours. I'm sure he sensed the edge in my voice when I questioned why he deviated from the list.

Of course I then immediately felt guilty for the edge in my voice and suggested that we go together to return what he had purchased and get the original two items on the list. It really doesn't matter why he didn't purchase the correct items. His reality, his reasoning, and his judgement are just not the same as they were. And I need to adjust to the new normal.

We got into his car (he wanted to drive). He looked at the dashboard and fumbled his fingers between the GPS, the different knobs, and then said "wait, what am I doing?". I said "you're going to start your car (pointing to the keys/ignition). Do you want me to drive?" Of course he insisted on driving, and actually did well. But those concerns are topic for another post sometime.

He has an appointment Monday with his family doctor. I will not be going, since Jim has made it clear that he does NOT want the doctor to know about my concerns with Jim's memory. "It will just lead him down the wrong path, when there is nothing wrong."

I am constantly aware that this is our new normal, and that it is as good as it is going to get. I try to internalize this so that I can appreciate what we have now, knowing that it will not get better. Further decline is inevitable, just a matter of how quickly.

Alice has a great blog, where she shares her experiences about her husband's cognitive impairments. In her most recent post, she writes about the many tests that can be found on the internet to test your cognitive ability. If you take one of these tests, you immediately sense the anxiety it can produce, which of course impacts on performance.

Anxiety seems to be key right now. The less stress there is, the better he does. The spiral:  "He's anxious, then I'm anxious, then he gets more anxious, then he struggles and fails, and then we are both even more anxious".

The funny thing is, if you asked anyone who knows me, they would tell you that I am a mellow, low-key, relaxed person. And I still am, most of the time. It's just that these new challenges in our lives are making it more difficult to maintain this composure. Just trying to keep the peace.