Sunday, July 8, 2012

What My Husband's Dementia Means, Part One

My hubby has mixed dementia, meaning the neurologist diagnosed him with about 50 % Vascular Dementia and 50% Alzheimer's. The Family Doctor Organization helps explain what the broad category of dementia is.
• Recent memory loss. All of us forget things for a while and then remember them later. People who have dementia often forget things, but they never remember them. They might ask you the same question over and over, each time forgetting that you've already given them the answer. They won't even remember that they already asked the question. Perhaps this is the most annoying aspect until you get used to it. DH's grandson talked to him on the phone before church today and I heard my husband ask repeatedly "What have you been up to?" Special events in the past month and even year he does remember, but day-to-day conversation with him can be taxing if you aren't used to it.
• Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People who have dementia might cook a meal but forget to serve it. They might even forget that they cooked it. Hubby has always had me cook or plan the meals. He can warm up things in the microwave that I have clearly labeled for him. He can leave the lawn mower outside and forget to put it away. Or, it could be his lack of initiative for finishing a task. Jake, on the other hand, loves to feel useful and will even pack up their RV to go camping even when they aren't going camping! AS THEY SAY, WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN ONE CASE OF ALZHEIMER'S YOU HAVE SEEN ONE CASE OF ALZHEIMER'S--EVERY PATIENT IS DIFFERENT.
• Problems with language. People who have dementia may forget simple words or use the wrong words. This makes it hard to understand what they want. They say that with dementia the nouns are the first to go. I have seen this once recently, and LOL I can't remember what it was that he was trying to describe to me. He did describe a function of an object without that word.
• Time and place disorientation. People who have dementia may get lost on their own street. They may forget how they got to a certain place and how to get back home. Today my husband wanted to clarify where he lives and I told him Plant City, Florida. This surprised me, but it shouldn't.
• Poor judgment. Even a person who doesn't have dementia might get distracted. But people who have dementia can forget simple things, like forgetting to put on a coat before going out in cold weather. DH still has good judgment, but I notice that our friend Jake needs to be watched. Sally caught him spray painting something that didn't need it. Jake has lots of initiative to do things, in fact he helped my husband mow on Saturday.
• Problems with abstract thinking. Anybody might have trouble balancing a checkbook, but people who have dementia may forget what the numbers are and what has to be done with them. I do the finances now. He turned them over to me when I retired from full-time work several years ago. I really appreciate the systems he set up--on-line banking and an Excel spreadsheet to help maintain the budget. Hubby loves movies, but the older ones without subtleties are best for him.
• Misplacing things. People who have dementia may put things in the wrong places. They might put an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. Then they can't find these things later. So true and I have blogged here about loss of keys and cell phones.
• Changes in mood. Everyone is moody at times, but people who have dementia may have fast mood swings, going from calm to tears to anger in a few minutes.  Life can be confusing for him and the result can be swearing and anger. Later he will forget the incident.
• Personality changes. People who have dementia may have drastic changes in personality. They might become irritable, suspicious or fearful. Knowing this I try to keep his life as calm as possible.
• Loss of initiative. People who have dementia may become passive. They might not want to go places or see other people. My husband is an extravert and so he does enjoy people still. He also wants to go places. However, he does show loss of initiative; often he wants to do the masculine jobs still, like mow the lawn, take out the garbage and carry heavy things, but I walk a fine line between encouraging him to mow the lawn and nagging. This will be worse this summer because of all the rain here.
The link above also deals with hallucinations, agitation and wandering, problems that are not huge so far.

One strange thing I have noticed is that when I am driving hubby will say things like:
  • "That's [whatever] been on the road a long time." Don't think so, but they say never argue with someone with Alzheimer's.
  • "They have been fixing this road for years." Not so.
  • "That car needs to get out of the way." His agitation can be peppered with swearing, but I roll with the punches and at times change the subject. Sometimes he says he is glad that he doesn't drive anymore and of course I am also.
Sally has a backseat driver on her hands when she drives; Jake is constantly telling her how to drive.

Both of our husbands are very protective of us. When Sally was going to go get groceries on Saturday, Jake suggested I go with her while he helped my hubby in our yard. Jake felt better if someone was with Sally. While my hubby likes to go on errands with me, he can tolerate my going out to teach or to Weight Watchers, activities that he can't really attend.

Both Sally and I are in our marriages "for better--for worse" and count our days as lovegivers precious in this stage, knowing that the worse will come.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for explaining all the nuances of Alzheimers. As always, my prayers are with you and your husband. :)