|Any One Riding Off into the Sunset?|
Carol: LaTane, thanks so much for being willing to chat. We seniors have to learn so much don't we!
LaTane: Yes, it's an entirely new world for us. I try to stay in touch with today's technology but find that I can't run as fast as I once did!!
Carol: I know. Barb (Cleaning Up the Clutter) helped me get on Pinterest, and then this last week my sister-in-law helped me adjust to an iPhone after my five year old cell phone died. But for this interview you and I have two things in common--widowhood and caregiving. I have been a widow and you are one now. I am a caregiver now and you have been one.
LaTane: Yes, and I bet if we explored it further we would have other things in common.
Carol: We both love the LORD, blogging, writing, quilts, etc.
LaTane: Yes, you got it!
Carol: You have been a widow for over a year now. How long were you a caregiver?
LaTane: About eleven years with my husband. I took care of my Mom, who had dementia, for 12 years prior to that.
Carol: Wow! Did taking care of her prepare you for hubby's situation?
LaTane: Not really. Each one was so different and in many ways you treat dementia differently. Alzheimer’s is much more complex. Also, taking care of your Mom isn't like having your spouse retreat into a dark hole. Maybe I should have used the word “disappear” instead of retreat. Retreat is a conscious effort, disappearance is not really.
Carol: “Disappear” is a good word for it. How did you notice that happening?
LaTane: A missed appointment, confusion over where we were supposed to be, forgetting things he should have known.
Carol: And it is easy to nag until you learn what Alzheimer’s is.
LaTane: I am afraid I did some of that nagging. I expected to have Elbert by my side until we rode off into the sunset together, with him being that strong and capable man that he was. The tables were turning and I was scared.
Carol: I know I miss that strength from my husband now and I have to learn a new language just to simply be able to communicate and to be responsible for so much.
LaTane: Having to take on the entire responsibility for the two of you is very difficult. You are getting older, have less energy and now you have it all to do. And, let's face it-- men do some things better than women!!
Carol: I had that as a widow also. I went through Hurricane Andrew with my late husband and then every time something would come up after he died (insurance, fixing something around the house, mowing the lawn) the grieving would be painful in another way.
LaTane: In my generation the man assumed the role as head of the household (with me as his partner). It just felt odd to have to make every decision by myself. But, I had a very supportive family to help me through all that.
Carol: Did you have any role models for being your mother’s and husband’s caregiver or did you learn and blog as it went along? Was navigating all the insurance and medical decisions hard for both mom and hubby?
LaTane: That is one thing I am having so much trouble figuring out-- all these companies and stuff that Elbert took care of. My brain is so overloaded. Mother was easy. But, when I knew that we would have a lot of decisions to make (and before Elbert got too bad) we went to an elder law attorney who guided us through so much of the legal tangles that we would face. A couple of our children were involved in every aspect of that. I will say it helped so much to have a professional in our corner. We also had a very knowledgeable family services director who was always there for us.
Carol: Did your late husband have trouble with driving, hallucinating, anger issues?
LaTane: Elbert was a very calm person in the real world and I am so thankful that he, for the most part, remained calm and nonviolent. He was easy to care for in that respect but he would want to “go home” and after his getting out of the house and down the street in the middle of the night more than once we installed alarms on the outside doors. These can be bought at Lowe's for a small amount and alerts you when the door opens.
Carol: Good tip and I think there is also an Alzheimer’s store that where you can buy such items.
LaTane: He spent nearly two years falling several times a day and that was my main task--keeping him off of the floor. Someone had to be with him at all times because he did not remember not to get out of his chair without help. That was a very stressful time. After that length of time his doctor decided that he was having seizures which caused the falls.
Carol: Then came the nursing home I would imagine. I read about that on your blog which I religiously followed.
LaTane: Yes, and, that was a very difficult decision. Tore our hearts out but I just could not continue on with his care.
Carol: Did you have to trick him to get him to move? And how did the elder law attorney help with this?
LaTane: We investigated several places which I suggest everyone do. After the choice was made my daughter and I took him to meet with the director and also to familiarize him with what could be his new surroundings. Later, after his room was set up and all his clothes in place we took him, visited with him in the room and then the director brought in another resident who had similar interest to distract Elbert. The family left and I really do not think he ever realized where he was.
Carol: So interesting that he recognized it as his home with his things.
LaTane: His first home away from home was an Alzheimer’s wing in an assisted living facility. A bit more upbeat, more like home situation which made it easier I think.
Carol: So you were now on road to being a widow and yet married when he left your home you both had shared.
LaTane: Yes. You lose your loved one to Alzheimer’s long before they pass away.
Carol: I know this is what my fate is. I do not know how to prepare for it.
LaTane: Your role as caregiver becomes your main focus, your existence. You do whatever you must in order to make their days (and yours) as comfortable as possible. That becomes your full time job. I must add that there are sweet moments of tenderness, of love, of hugs. You learn to cherish those beyond measure.
Carol: Oh yes I am cherishing each good day we have. I however just challenged DH to finish his breakfast, take his pills and scolded the dog for not eating also!
LaTane: That's funny... poor little doggie!
Carol: I talked to the dog and now he is beside me. Both the dog and the husband here do not understand me! However, I am still able to work outside the home.
LaTane: I do not know how women still work (or men if their wives have AD). It's such a challenge without a full time job.
Carol: I am working to pay off credit cards so I can stay home one day when I have to. Also substituting and teaching classes for DUI offenders are a sort of break.
LaTane: Oh yes, we all need those breaks.
Carol: Did you get any breaks and did you feel guilty when you took a break?
LaTane: I finally found a woman who would sit with Elbert when I went out. She was wonderful with him. I was feeling guilty to begin with but soon realized that I had to take care of myself in order to be able to take care of him. They preached that in the support group I went to.
Carol: On our subject of widowhood, I had to be babysat when I got rid of the clothes, books, etc. of my late husband.
LaTane: Was his death sudden or was his illness a long one? In my case I found that I was prepared to stack his clothes in a pile and ask someone to take them. Having him living away from home for a year and a half had to have helped my state of mind in that regard.
Carol: My late husband died very suddenly from a blood clot following surgery. Then I dated too soon when I was a widow and then had grief on top of heartbreak. You try to fill the void before your grieving is done. How are you doing with widowhood now? One of my mother-in-laws told me she didn't want to take care of some old man. Are you thinking of remarriage at all?
LaTane: I have a lot of things I am involved in. I stay busy. I meet friends for lunch. I had a few months counseling which helped. It's a long process. Don't rush yourself. Just face each morning when the sun comes up.
Carol: I had counseling also and went to a widow support group. My counselor asked me, Why are you in such a hurry to replace your husband, Carol.
LaTane: I don't think I will ever be ready for marriage. I said I would never get involved with someone, I love being alone too much. But, I realized I really missed the companionship that a man provides. I do date some. I appreciate anyone for showing kindness.
Carol: The Scriptures tell younger widows to remarry, not older ones.
LaTane: Hey, where is that Scripture?
Carol: I Timothy 5:14 and there may be room for interpretation here, I think it is both good and controversial when older people marry. The thing is you are so vulnerable as a widow. It took me a long time to marry another Christian—I was 55 when I remarried. I am glad I can be his wife/caregiver now. It is my marriage commitment.
LaTane: See, I don't think I am in that place in my life that I can go there. I wonder sometimes if I am just searching for what I had.
Carol: The best, Heaven, is yet to come.
LaTane: Amen to that!
Carol: I am envious of people who are almost there often (Heaven), yet live to hear my LORD say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Well, LaTane, you have a cold and need to take care of yourself. I am very grateful that you have shared this experience. Hugs and prayers as always and look forward to maybe meeting you this side of Heaven.
LaTane: You have been great interviewing me, drawing me out.
Carol: “TTYL” as the young people write!
LaTane: I know your journey is fairly new and I pray for peace and guidance for you in the days and years to come. Bye for now!