Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Road Trip With an Alzheimer's Husband

Road trip with an Alzheimer's loved one.  
When you travel with them, you notice more how the disease is affecting your loved one. We headed north to visit my younger brother, the rocket scientist, his wife and his extended family in Huntsville, Alabama. We rented a car because it didn't make sense to use our gas guzzler which has over 200,000 miles now.  The trip can take only one day, but with an Alzheimer's husband who would be impatient I drove a day and a half each way staying at a hotel each leg of the trip.

Our dog was dropped off at a kennel and Sally and Jake took us to Avis at the Tampa International Airport. When I was not visible to my husband while he was watching our luggage, it was great to have our friends with him. I went to Avis to arrange for the car. Priceline had reserved a $12 a day car for us. You could fit one piece of luggage in the $12 car and so we were upgraded to a more expensive car ($35 a day)--a Ford Taurus. It took some adjustment for me to use this car, but even my husband liked it. For example, I didn't know how to turn the volume down at first on the trip to Huntsville and how to plug in my iPhone for our playlists. When it came to buying gas, I had to have help.

On the way to Huntsville I entertained my hubby by asking him to shell peanuts for me. We also talked and I was able to use playlists on my iPhone. On the return trip, however, I knew how to turn the volume down and use the plug in for the iPhone thanks to the smarts of my sister-in-law. We listened to a variety of music on the radio and on my playlists, and talked repeatedly about our dog Ziggy. I let my husband choose the subject of conversation because it works out the best this way and I don't get his comments--Carol, you aren't making sense.

While at my brother and sister-in-law's home, we also spent three evenings with my niece and nephew and their families including three delightful children. We went to Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsborough where I spent a total of $10.44 on a dress and a scarf. We saw the movie "Quartet".

Hubby had many repeated questions for me while we were gone:
  1. Are we in a hotel? (We stayed at my brother's home.)
  2. What are we doing here?
  3. Is our dog in the kennel?
  4. What does our home look like?
  5. When are we going home?
Questions such as these, asked over and over, are pretty standard for this stage of Alzheimer's, and hubby didn't have his printed schedule on the trip, because he would be with me and I wasn't sure what would happen each day.

My rocket scientist brother works for a subcontractor at the large Redstone Arsenal and on Saturday he took us to see the nicknamed "Pentagon South" building he is moving into. We had to show IDs to get through the gate to the Arsenal and hubby and I handed my brother our driver's licenses. When It came time to get give our IDs at the gate, my brother could not find the driver's licenses with a thorough search of the car. Now hubby is so good at putting things away. Finally hubby checked his wallet and sure enough both of our driver's licenses were here! We all laughed including hubby, who still has his license for identification but chooes not to drive any more.  

Hubby lost his cell phone at a mall and security did see a local relative to call, my sister-in-law, called her and my brother went to get that cell phone. On the trip back home while I stopped at MacDonalds to get hubby to take his pills with food, I went to the rental car to get something and hubby forgot where I was. He used his cell phone to call me, getting my sister-in-law instead of me. She told him I must be around there somewhere. He must just press TALK when he calls me and usually I am the last number, although this time it was the sister-in-law.

At my brother's home I made hubby's coconut oil/dark chocolate fudge and I realize it does calm him down. I just packed coconut oil, dark chocolate and two ice cube trays and then made it at our destination as I have described on this blog.

As we traveled in Alabama I noticed signs of recession, with shops closed. However new Dollar General appeared in small towns along HYW 231.

Not open

Other changes. The price of gas dropped 20 cents as we entered Alabama. On the way home it was even 2 cents lower than that until we got to Florida. None of this phased hubby. Place as well as time has less meaning for him.  Alabama has radio and signs protecting drivers from distracted driving such as texting while driving, whereas Florida's signs emphasize the "Move Over Law" protecting officers parked by the side of the road.

Alabama Choleus, herbs, Breathless Blush Euyphorbia, and Hot Water Ble Lobelia
One place that was not closed was Pat's Secret Garden in North Ozark, Alabama. I have noticed and stopped at this garden shop for years on my travels to Alabama from Florida and it didn't show signs of slowing down at all and I bought the above plants. Pat herself told me to put the plants I purchased in the trunk and a day later when we arrived home they were fine, ready for my areas 8 and 9 projects at our home. Pat has a secret garden open April 15th to May 24th in case you are in the neighborhood.

Getting home we first picked up the dog, drove home and unpacked. Sally and Jake came over. Jake spent time with hubby while Sally followed me to the airport to turn in my Priceline "bargain" rental that totaled $344 including taxes and other charges for six days; then Sally brought me home while we talked for the whole ride about our husbands and the past six days we both experienced.  

Highlights of the trip included relaxed time chatting with family, going to church, beating my rocket scientist brother at Checkers at Cracker Barrel restaurant, and having raps videotaped by the niece and nephew who say they are putting it on YouTube under a rapper name they have chosen for me.

Hubby seems very contented at home now. Things are predictable to him and hubby is more predictable to me. So glad I got to see family and that we took this trip.


  1. I'm so glad you had a nice time despite the occasional hiccup! And how many people can say they have a rocket scientist for a brother? Awesome. If it makes you feel any better, I can't figure out ANYONE ELSE'S car - drives me nuts. Such a creature of habit we humans.

  2. Precious times together with familyt! So glad you got to go.

  3. Glad you are home safe and sound. Your post sure did dig up a bunch of memories for me.

    My son has a new job near Huntsville so will be moving there soon. Huntsville is about 120 miles as the crow flies from where I used to live so I am familiar with some of the places you mentioned.

  4. Happy your trip was enjoyable. The fact that you were prepared made it easier. Sounds like you thought of everything. We are taking a trip to visit our Grand daughter and her family in two weeks. Thankfully two of our daughters are traveling with us so that I can concentrate on keeping my DH calm and comfy. This is a car trip of about 9 hours and we will listen to the book "At Home In Mitford" by Jan Karon. We have heard this one many times but my husband loves it and responds to it like it was the first time he heard it. Should be a good trip.

  5. It sounds like such a nice trip. It's interesting how the coconut oil seems to help. I'm thinking of splurging and buying some at Costco. My brain needs some help! :-)

  6. This blog post was picked up here: