It is the beginning of the fourth day since I bundled my best friend off to the Special Care (aka dementia) ward of a local residential care complex. I don’t think I could have done it without the help and companionship of Don’s caregiver. Words cannot describe my anguish, which comes and goes in waves.
My friends have been very kind and encouraging, showering me with virtual hugs and real invitations. Dinner, a long walk, phone calls. Reminders that I am only as alone as I want to be.
But the house remains silent and empty, except in my mind, when I forget and start to look for him, or hear him talking.
I cannot go to see Don yet. He needs time to settle in and I need time to settle down. By the accounts of those who have visited, the care is outstanding and skilled. For example, the mirror in his room was covered immediately, but Don reported that “that guy” had followed him to the Village, so the staff covered over the mirror in the public area too.
And he has met some navy guys who were in Korea too. And there is music. In fact we are going to bring his guitar.
As for me, it feels somewhat like living in shock after extreme violence, and emotionally that must have been what it was like. Being a prisoner to someone else’s disease, watching and censoring every reaction, every word, all the time.
Anyway, that phase is over now. Other people are taking over…many people to do what I did most of the time alone. Don’t get me wrong — the caregivers, the small breaks, the family visits, the overnights, the respite weeks, all kept me going, but in the end most of the time we were alone and dementia was in control.
I have been pulled back from some awful brink. It is a gift of time and renewed life and it is now up to me to make what I want of the rest of my life. Who knows? I don’t, but I do know the first practice needed, the first step to recovery, is what my friend calls “extreme self-care.”
In my brighter moments, I am looking forward to it.