It has been just two months and five days since we took Don to the care home. That time seems like so much longer. But things are moving along right on schedule the way “they” say they do.
Sitting with him yesterday on a rainy day, listening to his good-natured but incomprehensible chatter, I looked around the lounge area and realised the patients were all quite happy.
The staff moved around, chatting, checking in on each one. One man was looking at the newspaper and an aide stopped for a long, rambling, but apparently very satisfying, discussion about the contents. Another aide joined a lady in the colouring project, which consists of a big box of crayons and an endless supply of paper designs. Several of the men snooze in front of a game on TV, occasionally exchanging somewhat random points–perhaps, actually probably, not even about that particular game.
Staff served afternoon snacks to general satisfaction. A recreation director dropped in to chat and read a story if the mood was right. One guy explained that he really enjoyed watching the people through the window (actually the colourers at the table 8 feet away) but “just to watch not to talk.”
The first month was hard and chaotic for both of us. I didn’t know what to expect or how to act. I didn’t know how I would survive in an empty house. Don didn’t know what was wrong with me and why I didn’t take him home.
The second month was a bit easier. I started to enjoy my freedom from constant caregiving and expand my horizons. Don began to see the care home as safe, engaging in activities and conversations, thereby proving that 75% of communication is non-verbal — body language, expression, tone, rather than words.
I did go through several permutations of emotion which I had been warned about. The Seniors Health nurse had warned that as soon as I got a bit of rest I would second guess the decision and feel that Don should still be at home. And yes there has been a bit of that, especially on days when he is fretful or frightened. Many others have talked about the emotional shift from perpetual caregiver back to spouse that the situation now allows, and yes that has happened too, bringing fresh grief in its wake.
Meanwhile gradually Don has settled in, seemingly having decided that I live somewhere in the building and just go off to do things. A fine solution although occasionally disconcerting when it becomes clear that he thinks I (whoever I might be) have been visiting his mom.
Overall, despite the bumps in the road, we are adjusting to this new situation. “Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” But I know this enemy dementia well enough by now that I can expect another stage of decline as soon as we get comfortable again.
But this time, there will be an entire staff of nurses and aides, a dietician, doctors, an army of professionals, to deal with it and explain to me what is happening. The relief is as much in that knowledge as in my peaceful house. I continue to sleep nine or ten hours a day, awaking with a happy stretch and some deep breathing.