I met my wife Joyce when I was in my early thirties. We’ve been married for over fifty years, and I don’t think we’ve ever spent more than a few days apart. We have children and grandchildren, a comfortable home, and we lead what most people would consider to be a life of privilege.
Joyce was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of months ago. I first started noticing that something was off because she was becoming uncharacteristically short-tempered with me. She started forgetting where her things were, like her car keys, and she started misplacing things altogether. I remember once she had put the laundry detergent in the fridge. I spent hours trying to find it.
It wasn’t long after Joyce was formally diagnosed that the kids and I decided to move her to an assisted living facility. I am very torn about that decision, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t consider bringing her back home. But I can’t take care of both of us.
I visit her several times a week, and I think the people there treat her well. They take excellent care of her, but it’s not a good place for me to visit. I become very depressed. It’s not unusual to be greeted by a screaming or crying patient, for example.
There’s a gentleman in his sixties there who has to have his food cut into tiny bits and fed to him by an occupational therapist because he can’t even do that himself anymore. I feel like I’ve abandoned her in hell, and I fear that in a moment of lucidity, she will recognize this.
When I went to see her last, one of her aides asked her whether she recognized me. She said, “Yes, that’s the garbage man. He’s come to help me take care of the garbage.” Of course, I was not offended. But I was hurt. If I go to see her in the morning, she’s usually present, but in the afternoons, she starts sundowning—her symptoms get worse as the day wears on.
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