This blog has two purposes. The first is that is intended to be an occasional record of the day today caring for my wife who was assessed as having Primary Progressive Aphasia, a type of dementia, in September 2011. The second reason is that in some small way it may help other people who find themselves in a similar situation. When my wife’s dementia started I had no idea of where or how it would lead us and the changes it would make to our way of life.
My wife always had a weekly routine in our old home. She did all the chores and shopping on the the same days each week. The home was always clean and tidy and a comfortable place to live. The pantry and the fridge was always well stocked. The laundry was always done and put away in the bedroom and linen cupboard. When I was still working she prepared my breakfast, lunch and dinner on week days and I did it at the weekends. She also took pride in her appearance, had her hair done regularly and had a large wardrobe of clothes from which to choose. We have lots of friends and often had people over for a meal, which we jointly prepared.
The first signs of memory loss were seen in late 2005 by a near relative who works in the field of Mental Health Care (although she didn’t say anything to me at the time). My first awareness of a problem was about late 2006 on a return to trip to UK to visit friends and family.
I retired from work in March 2009. Two months later we sold our home of 35 years and moved into a retirement village. We decided then to divide up the household chores between us. It was decided that I would do all the meal preparations and make out the shopping list for groceries etc. My wife agreed to do the washing, ironing and housework. In October 2009 I was diagnosed as having a sub-dural haematoma which needed rather urgent surgery. My wife was rather upset at this news and needed lots of TLC to get used to the idea. Without the help of some good friends during this time I don’t know how she would have coped as her memory problems were getting worse.
One of our plans for retirement was to buy a new caravan and do lots of trips away. We had bought new car capable of towing a decent sized caravan 18 months before I retired, and we had sold our old small caravan. My wife had a small inheritance and she wanted this to go towards the cost of the new caravan.
We had our first trip away in July 2009, travelling round the south east coast and making our way to Port Macquarie. It was the first time I realised that my wife was no longer capable of doing the things that we usually did on a caravan trip. I always was the driver and the caravan set up person. I also did all the meal preparation. My wife took care of the laundry and was in charge of washing up. When it came to doing the laundry my wife didn’t like going to the facility on her own, and did not know how to make the washing machine work, something she had never had a problem with before in 12 years of caravaning.
In the next 12 months we did several short trips to places in Victoria. In July 2010 we traveled to the Gold Coast in Queensland for a one month stay. We were away for nearly 6 weeks altogether. During this trip my wife exhibited further signs of disorientation, for example, not being able to find her way to the shower block and back to the caravan without me to guide her. In addition she had problems remembering the key code for access to the shower block.
Late in 2009 went to Philip Island with a group of friends who all have caravans. My wife again had orientation problems. It was noticed by one of the group who commented to me about it. It was at this point we decided that the caravan days were numbered, and we should sell it.