It is 12 weeks since my wife moved into residential care. It has been a fairly lonely time for me, particularly in the evenings and mornings. Preparing meals for one person is harder to do than I thought. I either overdo it and end up with leftovers, or I under prepare and have to find something else to assuage the hunger. Chores like cleaning, laundry and shopping are not new to me as I have been doing all of that for the last 3 years. I have even worked out how to fold a fitted double bed sheet into a nice neat arrangement rather that the screwed up ball I used to end up with.
I was the appreciative recipient of various acts of kindness in the early weeks. During this time I was invited out for an evening meal on 5 occasions, 3 of which were in one week. Also quite a few of our friends have visited my wife either with me or without me to accompany them.
I have been to visit her regularly, though I tried to limit it to every other day during the first 2 weeks. The first time I went my wife was clearly not happy. I took her to a quiet lounge away from the other residents and we sat down together. Then she said, “what’s all this about me having dementia?” I tried to explain that is why she is where she is, in a residential care home. To which she replied, “but I don’t feel any different.” I then had to explain again that it is an illness like no other illness. There is no pain like a heart attack or a broken leg, but that the illness is that her brain isn’t working like it used to and she doesn’t remember things. During those early weeks she was prescribed medication to relieve her anxiety.
I have found that when it is time for me to leave her and come home that she becomes downcast. On several occasions in the first week or two she asked if she could come with me. On another occasion when I said I had to go home to do the ironing she said she would come with me to help. Somehow my wife has the impression that I have someone who comes to do the household chores.
We have now been separated for nearly 3 months. A lot of things about residential care were a mystery to me beforehand. Both my parents spent their last years in aged care homes and I knew something about what happens and the processes of providing aged care. This time I am much more personally involved, and want to know more about what happens in the home. I have high regard for the carers who are doing a difficult job with patience, kindness and always a smile. There are a few matters that concern me though. For safety reasons none of the residents rooms can be locked. Because all of the residents on her wing have dementia, they don’t always know which is their own room. That part doesn’t worry me. What concerns me is that things go missing out of my wife’s room, for example her slippers disappeared, one shoe disappeared, a brand new doona (duvet for none Australian residents) and cover disappeared, a manicure set disappeared, a small container of fruit cake disappeared. All of these have been returned except for the doona and cover and the cake container.
I have been talking to Ken, husband of one of the other residents. His wife has been on the wing for 2 years, and he has been a useful source of knowledge and opinion about the quality of care.
During the last three months I have getting a new routine into my life. I find I function at a higher level of efficiency if that is working properly. But not too strict a routine, one that allows for some flexibility and change of schedule if an interesting additional activity is on offer. The first decision I made was to get a check-up from my GP. He found I am sound in wind and limb with the blood pressure of an 18-year-old. Although that is all good I still haven’t got into a regular sleeping pattern. Every night I wake up at least once but sometimes it is 3 or 4 times. This leaves me feeling tired and irritable with myself. Some of my friends have advised me to seek the services of a psychologist to help me through this time. I have got as far as getting a referral from GP to see one, but have yet to act on it.
Through my contacts with a Younger Onset Dementia group I have come across this blog which readers will find of interest .http://kateswaffer.com/ This blog is written by a person with dementia (PWD) and gives an insight into her world through her eyes.