We all know the marriage vows, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”. Some of us live those vows to the letter. Jean is one of these individuals.
We know that many spouses provide care at home for their partners with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Theirs is a loving and difficult journey which requires significant patience and tenacity. While this is the story of Phil’s experience with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it is also the story of Jean’s evolution as a caregiver. From managing it all on her own to bringing in supportive services and ultimately, choosing a team to entrust Phil’s care to, Jean was able to become his wife again.
“When I look back, I realize Phil had been showing signs of dementia several years before he was diagnosed. He saw our family doctor and then a neurologist. After testing by the neurologist, they sent him for more testing at the Neuropsychological Services of Virginia. One year later, he went back for follow up testing. As the years went by, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, continually managed by tweaks and changes in his medication.
My goal was to keep Phil at home, but as the years went by, the situation worsened. He was looking in the cabinets constantly, and I removed everything I thought could harm him, but I often found him gagging on pickling spice or something else you would never think someone would try to eat.
For a long time, I could leave him at home, but when I became uneasy with this, someone from AmeriCare or Right at Home came to stay with him. He didn’t want or think he needed help, so I told him they were coming to clean the house. They were there to do whatever was necessary to make him think that’s why they were there. Some of them did clean, but their job was to take care of Phil, and many times I would come home to them putting together a puzzle or watching a TV show together.
The years of constant stress from being on guard to keep him from doing something that would hurt himself were very difficult. He behaved like a toddler, putting anything he found on the floor in his mouth. I was afraid he would go on our dock and fall overboard. I sold the riding lawn mower, put alarms on the doors, and tried everything anyone suggested. Nothing worked.
I realized I needed support, so I started going to the Alzheimer’s Support Group that was held at Commonwealth Senior Living in Kilmarnock and found it to be very helpful. Everyone was very supportive of each other and the facilitator was extremely helpful. This was the highlight of my month.
This had been going on for 10 years, and I always told the doctor everything that had happened since our last visit. The situation was worsening, and the doctor suggested it would be best for both of us for him to not live at home anymore. Long story short, he became a resident in the Sweet Memories Neighborhood at Commonwealth Senior Living. It is safe unit with nothing that can harm anyone, and they have many activities for the residents such as daily chair exercises and throwing a big beach ball back and forth with each other and the staff instructor while they are sitting in their chairs. They have many, many activities to occupy their time. Their medication is given to them as prescribed by the doctor. They have a private dining room where they eat their meals. There is a wonderful music program that has given me so many special memories. They celebrate every holiday. They have a Family Night Dinner every month, usually with a theme. It would be impossible for me to tell you everything they do for the residents.
The stress was lifted off me. I knew he was in a safe place and receiving good care. I visited him three days a week for a couple of hours each time. Everyone called him by name even when I would take him to the Assisted Living side, all the staff said hello to him by name. I was able to relax and visit Phil in a happy atmosphere and not be constantly monitoring what he was doing.
Everyone who works there, from the moment you come in the door until you leave, is helpful, courteous, and pleasant. I highly recommend Commonwealth Senior Living. It was a lifesaver for me.”
The celebration of Phil’s life took place in February. It was an absolute privilege to care for Phil, and to have you both as a part of our CSL family. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, we want you to know that you are not alone. Our community teams can offer support groups, tips, assessments, and much more. Find the community nearest you for more information: https://www.commonwealthsl.com/our-communities/