CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AFTER ALZHEIMER’S

 CHRISTMAS ON DISPLAY SINCE HALLOWEEN

Christmas shopping at Costco

Though it was crowded, people were in a festive mood while Christmas shopping at Costco. (image courtsey Creative Commons)

December 19, 2014 – Actually it’s been looking a lot like Christmas since before Halloween. Then when the ghosts and goblins disappeared, there seemed to be a blitz of the coming Christmas celebration everywhere you looked. By all appearances anyone would guess that Santa was due the very next day. The Christmas shopping frenzy had begun. 

COSTCO HAS EVERYTHING

I had a long list of necessities to buy, but my list has reverted to just about normal. Normal, that is, before Alzheimer’s became the major focus of our everyday life. No longer on the list were Depends, soft adhesive patches for Ken’s pressure sores or other supplies for his hospital-like room at home: no more disposable gloves for the caregivers, no more wipes, no more baby soap for Ken’s tender skin, no more Vaseline for his sensitive areas. He is free from the torment, and, being a woman of faith, I am happy for his relief and joy beyond this veil of pain, sorrow and tears.

I’LL BUY YOU LUNCH”

That’s what he used to tell me whenever we planned our trip to the big warehouse store before AD.  Christmas shopping or just the weekly trip. He was kidding, although we might buy a pizza for dinner. What he made reference to was stopping by the numerous vendors and sampling what they were hawking. Samples were usually very good, and often we bought the product, but after six or so samples, who needed lunch. Produce, eggs and other dairy products and dog food for Doc and Charlie, our two loveable K-9s from many years ago, it was time for home. Shopping done.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING ALL BY MYSELF

I left early and without breakfast telling myself that I would eat at Costco, and I did. Following our old pattern I stopped by the vendors and sampled a smorgasbord of treats including some delicious tamales that I bought for Christmas breakfast when some of our grown children drop by to open their gifts.

CHRISTMAS CHEER AND GOODNESS IS IN THE AIR

I felt cheered by the Christmas spirit that was in the air as customers smiled, then stepped aside allowing a grocery cart to pass. Stopping by the food court I picked up a large pizza for Kris and her brother Karl who drops by every day or so. The three of us could almost finish it off and still have leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

As I exited the food court with my loaded cart a woman backing up with her cart walked right into me. We both smiled and she said, “Backing up is dangerous.” I smiled back and agreed. It was a good day: light and fun and filled with good cheer and good people, a fun Christmas shopping experience. That’s how the season should be. “Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.” And cart-backing women too.

LIFE CHANGES OF AN ALZHEIMER’S WIDOW

VOCABULARY ADJUSTMENTS

old fashioned picture of a young widow

Adjusting to being an Alzheimer’s widow is a whole new mindset. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

December 13, 2014 – So many adjustments to make when one becomes a widow. Yes, the correct term is widow, but it still filters down to being single again. Being single is a lonely place to be, but I am not looking to change my status. I will accept and adapt to thinking and living as a single person.

I do recall an old country song from years ago: Sleeping single in a double bed. For me, though, it’s even more dramatic. I’m sleeping single in our king-sized bed. Alone except for the cat Gouda. She has been my sweet feline company for a few years since Ken went into a hospital bed in the family room. 

My husband and I elected the larger bed because he was over 6′ and I was a tall woman. With a double bed we found that our feet hung over the bottom, and they got a bit chilly on cold nights.  Continue reading

LOSING MY MRS THROUGH WIDOWHOOD

pen and signature

Changing my signature from Mrs. to Ms. is something I refuse to do.  I have been a Mrs. for most of my adult years, and I will not sign as Ms.  I am a Mrs. because in my heart I still am and will always be.

MISS TO MRS TO MS

December 5, 2014 – I suppose you could say, “Of course you were happier before Alzheimer’s. That statement could go without saying.” The entire world was happier before Alzheimer’s struck down a loved one. Apparently it isn’t going to stop. Its numbers are fast approaching epidemic.

Ken’s disease and ultimately his passing have caused a major change with me. Once a happily married woman: a Mrs. for most of my adult life is no longer who I am, at least according to society. Now I check a different box. Once a married woman I am now a widow, and that’s the box I now check.  Continue reading

GRATITUDE AFTER ALZHEIMER’S

This gallery contains 2 photos.

A LAST GOODBYE WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE

A family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of our family gather for a day of gratitude and Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house.

 November 28, 2014 – So many things for which I feel gratitude. At the top of my list is that I have a lifetime of wonderful memories with Ken. I only wish that the selfish disease of Alzheimer’s had allowed my loving husband a momentary return to his old self just so he could have said goodbye to me and his children. I would have asked for just one chance where I could have said to him, “Thanks for 64 wonderful years, but then we all know that AD never gives anything back once it has robbed the mind of life and living. So I won’t dwell on what might have been and go on to a Thanksgiving long ago when the children were younger and we were on our way to Grandmother’s house. You know, “Over the bridge and across the bay to Grandmother’s house we go. The car knows the way.” And on that memorable night it was almost believable that the car knew the way.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

We always packed our clothes well ahead of departure for a long weekend in the country, and set out for Thanksgiving at “The Little Farm” located half way between the town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California and Bodega Bay on the ocean.  It was Wednesday evening as we headed north from our East Bay home for our annual holiday festivities. Continue reading

FAMILIAR PLACES, AN ALZHEIMERS VIEW

VISITING OLD FAMILIAR PLACES

Liberace Album, I'll Be Seeing You

Remembering our familiar places to the tune of this Librace song, made both of us cry.

November 21, 2014 – In the early 2000’s Ken and I took our last road trip together where he did the driving. We toured west, then southwest to see places and people I doubted we would visit again: Friends in Utah, cousins in Nevada, more friends in New Mexico and more family in Colorado, then back through Utah and home again. All the way we came fortified with music we both enjoyed: Sinatra, Como, Dick Haynes,the Big Bands and a sprinkling of Liberace at the piano and in voice. As I had mentioned all of this in a previous blog many of those older tunes and lyrics touched our hearts, even then, as we both understood where this terrible disease was going to take us. As Liberace sang one of our old favorites Ken reached over and took my hand. Tears streamed down both of our faces as we accepted this deadly, unknown enemy with no weapons for defense. The tune was a romantic ballad: “I’ll Be Seeing You In All The Old Familiar Places.” The lyrics spoke of a chestnut tree, a wishing well, a park across the way and a childrens’ carrousel. At the time we both knew I would be seeing the remembered and familiar places by myself.  Continue reading

GIVING THANKS ON VETERANS DAY

VETERANS DESERVE THANKS ON ANY DAY

The city of Oakley dedicated their new Veteran's Memorial on Veteran's Day

The city of Oakley dedicated their new Veteran’s Memorial on Veterans Day

November 17, 2014 – I know it’s several days late following Veterans Day on November 11, but I spent that day in Oakley, California as a guest to the ribbon cutting of the city’s very new Veterans Day Memorial.  I was touched by the ceremonies and as the day moved along, I felt gratitude for all of the men of service that I have known, and for those I have never met:  all willing to sacrifice all they hold dear for America’s freedoms.

AN HONOR CIRCLE

My son Kevin, who is an Oakley City Councilman and rotating mayor has been working on the memorial project for several years. When it was suggested, the Council members agreed that it was a great idea, but the city had no funds for such a project. Over the years the committee has been selling bricks, holding fund raisers and accepting donations. These aren’t just any kind of red brick, but new bricks. For each brick the purchaser pays $125.00 to honor a veteran of his/her choice. The veterans’ name is engraved with the date of service and discharge date. These bricks along with many blank bricks (available for late comers who want to honor a veteran) form the main circle of the enclosure which also displays a beautiful marble pillar to recognize and honor each branch of the military.

CHISILED IN STONE

Rather than stone, I should say brick. In honor of Ken’s service as a Navy man Kevin purchased two bricks: one for his Navy service and another to commemorate his years in the Merchant Marines (now recognized as an additional branch of the military). Next to Ken’s bricks is a brick with “Nicholas Romick” Ken’s father for his World War I Marine service. Council and city officials were pleased to have an extraordinary large crowd in attendance.

A DEDICATED ESCORT

Jumping from Oakley to other ways of honoring our veterans on Veterans Day. I have watched on the internet as many of our veterans, whose war injuries have been fatal, are escorted to their final resting place by a motorcycle brigade riding along side with American flags flying honoring the fallen service man. The escort is provided by The Patriot Guard Riders, a group of veterans from every walk of life whose unselfish purpose is to see that all veterans receive the honor they deserve. The organization is nationwide.

Through Kevin’s involvement in his city’s government he has had contact with one of the local groups of Riders. As we planned for Ken’s funeral service, Kevin asked if I would like a military escort from the church to the cemetery. My answer was a definite “yes.” I knew that my husband would be pleased, and as an owner and often rider of a motorcycle, he would have been riding with the honor riders had health circumstances been different for him. He was proud of his service to his country and for the eight-year stint served by his father, and for the service of his son-in-law and his grandsons. I was grateful for the honor riders and for that last patriotic salute by his fellow veterans. 

THE CHANGING SOCIAL LIFE OF A RECENT WIDOW

picture of musical Les Mis

One of my favorite musicals, Les Miserables
Picture courtsey Creative Commons

ALZHEIMER’S AND THE YEAR OF FIRSTS

November 10:14 – Following the demise of a beloved spouse, it isn’t as simple as knowing that getting through all of the holidays and special days would be difficult that first year. Even something as simple as attending a concert with my family brought me quickly to a different reality of my new social life. I noticed last week that there are so many events, times and places one must get through alone, including just attending a simple event.  

REMEMBERING PAST  EVENTS

Last Sunday evening, several of the family members elected to attend a concert by a volunteer symphony orchestra at our church. Familiar tunes from favorite Broadway musicals was the program. Ken and I were avid fans and I looked forward to this upcoming event. 

IT WASN’T LIKE I’D NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE 

Early in our marriage we purchased season tickets for the San Francisco Light Opera Season. Rose and Nick, the grandparents,  would babysit our little ones while as a husband and wife we enjoyed our special date night. We both loved musicals. Even when we had seen the show on stage we always attended the movie version as well.

MUSICALS HAD ALWAYS BEEN PART OF OUR SOCIAL LIFE

Later on we volunteered at our local Little Theater as ushers, and watched many of the musicals over and over again. We had our favorites and usually bought the LP or tape, or later the CD, and played the music at home. Besides it was a good introduction for our children to hear some of the great composers and lyricists of the day in learning to listen to different kinds of popular music.

BUT WHERE IS MY HUSBAND?

We arrived at the auditorium with plenty of time before the conductor waved his magic wand for the music to begin. But just before the downbeat I found myself scanning our two rows looking for Ken holding the seat next to him for me. Not seeing my husband in any of the seats I almost asked our son Keith, “Where is your father?” It felt so odd to be somewhere so familiar without him. I caught myself before I spoke the words, and took a seat in the midst of my children and their children. It’s a different social life I’m living in now – that of widowhood.

THE FIRST HALLOWEEN WITHOUT HIM

HALLOWEEN IN THE PAST

Carved pumpkin

Remembering the goodtimes of Halloween past, helps this spousal caregiver over the recent loss of her husband.

Novemer 1, 2014 – It’s been less than a month since Ken escaped from his dungeon of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been a long haul for both of us. Actually all of the family, as the cruel disease stole the life and personality, memory and joy from the main man in our house. We all miss him terribly which, of course, is natural.

MEMORIES

While Alzheimer’s steals memory from the victim, the family is blessed with remembering how life was without the demon AD and what fun, for the children, and me to fondly remember the good times.

And while I won’t paint him a saint, nor myself, he was a good man with all the crowns that are attached to that title: kind, thoughtful, considerate (mostly), loving, gentle and firm, understanding, but strict and devoted to his family.

When we were a smaller family with just two little girls and Halloween arrived, we put the costumed twosome in the car and drove a 60-mile round trip so his parents could enjoy their granddaughters as trick or treaters right at their front door. Grandma screamed with delight as she saw past their painted faces and silly hats, picking them both up she covered them with grandma kisses and lollypop hugs. Grandpa was just as delighted giving the little ones their treat for the evening. My good husband had already driven a 50-mile commute to and from work, but thoughtfully considered what a visit to his parents would mean to them at the end of his long day.

A FUN DATE

 

Then there was me to consider when we received an invitation to a Halloween party where we were to dress up as a TV show. Our hostess answered the door in black shorts, black shirt and her son’s toy six shooters hanging at the hips. Palladin: Have Gun Will Travel. We came representing The Untouchables. I doubt he could pass as Elliot Ness the great crusader, so he appeared more as a boot-legger while I eased out as a flapper: head band and all. He could have been a wet blanket and refused to dress up for a kid’s holiday, but he didn’t. We did that for one another. We went places and did lots of things we might not like doing, but to make each other happy and enjoy life, we were supportive of one another.

 

THE FIRST YEAR OF GETTING THROUGH THE SPECIAL DAYS

 

I suppose that’s part of this first year of being alone. I’ll just have go through these familiar dates, remembering the good times with smiles. Of course grandson Karl helped this year. He hosted the treats and greeted all the small, and not so small, visitors as they wandered from house to house with their pumpkin carriers bursting with candy. “Trick or treat” and Happy Halloween. 

ALZHEIMERS AND END OF LIFE DECISIONS

Hands touching on a bed.

One of the hardest decisions I ever made, choosing care and comfort for my spouse.

A VISIT TO THE ER

October 26, 2014 – When do we actually make life decisions? It was many years ago when both Ken and I were younger and much healthier than we have been these past few months. A long time before either of us thought about a life-ending situation. We were new grandparents back then with decades ahead of us when we would watch this new generation grow and develop as they rebelled and struggled, as did their parents, before reaching adulthood.

DECISIONS FOR THE FUTURE

It was one of those evenings when either my heart was palpating or Ken was having a Crohn’s disease attact that we entered the ER of our HMO hospital explaining our need to see a doctor and be evaluated.

Taking the needed information the admitting nurse then asked,

“Have you filled our your Advance Directives?”

“No,” one of us replied. “What are Advance Directives?”

Within a few minutes she had covered all the information they would like to have on file which would state our wishes if we were unable to converse with authorities at some later date. She then slid the forms across the counter for us to take home and fill out.

It was one of the most  important life decisions one can make. But admittedly, this was not at the top of our “To do” list so they were placed with another stack of papers to do later.

TIME MARCHES ON

And it was later, much later when I ran across them as I was going through stacks of papers as we do periodically when cleaning and tossing, especially the office.

I briefly looked them over once again and said to Ken, “As much as we want to ignore this, it is wise to get it done so the hospital will have them on file. We just don’t know what the future has in store.”He agreed, even though neither of us planned on leaving the planet on the next bus.” Our discussion suddenly became serious as we perused each section discussed these important decisions.

“If I can’t have a quality life, then I don’t want any heroic measures taken to prolong my existence,” he said. On that we both agreed

TREATMENT

So if there are no breathing machines, what do we want them to do was the question at hand? Did we want life prolonged with a feeding tube? Did we want a possible bout of pneumonia reversed with a treatment of antibiotics? A UTI infection?

We both agreed that there would be no feeding tube, but backed down again when it came to treating pneumonia and other infections. It was then that Ken remembered what he had said following the funeral of his parents as each had succumbed to Alzheimer’s loosing all memories and just lying in bed waiting to die, but not knowing it. “I don’t want to end up like my parents,” he had declared with absolute finality.

FINAL ANSWER

So when the ER doctor asked, “Do you want us to treat him with antibodics for his infections?” which had already been put in place. With my son, Keith, nearby, I said, “Remove the antibodics.”

“We’ll get him a room, and change the instructions to “Care and comfort only,” the doctor said kindly.

Those were the most difficult words I have ever spoken, but remembering his words of years before,” and having witnessed his illness for what seemed forever I knew we had made the right decision. He had already lived with more than 14 years battling Alzheimer’s. Heal the infections and bring him back to face more of the same? Why?

ALLOWING IT TO END

Allowing him to go and not have to continue the terrible journey into the dark corners of the AD dungeon was my final act of loving this man who had been everything to me for nearly 65 years. How could I not let his spirit soar back to God who is our home?

DEATH FROM ALZHEIMER’S PART II

Death From Alzheimer’s Is Inevitable

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer's featured in this blog, died early this month.

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer’s featured in this blog, died early this month.

October 17, 2014 — By Deborah Schultz:  The death of my father from Alzheimer’s  was my first experience being around a dying person. Because I had spent time with him, his physical condition was not a shock. It was however difficult to see him, lying with his mouth open and his eyes shut. He was hooked to an IV with a morphine drip for pain and he seemed at peace.

The end result of Alzheimer’s is always death, though not from Alzheimer’s itself.  Dying at the end stage is natural as well as unavoidable. How and when that finally happens is as individual as the disease. Using heroic measures such as forced feeding, CPR or incubation only prolongs something that is inevitable. Doctors and other healthcare professionals recommend that the patient be made as comfortable as possible while allowing nature to take its course. This is called palliative care. This decision should be made as early as possible among all involved. Continue reading

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