By Charles Towne
Not long ago, Nancy and I were taking a walk. She was shuffling along, holding my arm. Suddenly, she smiled and said, “I’m sorry for being such a pain, honey.” Then with a little laugh she said, “My head is talking, but my feet aren’t listening!”
Another time she said, “I love you, Charles.” She paused, then continued, “Do you know what, honey?”
“No; what, baby?”
She smiled that beautiful smile, “You are going to be extra specially blessed in heaven for being so good to me!”
That conversation had me thinking how very fortunate I am. I thank God for my precious wife, this woman riddled with illness. Multiple sclerosis is bad enough, but then you add to that the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, and you get the picture.
I thank God for Nancy’s sweet personality, for that lovely smile, her abundant joy, her innocence, her undemanding spirit, and for the fact that despite my sometimes being a curmudgeon, she loves me anyway.
I once took Nancy in for an MRI. The doctor told me that there was pronounced advancement of Alzheimer’s. He also said that she would soon need around-the-clock care. “You do know that your wife is not going to get any better, don’t you, Mr. Towne? In fact, from here on out you can expect a steady decline in her prognosis.” At first, I was frightened, but then I thought, God knows all, and I leave it in his hands according to his will.
Place yourself in the shoes of the victim. Try to imagine what it must be like to walk this stony path through the wilderness of Alzheimer’s disease with its pitfalls and snares. The disorientation creates a confusing mishmash of feelings, fears and emotions that must be agonizing to live with:
- You start to do something; perhaps you are standing at the sink. You have a toothbrush in your hand, but then you forget what you were going to do with it.
- You are thirsty. You decide to take a drink from the water bottle, but you get sidetracked and the water spills into your lap. You don’t understand what happened or why.
- You are no longer able to read your body, but you know when you’ve had an accident. The humiliation you feel lends to your confusion. What is happening to you? Why?
At such a point, what does the caregiver do?
When I tell Nancy how much I love her, she beams. Those three powerful words, “I love you,” bring a response I can only describe as magical. Something mysterious happens in the human mind when we know we are loved. All human beings need to know they are loved. Any person walking the confusing trail of Alzheimer’s disease needs to know they are loved. The emotional turmoil resulting from this disease must be a nightmare, but if the victim is assured that he or she is loved by family and friends, the results can be profound.
About the Author
Charles Towne is the author of Love Cares: Encouraging Words and Stories from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver. Find out more at Love Cares: Encouraging Words and Stories from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver | AdventHealth Press | AdventHealth