difficult decision for dementia

Three wives all reached the same decision to put their husbands in a nursing home for dementia, though their motivations were varied. Firm medical advice, stress and justified fear all forced them to make the most difficult decisions of their marriages. They had each anticipated retirement years with their husbands and certainly expected physical changes with increasing years. However, none planned the interruption of their Golden Years by dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The former nurse wearied of her husband’s repetition of the same questions every day. She wrote all the answers down and left the paper on a table. “The answer is right there.” she said tapping the table to remind him. He read, was satisfied and asked again too soon thereafter.
When she visited friends, she left him prepared meals. He ate a meal; forgot he had eaten it and ate another. Having sitters stay when she left barely helped. Her sister visited, assessed the situation and insisted, “He needs to be in residential care. We will find one this week.”
Sister’s insistence turned the page for this wife. Her marriage vows said “for better or worse.” She accepted the worst and drove to the home daily to sit at his table to make sure he ate.
For the former engineer, the first signs of his mental decline slowly invaded their Golden Years. He did less, and she did more as his caretaker. She did not run. She meant her vows of “‘til death do us part.” However, as his restlessness, forgetfulness and lack of awareness increased, his wife visited the doctor more frequently with her own list of inexplicable symptoms. As the doctor sorted through her test results, she read “In about 60% of the cases, caretakers die before their chronically ill loved one.”
For sure, the wear of supervising and protecting one man 24 hours a day, seven days a week left her no time to rest and recuperate. She found a nursing home and began her own daily routine of visiting daily at mealtime to feed her soulmate. That left her afternoons and evenings to rest and complete routine tasks without multiple interruptions.
Up on a hill overlooking fields and trees, the local school’s maintenance man built a wonderful ranch home for his wife, a seamstress. From her quiet spot in the hills, she enjoyed looking over the deep valley as she sewed. To visitors she proudly displayed the wooden bowls he made and his collection of guns.
The signs of his mental decline included him asking, “How do I get there?” when he needed to visit his favorite shop.
She knew he loved the independence his car gave him, so she gathered and hid every key to every vehicle on the property. He could sit in the car; he could not drive. The day he grabbed a rifle and handful of bullets when it was not hunting season, she removed all the bullets from the house. She left her knives in the kitchen until the day his confused mind went into a rage, and he grabbed a big knife to attack her.
“You see this notch on the bottom of this bowl?” she asked visitors. “That’s the only thing that saved me.
“That was the day he went into a special unit for violent residents at the nursing home,” she said shaking her head. Her practical soul could not comprehend the changes their last few years together had seen. Visits to the unit felt strange as he forgot her and cheerfully sat with female residents. She did not like the changes, but the fear of another attack continually reminded her to stay firm in her resolve.
As hundreds of others have done, these three women made the best, if most difficult, decision for their loved one’s health. Each remained faithful and visited often. However, for the sake of their own sanity, health and safety, they accepted the necessity of the decisions they made for their loved one.