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Deja Vu



Discussing this evening with Hubby is a bit embarrassing. I have mentioned some of the same issues as far back as a year ago, and it appears that I have not made much progress.

On Wednesday evenings, Hubby’s caregiver, Violet, goes to church. She leaves our home at 5:30 PM and her relief does not arrive until about 9 PM, to sleep on the sofa next to Hubby’s bed, to be available for him should he awaken in the night. That leaves me a 3 1/2 hour stretch where Hubby has me all to himself. Instinctively he knows that it is a good time to discuss things which are bothering him. Often it is a discussion about which properties we own, have bought or sold, and where they are. Hubby insists that we have a home in Tarzana, which we do not. I explain fully that we have never owned a home there (although we once had a business there, so the confusion has some context). Within two or three minutes he is referring to the same property in the same location. He confuses this with an apartment which we actually do have, in the South of France. He insists however, that our second home is only a few minutes drive away. Tarzana is in California, and France is far indeed. His assertion is patently incorrect. To get to our second home, we must board an airplane and fly for about four hours. I try to explain this to Hubby. He does not believe me. He does not remember the 20+ trips we have taken to that home over the past 12 years. His brain is jumbled with memories that do not connect. He remembers our lovely next-door neighbors in our building, and the fact that across the hall is a language school. Those memories are valid. Yet he believes that the apartment itself is only a short drive away. He will not be convinced otherwise.

On the one hand, I really do not mind if he is confused about these things. On the other, he is so anxious about the confusion that he tries to sort out the information by asking the same questions over and over again. It is shockingly difficult to know how to handle this barrage of repeated suppositions and incorrect conclusions. Try as I might, I do very poorly even after so much opportunity and effort, to improve my technique.

A terrific woman by the name of Tippa Snow has many You Tube videos of her lectures to groups of people who want to learn how to handle their family members with dementia. I was watching one of them this week and was taken aback by her assertion that it has been discovered that caregivers of dementia patients have an increased risk to have the same condition in the future. This is apparently attributed to the stress which begins with overwhelming emotions and translates into physical symptoms. For me it is a tightening of the back and shoulder muscles, and a feeling that I want to escape this nightmare being imposed upon me by someone who has no idea that he is perpetrating an assault on my senses and well-being.

When I could no longer tolerate explaining the same facts over and over, I excused myself to go to make us some dinner. With all humility, I must admit that I created a knockout dish. With store-purchased ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and ricotta cheese as the main ingredient, I created a cream sauce with roasted asparagus, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, and portobello mushrooms. It came out so much better than I expected. A large splash of white wine was added to the sauteed vegetables before the cream was added. The finishing touch was chopped fresh basil. I really should not eat pasta. Carbs are my eternal enemy, but Hubby orders some form of ravioli every time we frequent a restaurant, so I figured it was going to be a winner. Wrong! Hubby took one look at the dish, ate one forkful and announced that it was “too doughy.” He had no intention of eating my meal. I did not get visibly angry, but inside I was fuming. As he began to dissect what was wrong with the pasta, I picked up my plate and took it into the kitchen to finish my meal.

“Is that all there is?” he enquired. I had also made roasted fennel but knew full-well that he would not be thrilled with it either. The fresh baguette with butter on it was a success, but not a very nutritious meal in and of itself. I was no longer interested in trying to please Hubby. I was tired from cooking, and was not about to begin again.

When our replacement aide arrived, I asked her to offer Hubby the delicious apple-pear crisp which I had made earlier in the day. I was quite sure that if I were to be the one offering it, Hubby would have refused it as well. But our aide is attractive and much younger than I, and that was sufficient for Hubby to want to please her. He consumed sufficient calories with the addition of ice cream, even if it was not what I had intended for his dinner. Worrying about providing well balanced meals is a thing of the past. They are always rejected. Worrying damages only me and I have vowed not to worry any more. Just do the best I can… as it is all anyone can ask of themselves.

When people kindly suggest that I should take care of myself… as well as the patient, there is not usually a constructive suggestion to follow. It has become clear to me, however, that very real physical damage impacts on the caregiver as well as the patient when dealing with the responsibilities resulting from Dementia. It concerns me greatly as I am aging along with the rest of the world. I may be twenty years younger than Hubby, but there are many times when I certainly do not feel the benefit. Taking care of myself now requires employing 24/7 care for Hubby to relieve me of the feeling that I am caught in a vise. I need to breathe.

Tippa talks about taking three cleansing breaths to help to handle stress. I have heard this term bandied about for a long time, but did not actually understand the concept. By breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly, there Is actually a physical benefit lowering one’s blood pressure from the stress of a situation. It has been measured and proven.

This is a positive first step in the battle to keep ourselves both sane and physically healthy. I am sure that a good bout of exercise would be excellent as well, to increase the endorphins to the brain. Not up to practicing what I preach, I will file it away for the future. Something to consider in my next incarnation!


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Barbara Diamond is a journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel. She has been a political activist on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people for over fifty years, having participated in political and humanitarian missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, China, and Europe to meet with world leaders on matters of concern. She has written over 100 articles for the Jerusalem Post and on her blog at The Times of Israel, hosted an English radio talk show in Jerusalem and continues mentoring others to pass on the torch of responsibility. You can reach her at [email protected] and visit her site at