Dementia:’Houston We Have A Problem’

There is no doubt it: ‘we do have a problem at the moment’, and the worrying thing is it may be more than a temporary one. It’s becoming abundantly clear that the times when Maureen is unclear who I am are becoming more frequent.  Unfortunately, that problem is going to take on an even greater magnitude tomorrow when I am on a day trip to Coventry. Therefore I need to hurriedly put one or two things in place to attempt to reduce the potential for further distress.

The real problem arrives when Maureen thinks I am her previous husband.  So I am going to concentrate today on putting even more things around that are ours, and remind her of the ‘good old days’.  Perhaps looking at our wedding photos, and sorting out one or two albums of old haunts might help.  I can also talk about and put on music that reminds her of the happy times we have spent together.  However, I’m not quite sure what I can do about her son’s visit while I’m away.

In many ways it is unfortunate that Ian is coming tomorrow.  Maureen often becomes more confused than ever after his visits: unsure who her husband is.  After my holiday in Portugal last year she became convinced that his dad was returning, rather than me.  As he stood with her at the railway station she looked a pitiful sight, almost unrecognisable, until she saw it was me coming off the platform.  On another occasion she summoned the police because she said ‘there was a stranger in the house’ – it was me!

The Clinical Psychologist from the Stroke Team warned me to be very careful once Maureen began to confuse me with her previous husband.  Being aware of the abusive nature of Maureen’s previous marriage she urged me to be very cautious about my behaviour.  Therefore, I’m now being very careful about when I make physical contact with Maureen.  How sad that in the present circumstances I have to check who Maureen thinks I am before can give her reassuring hug:  if I get it wrong all I will do is cause further upset.

2 thoughts on “Dementia:’Houston We Have A Problem’

  1. Paul, this is so hard! Your wife may have a greatly impaired memory for faces, as I do. I rank in only the second percentile in the world for visual memory. Like a blind person, I recognize people if they have a distinctive overall figure, such as considerable overweight, or very long arms. Or I recognize someone by the sound of their voice or a familiar aftershave that I recognize as his. It may help to make a pact at some time of feeling very close that you will always wear a certain color [shirt, tie, shoelace, cuff links] so she can know that it is you. If you can tie that pact to a strong positive memory she has of you, she is more likely to remember it. Or you could buy a bunch of silk or plastic forget-me-nots and give her one at every greeting. Whistle or sing a favorite song that is yours as a couple.

    When my best friend had a stroke, I did not realize how much he counted on the colors of my hair to identify me as distinct from one of his paid care attendants. When I mentioned to him that I was thinking of coloring my hair, he pleaded, “Oh, don’t do that! How will I know you?” He can no long discriminate among the nurses, aides, and cleaning people who continually traipse through his room. It is the “invaded by strangers Maureen speaks of.

    I developed vascular dementia 15 years ago, but I have learned to speak more easily and more calmly about my symptoms, which helps me to get by in the world.

    You are a superbly compassionate and creative spouse for a person with dementia. I read you almost every day!

    Best wishes,

    Carole Mulliken

    Liked by 1 person

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