With World Alzheimer's Month nearing an end, we spoke with an anonymous Portage resident who shares his experience as he and his wife journeyed through her Alzheimer's condition, and he notes it all began four or five years ago.
"It started out with a brain bleed. I didn't notice too much right then, other than just little things that, when I think back now, probably were out of character," he explains. "She had two more brain bleeds within two months of each other, and the third one devastated her memory. It was probably down to 15 to 20 seconds, and it elevated her anger issues, probably 100 per cent."
He explains his wife didn't know why the bouts of anger occurred and didn't know how to deal with them; neither did he.
"I tried, but sometimes you just couldn't get around to a different track. It's a debilitating disease and I don't wish it on anybody."
He says the first time she had a brain bleed episode was when he was out of town and she went to the hospital. He notes his wife had a brain scan and doctors made the discovery. Neurologists became involved and they thought the bleeding ceased, but in hindsight, he adds, once you have it, it seems to be the type of thing that advances slowly.
"The second brain bleed started to show up in her short-term memory. If you get her back before the first brain bleed, she was sharp as a tack; everything. I could ask her questions from 40 years back, and she had the answers just like that. The third brain bleed was the beginning of the end. About two months after that, I couldn't handle her at home anymore. I was afraid she was going to fall down the stairs, hurt herself, or go out for a walk and not be able to find her way home. It just kind of deteriorated very quickly in our case."
He says he contacted Jennifer Harder at the Alzheimer Society office in town after the third episode. He notes they still managed the problem on their own to an extent, but when anger began to go to such an extreme, he couldn't deal with it anymore.
"'Am I doing something wrong?' I finally wrote a letter to my doctor and explained to him what was going on," he adds. "He'd always believed what he said. After I took her to the hospital and he met with her once, he called me and said, 'I didn't realize that you were spot-on with your letter.' They told me she wouldn't come home, but she'd be getting paneled for a home. She had a heart attack about a week before, and she passed away. That kind of sealed the deal. It was good for her. She's in a better place. It's good for me. I got to move on sooner or later. As crass as it may sound, you have to look after yourself, too."
Alzheimer Society North Central Regional Coordinator Jennifer Harder says there are virtual sessions that people can have to help them move along after a loved one has passed away, as in this case.
"There are bereavement counseling support groups that we can provide," adds Harder. "There is individual support with that. We're not specialized bereavement counsellors or anything, but if clients want somebody to talk to, it's very much the same as what we've been doing before. A lot of people usually don't really need our services at that point, and then we close their file. Sometimes, people do come back and they do find that they need some help or some support. We can very, very easily reopen files if they need to be."
She notes anyone who's used their services before can always come back. You're always welcome.
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