1. Five years ago, I began using a notebook for medical documentation. My husband went to an appointment with his neurologist. When he returned, I asked, “So what did he say?” “I don’t remember,” was the answer. I went to the next appointment and sat with him and the doctor in the treatment room. The doctor, a man from the Middle East–Egypt, perhaps?–ignored me. I was part of the chair. The following visit, I brought a spiral notebook. Not only did I ask pointed, intelligent questions about the medications and my husband’s condition, I also took notes. Surprise! Dr. Egypt’s attitude changed.
The notebook has been a huge help over the years, since my husband sees several doctors now: a different, more respectful neurologist, a psychiatrist, a G.P. and a geriatrician. I keep track of blood pressure, weight, meds, and recommendations, since my memory can’t always pull up details, especially after five years of treatment.
2. The next adjustment we made was the whiteboard. My daughter gave us a small magnetic whiteboard to stick on the fridge.
It helps me maintain my sanity. I can refer him to the board instead of answering, “What’s on the agenda today?” multiple times in the morning. The above date shows the impact of the corona virus. You can see that we’re not doing much. Still, the whiteboard has been a big help.
3. Me: Did you take your pills?
Him: I don’t remember.
Every morning, I set out our meds and supplements before breakfast. Obviously, this was an important adjustment to make.
4. When we sold the house and moved into our apartment, I labeled cabinets and light switches. These days, I’ll notice him searching the labels to find the cabinet with the storage containers, or the drawer with the foil. A side benefit arose when my five-year-old granddaughter was visiting. She said, “I can read this! It says teas!”
5. Within the last year or two, my husband’s sensing of temperature has altered. He seems unable to judge what clothing is appropriate for the weather. He also needs coaching about which jacket to wear. I’ve reluctantly taken on the role of clothing police. Unless I intervene, he’ll wear the same shirt and pants day after day. Same issue for nighttime. He’d sleep in his long underwear and pajamas, then sweat through them all.
Some other not-so-great memory lapses I let pass. Just like with teenagers, you have to pick your battles.
My husband’s memory loss has impacted life in so many ways. I used to become furious because he kept throwing recyclables into the trash bin, and I had to fish them out. He still puts crumpled boxes and containers in the trash, and I still fish them out. The only change is my attitude. Now I’m resigned to the task.
It’s been tough to adjust to this reality. I still have moments of rage, despair, sorrow, self-pity. My caregivers’ group is a great support, and a good source of ideas for making life bearable, and sometimes even better.