Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I went to visit with Elbert this morning. Hadn't seen him in a week. He was in the day room where several of the residents were doing some activities. I had taken along a magazine 'Birds and Blooms' and he enjoyed looking at the beautiful pictures. I did a crossword puzzle and asked him questions about the clues but that was above his comprehension. We did enjoy our time together. 

Lunchtime came. Elbert was seated at the table where he always eats. Gladys soon came in her wheelchair and got in place across from him. I saw Louise coming. She looked at me, then at Elbert. Uh oh, I thought to myself. But, what happened took me by surprise and touched my heart so much. I'll never forget it. 

She asked, 'Have I seen you before?'  
I said 'Yes'.  
She poked Elbert gently on the shoulder (we were standing behind his chair). 
'Do you know him?' she asked me. 
I said 'Yes'. 
'Who is he?' she wanted to know. 
'He's my husband'. 
Gladys, who is seldom quiet, piped up, 'I thought he was my boyfriend'.  
I said, 'No, he's my husband. We've been together for 59 years'. 
Louise is standing there taking it all in. She looked confused, uncertain. 'That's time enough to get to know each other', she says. 
Then her head dropped, 'I wonder where my husband is' she said.

Wow, that got me. Here I am, my dear husband within inches of me and she no longer has hers. He died several months ago. I turned and put my arm around her shoulder and pulled her to me. 'I bet your daughter knows where he is' I said hoping that would be of some comfort. 
'I don't know what I am supposed to be doing' she said. 'Can you call my daughter?'
So I tell her it's lunchtime, why don't we sit down to eat. 
'Oh, I have no money, 'she says. 
'Guess what', I replied. 'It's a surprise. It's free today'. 

She smiles but then she again complains that she doesn't know what she is supposed to be doing. She looks so lost and tears come to my eyes. I hear in her voice the confusion of not knowing where she is, where her family is, what she will do when it gets dark, what she should do right now. 

I hate Alzheimers. I hate it for me and Elbert and I hate it for Louise and I hate it for the others that have it and their families. This is not fair. I set her down at her table and tell the nurse, 'she's confused'. DUH... what a lame statement. It meant nothing but I had to say something. Then I turned, kissed Elbert and headed home.


Helen said...

You have to be one of the most lovable people I know ........

Happy@Home said...

I agree with your blog title. I think all of us who have been through this disease will agree with you. I watched my mom live with it and can empathize with your feelings today. It is an emotional roller coaster. My thoughts are with you.

Linda J. said...

I hate Alzheimers, too. This story reminds me of my mother and her "friends" in the dining room at The Terrace.

Dolores said...

I love the magazine 'Birds and Blooms' ... it has the loveliest of pictures.

Oh Latane, God gave you such a sweet,gentle and understanding spirit. I know these experiences have to be so difficult for you, but you always handle the situation with such grace.

I hate Alzheimers too!!!!!

Maddy said...

Well I don't think it was at all lame - it's reassuring when you have that human connection, someone else understands which is calming.

I also appreciate the gear shift of emotion 'my husband' / 'no husband' also I expect my own mother would empathize even more because my own Dad is so much further down the road.

It's compassion that will get us all through.
Best wishes

Peggy said...

Hi Latane, another emotional post handled with great sympathy!I wonder when a patient says they dont know what they should be doing or feel lost, are they at that point aware that something is seriously wrong?
My friend is now reaching stage 4 of the disease, I am not sure if the same method of diagnozing the disease is used over here. She no longer recognizes anyone except her husband ( on occasion) and looks for people and places from many years ago.It is heartbreaking to see an otherwise healthy and able woman become so helpless mentally. I marvel at your continued handling of any situation with Elbert and 'friends' with such grace and understnading.
Happy New Year to You and Yours

Martha Z said...

Again I am seeing the parallels between Alzheimers and severe cognitive disabilities in children. It must be frightening to have no control over your life and no abbility to express your needs.
With my grandson routine and predictability seem to make him comfortable, I suspect the same is true with Alzheimers patients.

The Tile Lady said...

What a heart-wrenching post, Mom. It really touched me and upset me. I feel so badly for Louise because she knows things are not what they should be in the world she knew for years, grew accustomed to, and with people she loved. Everything is foreign and strange. Dad, I think is OK with where he is most of the time, and in that sense, he seems to have it easier. Not to say they are not both tragic...it's sad no matter how you look at it...just different. You were so sweet to try to help her, Mom. I bet seeing Dad closeby is sometimes a comfort to her, too. This is such a difficult disease to wrestle with....it's hard for the people going through it, and hard for the families.

Nancy said...

I hate Alzheimers too.

My mother has it, and I found myself thinking today "It wasn't supposed to be like this". I don't know how it was supposed to be, but I certainly didn't foresee this.

Thank you to those of you blogging about your experiences, it helps me feel so not alone.

Jo said...

Hi Latane, what a profound post. I will be visiting often. you and your husband are now in my thoughts. Bless you Jo (South Africa)

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