Communion Of Dreams


“I almost literally walked off a cliff.”
July 3, 2010, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, NPR, Scott Simon

This morning Weekend Edition – Saturday had an interview with Barry Petersen, who has a new book out about the experience of dealing with his wife’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. The whole interview is worth hearing, and I imagine the book is worth reading, but here’s a bit that really struck home:

I thought with the live-in caregiver I’d solved the problem for another 2-3 years.

We lasted 8 months.

And this is perhaps the worst part, the most difficult part of this for me: the woman who was the caregiver, the nurse, who was monitoring both of us, said “Jan us always going to have someone to look after her. The caregiver has no one to look after the care-giver.” Then she looked me in the eyes and said “you are going down.”

My health was beginning to suffer. I almost literally walked off a cliff. I don’t mean that I thought about walking off a cliff. I mean that I almost literally walked off a cliff. I was living in a house which was next to a cliff and I thought this was a way to end the pain – was to walk off that cliff.”

Sound familiar?

His experience caring for his wife is fundamentally different from our experience in caring for my wife’s mother. The stress of being a single caregiver and caring for your spouse must be horrific, and I do not in any way want to criticize or second-guess his decision. Indeed, one of the things which really emerges from “Her Final Year” as I have been working on it is that there is no ‘correct’ decision about when or if to put a loved one with Alzheimer’s into a care facility – each case is individual, and no one can second-guess that incredibly difficult and painful decision. I just offer the interview as another insight into what the caregiving experience is like, and how it is likely to touch us all.

Jim Downey

PS – this post marks #900 for this blog. More on that, later.

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