I never imagined there could be a lighter side to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, and then Kathy Hatfield and her weblog, KnowItAlz, proved me uninformed.
Not that it’s all fun and games being primary caregiver for a 79-year-old man with severe memory loss, but what Hatfield’s blog demonstrates is that a tender and loving humor can considerably lighten the burden.
Truth be told, Hatfield is something of a smart aleck. And reading her blog makes it pretty clear where she inherited this trait:
On a road trip in April, she and her longtime boyfriend, David, are discussing with her father where to stop for lunch. Noting that her father always has fun at Hooters, she asks him, “How about some chicken wings at Hooters?” His reply: “I don’t really like the wings at Hooters, but I do like the breasts.”
And then there’s the trip May 14 when the three of them are driving to David’s first-ever colonoscopy:
There were a number of jokes made on the trip to the proctologist, but I will keep them to myself as they are not politically correct. Although, as we pulled into the medical plaza, there was a big sign that read ‘EXIT ONLY.’
My Dad looked at David and with a chuckle said, ‘Not today.’
As witty and sharp as her father is at times — for example, he remembers the exact amount of his first paycheck, $39.10 — he clearly has short-term memory loss and often is confused about the activities and realities of the present day, including all the correspondence she gets about Alzheimer’s disease. He wonders if he has Alzheimer’s, but she assures him it is just a random charity she raises money for, and in fact she enlists him to help stuff envelopes seeking donations:
Now we are getting the RSVPs back in the mail and the question came up again last night. He said, ‘I guess these checks are for me since I have Alzheimer’s.’ ‘Ha, ha,’ I laughed, ‘if you did have Alzheimer’s, the checks would be for me, the caregiver.’
‘Good point,’ he said. ‘Maybe we should have a party for people like you — that care for old people without Alzheimer’s.’
‘That sounds great, Dad. Who shall we invite?’
‘I’ll come,’ he said with a smile.
Hatfield, 36, lives with her father and David in suburban North Carolina where she has a well-paying job as well as a home office where she can work if caring for her father makes it too difficult for her to travel to her regular office. She is an active fund-raiser, and her blog passes on helpful information to others in similar or worse situations.
Her advice to others acknowledges the seriousness of full-time caregiving:
I have come across lots of sites that have a ‘caregiver stress’ or ‘caring for the caregiver’ section. I always just rolled my eyes and thought, ‘Not going to happen . . .’ It’s the whole ‘if the plane is crashing, give yourself oxygen first and then save the person you are caring for’ theory . . . Well, David and I are back from five days of real vacation (no internet and no phone) and all of those corny anecdotes are true!
So here is another corny anecdote: Take some time for yourself, and enjoy. You are not nearly as important as you think you are. (June 25)
Most times, the humor bubbles through the darkness. In her June 16 entry, Hatfield quotes an article she is reading: “While aging is still the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, a number of studies have pointed to stress as a contributing factor.”
Her conclusion: “I am so screwed.”
And then there is a joke a friend sent her in July:
At a Friday night dance at a senior center, a very elderly gentleman (90s), very well dressed, flower in his lapel, smelling slightly of aftershave, walks into the ‘cocktail lounge’ section of the center.
Seated at the bar is an attractive elderly looking lady (mid-80s). The gentleman walks over, sits alongside her, orders a drink, takes a sip, turns to her and says, ‘So tell me, do I come here often?’
We’re sure that others love their Alzheimer’s seniors as much as Hatfield does, but she is able to express that love so well that she speaks to us for all of them. And that’s why KnowItAlz is the latest addition to our blogroll of well-written sites.
– Sid Leavitt
Posted in Uncategorized |