I lost my husband Alan to dementia in July 2011. Ours was a passionate, urgent midlife romance cut short by early-onset dementia. The day after we met, he asked me to marry him; I wondered what took him so long to ask. The wedding was a few months later.
A short nine months after the ceremony, Alan was diagnosed with dementia. I was 53, he was 61. I was his caregiver from the beginning through to the finish. Before the end of our sixth year, he was gone.
During our time together, there was a typical, progressive decline in Alan’s cognitive functions, affecting his thought processes, reasoning, memory, attention, language, and problem-solving capabilities, as well as his balance and motor skills.
As his dementia accelerated, I often spent entire days and evenings helping him do what he couldn’t until eventually I did it all for him. I was his memory, his cook, waitress, driver, laundress, administrative assistant, psychologist, manicurist, IT specialist, physical therapist, nurse, social director, and pack mule. I was his everything; he was my all.
Later, Alan needed a team of people to care of him, and he was moved to a nursing home. While it upset us both, it gave me strength to live lighter, to be better able to support him, to let our love guide us through the thorny period of losing each other.
I wrote The Grapes of Dementia to tell part of our story and to reach out and support, lift, and encourage others going through similar caregiving and life crises.
To this day I am wildly grateful for having had Alan in my life, even if for a short time. But it still breaks my heart there was no cure or relief for him, that he had to go through the confusion, agony, and torture of this disease with no hope but death, that I lost the love of my lifetimes to an illness with no cure.
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