Ten Years of Alzheimer’s Part I

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My dear friend Eve told me, years before her symptoms started to show, that her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. I believe Eve concluded that she would also have the condition one day. She didn’t verbally share her fears; as with many women of her generation, certain things were believed best kept to oneself. My mother was the same way. They would just bear their burdens silently. Eve was ten years older than my mother, but they were both of a generation where information was not easily attainable. It never occurred to her, as far as I could tell, to speak with a doctor or read about the incidence of the disease in families. You don’t get Alzheimer’s just because your mother had it. Sadly, like with my mother who died of cancer, Eve had experienced a lot of sadness in her life, in relationships, and both of these good women accepted their destinies without question.

Eve and I were social friends through our husbands, who played golf together for 20 years. About a month before he passed, Eve’s husband, who was under treatment for cancer, asked me to prepare the best long-term care insurance policy I could find for Eve. He didn’t tell her anything, just that she had some papers to sign and Patricia was going to take care of things. She didn’t ask questions, just rolled her eyes in the usual way, letting me know that he was trying to control her again. It was a common theme between them. Thank goodness, this time she didn’t argue.

When the policy was ready and I went to their home to deliver it, her husband came to the door and graciously, without asking me to come in, accepted it. Before I could walk away, Eve, who was standing up a few steps on the stairway inside, silently motioned to get my attention. She shook her head slowly from side to side and indicated that she was referring to him. I didn’t understand exactly what she was trying to tell me, but couldn’t ask. I said thank you and goodbye. That was the last time I ever saw her husband.

Eve called us at 7 am the next morning. Her husband had had a massive heart attack during the night and died. She had been trying to tell me that he was in very bad condition. They had been to see his doctor that day who recommended that he not have any more chemo, he was too weak and probably wouldn’t make it through the night if he did. But, he had insisted so they gave it to him.

Eve was now a widow, 77 years old, she had no children and her only living relative was an older brother, whom she hadn’t spoken to since their mother died twenty years previous. She said they had never gotten along and she wasn’t going to be nice to him now! That’s how she spoke when she wanted to appear tough. “Promise me you won’t tell him when I drop dead!” That was an order.

Eve was not just our good friend now, she became one of the family. She had a year or so of the most freedom she had felt in her life. She remodeled her kitchen, went on an expensive cruise with a couple of widowed lady friends of her age and we shared many lovely evenings either out or at her home or ours for dinner and good conversation. We enjoyed each others company, my husband included. I can picture her throwing her slippers at the television during election time when her side was being criticized on the Sunday morning talk shows. She was born and raised in San Antonio; one of those Texas beauties. She had modeled bathing suits for Saks Fifth Avenue when she was eighteen years old. She could shoot a gun, drink whiskey and had been smoking since she was eight years old. But, she was an elegant lady and you couldn’t tell if that huge emerald ring she was wearing next to her diamonds was real or not. She could pull it off. I’m happy she experienced a little fun before things started to change.

In my next blog I will talk about the process we went through from the move out of her home to assisted living and eventually, to a dementia care home. My husband was only two years younger than Eve and in the last two years of her life she lived four minutes, around the corner, from us. That’s the only way I could take care of them both. It was a little tricky at times, but I have angels sitting on my shoulder, my friend Lori tells me. They’re making sure I don’t have more to do than I can handle. She must be right. So far so good!

Until soon, I wish you love and angels on your shoulder!

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