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My Spouse Has Dementia
A free, bi-weekly podcast that uses personal stories, occasional interviews, and simple rituals to support dementia caregiving spouses
Nov 18, 2023
The Dilemma of Dementia and Driving: Taking away the keys?
Your spouse has Alzheimer's. You know he - or she - shouldn't be driving. When you bring up the subject, you hear some version of, "That's ridiculous! I know how to drive a car." He might be right. He might still know how to drive a car. The problem is that he shouldn't be driving a car. No, this isn't a simple matter of semantics. Your spouse may still have the muscle memory to operate a motor vehicle. That doesn't mean he remembers the rules of the road. At some point, the muscle memory fades, too. Plus, medication may cloud both physical and mental functions. Getting your spouse to give up the car keys is traumatic for both of you. For weeks, my husband stood at the window and stared at the spot where his car used to be. I watched from the kitchen, knowing we were both at the threshold of a major change in the progression of the disease. In this episode, I share some of my own stories, as well as those of my friends. Some states require that when a doctor diagnoses dementia, the doctor must report the diagnosis to the state's department of motor vehicles. There's an article about that on MedicalNewsToday.com. Not long ago, a personal injury law firm in West Virginia contacted me about a guide the firm had created titled "Dementia and Driving." The guide talks about when a person should stop driving. It gives a list of things to watch for and includes additional links you might find helpful. Alzheimer's robs a person of so much. When it comes to driving, you might feel that you're robbing your loved one of even more. It all comes down to your need to be observant, patient, realistic, kind, brave, and responsible. There's so much at stake.
Nov 4, 2023
"I Didn't See It Coming" - Interview with LBD caregiver Mary Lou Falcone
Mary Lou Falcone became a caregiver when her father had a massive stroke. She was 10 years old. The experience prepared her for the day, many years later, when her husband, illustrator and 1950s rocker Nicky Zann, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). In her memoir, I Didn't See It Coming: Scenes of Love, Loss, and Lewy Body Dementia, Falcone talks about what it was like to have an international career, to be thought of in their social circles as "the golden couple," and then to face the cruel reality that the love of her life had an incurable, fatal disease. Falcone talks candidly about three of the most challenging aspects of caring for a spouse with dementia, especially LBD: incontinence, violence, and hyper-sexuality. She also shaes the challenges she faced in writing the memoir, particularly when her second editor guided her to reveal the deeply buried emotions that resulted in this personal and poignant story, a winner of the 2023 NYC Big Book Award "Distinguished Favorite" in the category of Caregiving. Falcone also shares an overview of the differences between LBD and Alzheimer's Disease, why it can be difficult to get a diagnosis, and her ongoing work as an advocate for LBD awareness. The interview portion of thie episode was originally recorded for a show on YouTube called "Page 1." Here's the link to see the video version of this podcast episode. The video version on YouTube includes a PSA created to honor my husband's memory. In the PSA is a photo of me and my husband at a wedding reception in 2017. Several hours after that photo was taken, he was rushed by ambulance to the ER. He had choked on a piece of meat. The PSA also includes a brief video I took one morning while my husband and I were hiking around a local reservoir. For more info in Mary Lou Falcone and her book, see her website: MaryLouFalcone.com
Oct 3, 2023
Illusive Dreams and Frustrating Dementia Care Ads
Sometimes, the dreams we carry inspire us. Then life changes, especially if your spouse has dementia. Now, those same dreams weigh us down… and we have to let go. Advertisements for some memory care facilities and some dementia service agencies don’t help. I find those ads insulting. You’ve read the message in blogs and brochures. Depending on where you and your spouse are in the dementia journey, you’ve probably had at least one person from a memory care center or caregiving agency look you in the eye and say – as though they understand exactly how you feel – that they stand ready to take on the burdens of dementia care so that you can go back to just being his wife. To which I say: What do they think marriage is? One big date? … That when things get tough, the spouse will bail? My rant is NOT about whether a caregiver is physically weak or strong, emotionally delicate or resilient. People are different. Their experiences are different. Their physical capabilities are different. My rant is NOT about whether or not you care for your spouse at home or you place your spouse in a memory care facility. People are different. Their home situations are different. What kind of support they have is different. My rant is about advertising that assumes spouses don’t want to take care of the personal needs of their spouse.
Aug 14, 2023
My Caregiver Friend Died First
This is a cautionary tale about a dear friend, a family caregiver who died first. She was in her mid-70s, a few weeks younger than I am. In mid-April, she had a stroke. She died mid-July, just as I faced the one-year milestone of my husband's death from Alzheimer's. Her death emphasized the reality of caregiver stress and the importance of caregiver support. You may not have time to listen to this episode now. You may start and find it triggers something personal and painful. So here's the one piece of advice I share in the epiode. I hope you will embrace it. My neighbor said this to me last week as I sat on her deck, crying: Keep living until you feel alive again.
Jun 15, 2023
Why Join a Support Group? To Survive!
Mar 6, 2023
My First Holiday Season Alone
My husband died last summer. He had Alzheimer's. I’ve experienced a lot of “firsts” without him: his birthday, my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and most recently, Valentine’s Day. Some of those days passed without incident. Others…not so much. It's March. I survived the first holiday season alone. I know there is no end-point to grief. We caregivers learn to carry it. We balance it between sad songs and sweet memories. We treasure the grief. It's proof that we had our own moment of Camelot. To help me through this year, I’ve chosen three "guidewords," an important ritual I do every January. For 2023, my words are: Emerge, Share, and Contentment. Each one tosses me out of my comfort zone. And each one gives me strength. In this episode, I talk about those three guidewords and about surviving my first holiday season alone. I hope you don't need this information. But chances are good you know someone who does. If so, please share this episode. The best thing we caregivers can do is share our stories.
Dec 21, 2022
Not Feeling Festive? Light a Solstice Candle
Not feeling festive? No surprise. For those of us caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia, December can be a cruel month. While much of the world is joyful. We're sad. It's part of the journey we're on. Today is the Winter Solstice. Light is returning to the Northern Hemisphere. In ancient Rome, this marked a time to celebrate and give gifts. The "wow" gift was a piece of the life-giving sun. The wow gift was a candle. Read about the poem "No Matter How Dark" in the book "How Far Light Must Travel" by my friend, the late Judi K. Beach. Be inspired by her encouraging words. Chose a word that represents a spiritual gift, something you want to give to others and something you want to receive for yourself. My spiritual gift to you, and to me, is Contentment. May you find peace in the caregiver's struggle.
Dec 4, 2022
Alzheimer's and Hope - A Gift or A Curse?
Are you caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's? You need to know that hope, like optimism, can strengthen your resilience or distort your reality. Hope can also be the key to your surivival. My husband died four months ago. In caring for him, I journeyed from confusion to determination, from anger to cynicism, from defiance to acceptance. I shunned hope. I grasped for hope. Only when forced to live in the moment did I find peace. Only then did I learn that NOW is where hope lives. This episode includes a list of ways someone can help a family caregiver.
Oct 22, 2022
The Power of Grief, Community, and a Tree
When tragedy reshapes your life, having a supportive community is key to your survival. Since my husband died of Alzheimer's three months ago, I've been in a cave of sorts, rarely leaving the house. My neighbors drew me back into the world of the living - with a tree. For family dementia caregivers, grief and guilt can become interwined. This episode includes a simple, self-care ritual for the caregiver.
Aug 27, 2022
Death and the Funeral
From the time my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, my goal was to care for him at home. He died last month, at home, in my arms. This episode shares deeply personal details about the changes in our relationship, the loss of physical intimacy, the physical realities of death, the practical considerations of a funeral, and more. Mentioned: https://www.myspousehasdementia.com https://www.celebrantinstitute.org (Find a Life-Cycle Celebrant) https://www.marycoburn.com (Life-Cycle Celebrant) https://dinastander.com (Death Doula and Life-Cycle Celebrant) https://www.carmonfuneralhome.com (CT - green funerals)
Aug 1, 2022
Hospice - Help When the End is Near
My husband died at home on July 19. From steady decline to dramatic drop to sudden nosedive, to death -- that was the pattern. I was prepared for some steps. Others blindsided me. Hospice helped both my husband and me in ways I didn't expect.
Jun 28, 2022
Sudden Falls and Rapid Changes
Alzheimer's degrades a person slowly over a period of years. When a downturn comes, symptoms can escalate suddenly. As a dementia family caregiver, you need to know what that downturn could look like. Knowing can help you survive.
Jun 19, 2022
Mistakes and Dementia Self-Care Rituals
Studies show that how the dementia family caregiver interprets her stress is key to her survival. I'm sharing 3 rituals I created that have helped me. I also share 3 mistakes I made in the early years of caring for my husband. He has Alzheimer's, late stage.
May 9, 2022
Our Loved Ones - The Power of the Stories We Tell
Zita Christian shares three personal stories about her husband who has late-stage Alzheimer's. She talks about the importance of telling the stories of our loved ones before they are seized with dementia. She talks about why it's important for us to tell our own stories, too.
Apr 9, 2022
Alzheimer's and Vision Changes
Even if a patient with Alzheimer's has healthy eyes, the brain can distort what the patient sees. Depth perception changes, too, as does the ability to recognize common items. For an 81-year-old man whose mind tells him he's now in his teens or younger, seeing his reflection in a mirror can be alarming.
Mar 18, 2022
Why You Need a Medical ID Bracelet
If your loved one wouldn't understand or know what to do if the police called your home because you'd been in an accident, you need to wear a medical ID bracelet. With the right info, it alerts first responders that your spouse has dementia. Check out LaurensHope.com for a variety of medical jewelry.
Mar 3, 2022
Lost in the Front Yard
More than 20 years ago, my husband successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. More recently, he took a walk in our small condo complex. When he was finished, he got frustrated because his key wouldn't unlock the front door. It wasn't our front door.
Feb 18, 2022
Using the Word "Alzheimer's"
The power of a name is not restricted to fairy tales. For the longest time, I couldn't bring myself to talk about my husband's diagnosis: Alzheimer's. When I finally faced the power loaded in that word, everything changed.
Feb 2, 2022
Getting the Diagnosis
There was a difference between the news I expected and the news we received. Hearing "Alzheimer's," our future suddenly crumbled. The disease affects everyone differently. Maybe my husband wouldn't forget who I was. Maybe he wouldn't forget where we lived. Maybe he wouldn't get any worse than he was now. Maybe pigs fly. I had so much to learn.