Tuesday, June 21, 2016


“Hocus Pocus, Abracadabra, Presto….”

Wait, nothing happened.  Maybe I spelled something wrong.  Maybe the words are case sensitive, or hyphenated.  Maybe there should be a hash tag in front of them.  Drat.

Haven’t you ever wished there were magic words that you could say that would make everything better, get something you wanted and take away anything you didn’t want?  No?  Well, then maybe it’s just me, but I sure think it would be great if it worked that way.

Those of you who’ve been reading my posts know that I try to write solely from the point of view of a caregiver. I’m not always successful in doing that, but I try.  That’s still my intent so in this post I’m going to further delve into my very personal issues as a caregiver dealing with Al.

A couple of days ago I found myself standing in front of our bathroom mirror with the eerie sensation that I am looking at a stranger.  There is a woman there, but one I barely recognize.  No, I’m not exaggerating (well, maybe just a little).  The person I see is older, heavier and—I can’t help but think—a little shorter than me.  She isn’t smiling, and seems unhappy looking back at me.

I touched her face and felt the wrinkles on her neck and wondered how old she was.  I thought how much better she’d look if she smiled and lost a few pounds. I noticed she needed a manicure and thought a bit of conditioner might help with her frizzy hair reflecting in the light from the bathroom’s solar tube. 

I stood there and had a very private conversation with this person.  I asked her what had happened to her. 

She picked up a hair brush and began to stroke her hair and said, “Nothing actually happened to me.  It’s my husband. He’s been assaulted by a monster named Al who now lives with us.”

I said if that was the case, why did she look so wounded and despondent? 

She looked straight at me and began to explain.

“You see, for the last three years I’ve been the primary caregiver for my dear husband.  This is something that I want to do for him.  I love him. But, being a full-time caregiver can wear on you and change you in ways you don’t expect.  It can alter your spirit and create an imbalance to your universe.  I had stopped doing the things that allowed that balance, so right now what you see is what you get.”

I leaned closer to the mirror and asked, “How will you fix this?”

She replied, “Unfortunately there are no magic words or potions.  I have to do this myself.  I have to start making time for me.  It might seem egocentric given my husband’s struggles with such a man-eater as Al, but that’s really what needs to happen.  If I don’t take care of me soon I won’t be able to care for anyone. “

I told her that I understood.  She smiled, “You do realize that I’m you, right?  You have to do something.  I’m just reflecting you.”

How could she be me? I looked much younger than her, my posture better; I had style and took pride in myself.  I had a sense of humor and laughed a lot.  Wait, I said “had” didn’t I?
But she was right. 

Quick, I need the magic words….”Hocus Pocus, Abracadabra, Alakazam!  Shoot, it still doesn’t work.”

So, I guess I will have to do this myself.  I’m back online loading the Weight Watchers app and planning for tomorrow.  It’s still many weeks before we’re back in Oregon, so I have some time to work on myself.

If this sounds all too familiar, find a support group or go online at Alzauthors.wordpress.com and read what other caregivers are saying and doing to protect themselves and maintain balance.  Because the fact is, you can’t do it alone. Managing Al takes a village, a country, a nation.

Part of my balance plan includes humor and being able to laugh at myself.…I don’t have to look far to find things to laugh about.

I haven’t developed dementia, although there are times when I wonder.  Like the other day as I tried to change a password for one of my web applications.  The little sign-in box on the screen refused to accept a password I had used for months and suggested I enter my email address, go to that address and receive a temporary password.  I did and read the first line in the instructions which said, “Your password is CASE SENSITIVE”.  So I went back to the application and typed in “CASE SENSITIVE”.  Only after several failed attempts did I go back to the email and read the full instructions, and in my private embarrassment realize my stupidity.  I’d like to say it was a unique occurrence, but I would be lying. Where’s a magic word when you need it?
Joe and Al on Father's Day 2016