An interview with Bill Verrill, a former banker, who now suffers from early Alzheimer’s disease. Bill describes his deep trust in his wife Shirley’s ability to take care of him, but his deepest fear is for her, and the toll his illness will take on her life. He talks about letting go of his driver’s license and the challenge of feeling dependent on others. Bill movingly describes his frustration at not being able to complete tasks as he used to, despite his determination to keep reading and working on the computer as long as he still can. He also describes his wish for a forum to talk to other people with dementia, since most support groups are for the caregiver, not for the actual patient. After the interview we found this link to Memory Works Cafes for those with dementia, held monthly throughout Maine.
An interview with elder-caregiving expert Carol Bradley Bursack about sibling conflict in the care of a parent with Dementia. Carol reports that most adult children caregivers are still women, and that typically the responsibilities of caregiving fall mostly to one child within a family. This creates the conditions for old resentments, jealousies, and conflicts to resurface, especially with regard to favoritism, money, inheritance, and hours of unacknowledged caregiving work. Carol tells stories of conflict and offers preventative suggestions for how families can navigate these challenges intact.
Dr. Anne talks to her mother, Clare Hallward, about the dementia of Anne’s father and Clare’s husband, John, which lasted for 16 years before his death. They talk about some of the exasperating and even downright terrifying challenges of caring for John as his illness progressed. They discuss key decision points in his care that allowed Clare to have her own life, and that allowed him to continue to make a contribution to their life even when ill. Clare describes how it felt to make the difficult decisions to move her husband to a nursing home, and later to withhold antibiotics and allow him to die of pneumonia.
A conversation with therapist Nancy Sowell about the family secrets that came out as she was caring for her grandmother with dementia. Nancy recounts the curious distance and even hostility she had always felt from this side of the family, and how it all began to make sense as her grandmother opened up for the first time. She describes the powerful way that dementia can lift a person’s inhibitions, occasionally allowing for shared grief and even healing of old wounds that she had only sensed were there. She also discusses the power of secrets and shame in families, and how difficult it is, even now, to know how to talk about a painful secret with the rest of the family.
A conversation with Liz Havu about the experience of caring for her mother, who has both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. She discusses the progression of her mother’s illness, and the corresponding adjustments and sacrifices she’s had to make in her own life in order to be her mother’s primary caregiver. She talks about her promise never to put her mother in a nursing home, and how this decision has brought her family together in more ways than one.