Tim: “I’ve never been surrounded by so much imbecility!”

Sometimes it isn’t Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it’s just blood sugar.

Things were getting back to normal, going really well actually. (Okay, there was the day we heard the guest shower come on before we even knew he was upstairs. Our master bathroom has a separate shower stall with a low threshold, metal grab bars and skid-resistant mats. When Tim comes up for a shower, we set up his sturdy shower chair and put a towel within reach. The guest bathroom, by contrast, has a tub with none of these safety precautions and while Tim was in there, had no towels or bathmat to soak up water on the floor. And Tim had locked the door.

I instantly went on full alert. All we could do was stand within earshot, wincing, listening for thuds and moans–and pray. Tim eventually emerged from the bathroom, sopping wet, his bathrobe askew, leaned against the door frame and panted, “I’ll never use that shower again! It’s a pitfall!” I wanted to shake him and shout in his face, “That’s why we never wanted you to use it in the first place!” He hadn’t been able to figure out how to work the lever for the drain so the tub was half-full of water. A pitfall indeed.

Anyway, so he survived. I didn’t have to shake and shout.

And there was the day he got up early (for him) and wouldn’t go back to bed. He was anxious about plans and schedules, none of which applied to that day, and kept asking questions without seeming to understand the answers.

I kept hoping he’d go finish his night’s sleep. I figured that would break the obsessive cycle. He would go back to bed–for a few minutes. He’d disappear behind his curtain and I’d relax and starting getting things done–and then out he’d pop again, asking the same questions. It went on like that all day. It was typical, full-blown, The 36-hour Day dementia.

I finally told Jerry, out of Tim’s hearing, “I can’t do this! I thought I could but I can’t. I’m fine until he comes out and then just seeing him, my stress and anger levels go through the roof. Instantly. I know the apartment isn’t an option, he let his MediCal lapse, his insurance doesn’t cover long-term care and he has no savings. But I can’t do this. I’m going to have another stroke and it’s affecting our marriage–I’m snapping at you all the time.”)

But then there was the evening of enlightenment: Tim came upstairs to look at his email on my computer and was having a terrible time. I finally stopped getting up and coming over every time he had a question and just stood at his shoulder. He wanted help but he wouldn’t let me help. Most of the time I was saying, “Back arrow. Back arrow. Till you get back to a page that’s familiar.” He swore at the machine, swore at technology in general, from ATMs to seatbelts, then burst out, “I’ve never been surrounded by so much imbecility!”

As he struggled to make the computer work–he concluded the solution was to buy a new one of his own–I realized he hadn’t eaten all day! I pointed this out to him. He didn’t see it as a problem.

In my most indirect, inoffensive way I said,  “Lots of times when my brain seems to stop working or rather, nothing outside my brain seems to be working for me, it’s because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is bottoming out.” He wasn’t listening.

I went downstairs and got him a cup of apple sauce. I set it on the desk next to him and suggested he eat it, trying not to mother. He took a bite or two as he kept poking buttons and I continued standing at his shoulder, guiding him the best I could by describing what to do without pointing or reaching over to do it for him, as I am tempted to do, which makes him furious. Then I went and got him a piece of toast.

Before either of us knew it, he’d written and sent an email and forwarded a YouTube video not just to one person but to the entire family! After a proper dinner he had me show him how to turn on his Kindle and how to turn pages. That evening he was able to read well into Proof of Heaven by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander.

He ended the day feeling competent and productive, which encouraged us both.

He even let me trim his hair–and when I finished he liked it!

I am SO getting trained by the Lord in patience and self-control I should have learned as a child. Or let the Lord develop in me as an adult. Because I indulged in tantrums (kicking or throwing things: only a decade or so ago I shattered a sliding mirrored closet door with a telephone from across the room), now I am forced to calm way down to deal with another person’s tantrums without having one of my own, because the consequences would be devastating.

Thanks a lot, Lord. I knew better than to ever pray for patience—but you’re making me learn it anyway. I don’t like it but we’ll do it Your way.


About Jessica Renshaw

This entry was posted in Alzheimer's, Helping others, My brother Tim and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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