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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 358: Living with AD

It's Just Me Again No. 358. Living with AD - Alzheimer's Disease. Chuck Hinman writes about the changes in their lives after his wife Connie's onset of Alzheimer's Disease
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 097: Outdoor toilets

By Chuck Hinman

After being members of New Harmony Baptist Church in rural Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for over 45 years, I moved our membership to Eastern Heights Baptist Church in 2000. I say "I," because Connie was in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

Eastern Heights was just a few blocks from our house, practically in our front yard. We had many friends in that church and we enjoyed going to both Sunday school and Church services.

Connie's cognitive function was 100 percent destroyed so that she couldn't speak, nor did she understand spoken words. In spite of her many problems, she looked like a million dollars and I dressed and groomed her to the hilt. Everyone knew and loved Connie! People who didn't know this classy lady would never have known of her dreadful walk with AD. She masked it with her sweet personality.

It wasn't uncommon for her to fall asleep shortly after the sermon started. Normally she would lay her head on my right shoulder.

But on this particular morning, our seating arrangement had gotten skewed for some reason before the service started. I was on her right side. Some man I didn't know sat on her left side where I normally sat.

In Connie's state of Alzheimer's disease, she couldn't sort-out this seeming small change in routine. No matter what I did to make her aware of my presence beside her, and distract her from this "stranger," she rejected my efforts. It was embarrassing!

I recognized the problem. I was not in the right location! I wasn't where her tangled mind had been used to me being. I didn't want to ask this man to exchange places with me. He wouldn't have understood.

Finally, Connie tiring of her confusion gave in to the hopelessness of the situation. She put her head on this man's shoulder and fell asleep, drooling slightly on the lapel of his jacket as she normally did on mine.

I knew that everyone sitting nearby, including the man sitting next to her, was caught up in the drama of this curious situation! I was devastated and helpless what to do. I wanted to bawl my eyes out! I knew my precious sweetie fell asleep thinking that I, whoever I represented in her twisted mind, had totally abandoned her. I shuddered in abhorrence at my complete helplessness!

Mercifully, the service ended. Connie roused from her sleep. I helped her to her feet with the aid of the man on whose shoulder she had slept.

Church friends gathered to encourage us as they always had. I thanked God that in spite of this scary incident, Connie once again accepted my "being" as holding hands a little tighter than usual, we departed for Luby's for dinner.

I loathe AD for how it degrades its victims but I found that you can live with it if you try. We did!

- Chuck Hinman, emailed Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This story was posted on 2012-05-06 02:35:35
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