Happy New Year!?? Are you glad to see 2018 go? For me, I am happy to get this year behind us and already weary of what the new year will bring. I probably read too much about Frontotemporal Dementia which has me waiting for the next great loss in Harriet’s life. The other day I was reading about a woman, with FTD, who last Christmas hung the Christmas lights on her front porch. Sadly, on Christmas 2018, she was in a nursing home and didn’t even know it was Christmas. What a quick, sad, change in the poor woman’s life. Happily, for us, Harriet is still in stage one and the disease appears to be progressing very slowly.
This Christmas I did more of the jobs that, in the past, she took care of. For those of you who received a Christmas card from us you knew immediately that Harriet did not write the greeting. Her handwriting has always been beautiful and easy to read. My handwriting is so bad that sometimes I can’t even read what I’ve written. I apologize to those of you who should have received a card but didn’t. I didn’t have a list, and Harriet couldn’t remember who should be on the lost one.
Another fun thing I got to do this year was wrap all the Christmas gifts, (except my own). In the past, Harriet would wrap the gifts with ribbons and bows, everything had to be perfect. My idea of gift wrapping is totally different. Get the paper on as neatly as you can, tape it up, and slap a name tag on it. I figure that no one really cares about how the package is wrapped as much as what’s in the package. Have you noticed the frustration of people who can’t get past the ribbons and bows to reach the paper? Most of the time people will rip the paper off as quickly as is humanly possible. I understand that your great aunt Matilda took her time, so as not to tear the paper, and then folded the paper neatly up and set it aside before opening the package. This was because she grew up during the great depression and was trained to NEVER throw anything away that could be used again. Anyway, Harriet looked at all the gifts under the tree and didn’t mention the lack of ribbons and bows. She probably thought, “Well, they don’t look beautiful, but at least everything is wrapped, and that is better than nothing.” Lately she is too tired to do very much plus, getting everything organized is too confusing for Harriet and that is why it comes to me.
We made Christmas dinner for twelve people and everything turned out nicely. We have learned to make the meal as simple as possible, but in spite of that Harriet was confused about things she wouldn’t have given a thought to just a few years ago. We had two hams, the largest weighed eight pounds. The hams were to be baked for 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. She could not figure out how long the hams needed to be in the oven. Harriet is not a stupid person, but this disease is robbing her of the ability to do even simple math. I was trying just to help and let her do as much as she could, that way she would feel good about everything. I got the ham in the oven and took care of the potatoes. Harriet did the squash and veggie trays and made the best ham gravy I have ever tasted.
For the past 45 years, our family has always attended a Christmas Eve candle light service. This year it didn’t happen. Our son and his wife were coming in from Detroit and were not able to make it in time for the evening service. Sadly, the Christmas preparations had worn Harriet out so that she didn’t have the energy to make it either. So, I thought we could all attend the early morning service on Christmas day. However, that service started way too early for Harriet to get out of bed since she didn’t get to sleep until around 3 O’Clock that morning. I went by myself and it was a wonderful service at which I got to wish our good friends a very Merry Christmas. Christmas Day was a blessing and everyone had a good time.
My job as the Caregiver means that, I have to be ready to do whatever needs to be done. I cannot say, “Not my job!” This means I have to stay in the moment and be observant of how Harriet is doing. When I see her having difficulty I must be ready to jump in and help, without taking the job away from her. Finally, I have to really live one day, one moment, at a time and put to death my expectations. Otherwise I spend a lot of time unhappy because something didn’t go the way I thought it should. With FTD one never knows if the plans you made will happen or not.
Of course, everything I’ve said about my job as caregiver is only true today. Things may drastically change in 2019 to the place where Harriet will not be able to even help prepare any meal. When she slips over into stage two, I will need to change my approach to caregiving to meet the current need. I Hope, and pray, that 2019 will be a banner year for you; one of the best years of your life. For myself, I am happy today, will join others to celebrate the New Year and see what comes tomorrow, Have a Happy, Blessed, and prosperous New Year.