Apologies to everyone for my long hiatus. Thank you to those who messaged asking if I’m OK. The answer is I’m OK now and getting better every day. It was a tough past year for both Martin and me, which turned grueling in April as Martin’s dementia continues to swallow his core of self. My caregiving duties increased tremendously. This disease is oppressive for both victim and caregiver.
As bloggers most of us write about the positives of retirement. We don’t write about the negatives unless they turn out to be positives. Yet there is a sad side to aging. One day you wake up to the unexpected. At the risk of depressing you, truthfully, retirement is not all cookies and ice cream.
I’m writing this from my new-to-me home in Michigan by way of a calamitous year. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of all that happened; just a glimpse. Retirement is like the other parts of our lives. Things go wrong. People can be mean. The best laid plans can be ripped to shreds by a disease you never heard of. Unfulfilled expectations lead to depression, anger, a feeling of helplessness.
We built our South Carolina house for our retirement. Open floor plan, wide doorways, solid surface floors, one story, waist high counters and more. It was the perfect house for aging in place in a warm, sunny climate until the universe spewed a meteor in our direction. It hit us head-on.
I tried hiring help through two different companies I vetted. Both came highly recommended by other caregivers. The first person hired just to clean my home took the nozzles off the bathroom faucets telling me she always cleaned those. Next came her claim that I needed a whole house water filtration system. No, I didn’t need to call my plumber; she just happened to have a friend who did nothing but install filtration systems. (It’s not the filtration system, which is the scam. It’s the exorbitant price charged.) After removing her from my house, yes, I did need to call my plumber. She broke the seal on all four nozzles along with the tiny little baskets designed to direct the water flow. Nearly $500 later, new nozzles sent free of charge from Delta Faucets and reimbursement from her company, I tried a second company with similar results. Not as costly, but, still, someone trying to take advantage of me.
In the meantime, one morning Martin had a dangerous drop in blood pressure, passed out in the kitchen while making his latte. Reacting to the thud I heard, I arrived to a sea of blood and milk on the kitchen floor. He was already standing at the sink with blood drizzling down his chin. Warning to the squeamish: this part is graphic. The metal latte pitcher went into his chin. As he yelled, “No, no it’s only an itty-bitty” I dialed 911, tried to get a towel pressed to his chin to stem the bleeding and said, “It’s a BIG bitty”. Fortunately, a 6’4” fire fighter arrived within minutes and Martin followed his instructions. After an ambulance ride to the ER, where his blood pressure dropped to 70/40, and several stitches inside and out, I thought this was the worst we would endure for the moment.
Mean people are not just strangers. Sometimes they live on the same street. A neighbor spread the rumor Martin didn’t have Primary Progressive Aphasia – I was making it up just to get sympathy. (I wish it were so.) After all, who ever heard of such a disease? And he was still bicycling. The neighbor’s rumor caused other neighbors and one contractor to treat me badly. Of all the situations, this middle school bullying behavior by adults, most of whom are my age or close to it, was the most difficult for me. I understand fear of dementia. I don’t understand cruelty born of ignorance.
There’s more, lots more, but I said I wouldn’t bore you with a blow by blow account. The wakeup call came from my doctor in May. If it wasn’t for the stress I was under, I would be in good health. As we all know, good health is aging’s holy grail. I needed to find a balance for both Martin and me. I couldn’t do anything about his disease, but I could do something about where we lived.
After nearly a year of listening to my oldest daughter asking us to move to Michigan to live near her, I faced facts. Although we had loving helpful friends, we needed more. Living in the tundra was not our idea of a great environment in which to age. But, we spent 46 years living in the North. We could do it again. Reluctantly, sadly we prepared our house for sale.
Fueled by a hot sellers’ market and right pricing, mercifully, within a week our house was under contract. Those few showings alone agitated Martin, which stressed me. The universe was finally spreading sunshine in our direction. Finding a house just five minutes from our daughter convinced me God’s hand was surely in this. I won’t say hiccups didn’t occur along the way, but most situations were resolved with minimal fuss.
Then, on a late August day, with Martin, a car load of cats in carriers and a large plastic bin marked “Survival Kit” I headed north to our new home.