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.
Thank you for updating us, your readers.
Wishing you & Martin strength as you move forward in your new home.
I’m so glad you posted- thanks for the update. So sorry to hear of the turmoil and meanness. You are brave and taking things day by day. Good luck in Michigan!
I am so sorry to hear about all this, Kathy. I just discovered your blog a few months ago and signed up to follow it, though I don’t follow much of anything online! I have a husband about to turn 70 and a mother with dementia – you gave me some much needed reminders to do things while husband and I are healthy enough to do and enjoy them, as things could change tomorrow – or today. Glad you’re near your daughter. I have one of those too – a wonderful daughter – also a new granddaughter – and they make up for the mean ignorant people.
Thanks for sharing and sorry you had such a traumatic experience. Wishing you the best in your new Michigan home.
I am so sorry to hear about all that has happened to you and Martin . It sounds like an awful year .
I respect and congratulate you on being honest and telling it as it is , as I am sure lots of your readers do . The struggle is real for so many of us in many different ways . I hope your move to Michigan relives some of your stress and that family is there for both of you . Hang in there .
If possible please post to let everyone know how you and your family are doing . 💚
Kathy, thank you for sharing your stories. I am truly sorry for your struggles, but so grateful that you told us how resilient you are. It’s through life’s struggles that we learn resiliency. My family has also experienced the shock of uncaring neighbors and cruel so-called friends in medical emergencies. These crises, while so hurtful, are actually a good way for us to see very clearly who is really in our corner. The shock is always who is not. The blessing is the surprise of who is with us in the storm. I promise you that you will look back at this time as a time of blessing. Wishing you and your husband all the best.