Inspiration

By Charles Towne 

When you live with dementia you become accustomed to the whacky, the weird, and often, the wonderful.

Moving time?

Where are we moving to?

Nowhere.

Why is it moving time then?

I don’t have a clue other than the fact that Nanny has this irrepressible urge to start packing again.

Well, that can’t be all that bad!

Oh yeah, you are probably right except for the fact that when people pack they don’t usually stack dishes in garbage cans or pack the glass cookie jar in a plastic waste basket and then pile more glass dishes on top of it.  How about shoving half a dozen cups and saucers into a pillowcase and then stacking them in boxes?

As you can imagine, glass dishes don’t last very long in our house.

I’d go to paper plates but they don’t hold up very well in the dishwasher.

I can’t find the flashlight.   “Honey, where is the flashlight?”

“I don’t know.”

I search for the flashlight and finally discover it wrapped in a towel along with half a dozen candlesticks.  This candlestick/ flashlight bundle is stuffed in the cookie jar and the cookie jar is wrapped in one of Nanny’s bras and this is all packed very carefully in a wastebasket.   If you see any logic to this please let me know.

Where are the DVD’s?

Don’t ask me, I don’t have a clue!  I mean, I simply don’t know.

I search for the DVD’s and find them stashed in the storage room with the pillows from our bed.

“Honey, why are the pillows in the storage room?”

“I don’t know I didn’t put them there?”  (WE MUST HAVE A GREMLIN HIDING IN THE HOUSE!)

I am about to prepare dinner.  I need to lay out the silverware.  I open the drawer.  No silverware, just one of Nancy’s bedroom slippers along with a couple of her belts and bras.

The next morning I can’t find my razor.

“Honey where is my razor?”

“What?”

“Where is my razor?”

“I don’t know Charles, what did you do with it!”

“It was on the bathroom sink but now it’s gone?”

“Did you look in the workshop?”

“Why would it be in the workshop?”

“I don’t know?”
“Charles?”
“What?”
“Why would you put your razor in the workshop?”
“I didn’t put it in the workshop.”
“Put what in the workshop?”

Does Nancy realize that this behavior is a tad off the wall?  I don’t think so.  To be perfectly honest she thinks that it is her dottie old husband that is a bit strange. Perhaps she is right.

My Nancy, my sweet wife, my strange wife with the sweet smile, my dear lady that finds it almost impossible to carry on a rational, normal conversation; my Nancy, my helpless lady without a past, my woman-child, my child-woman, my life, my wife of “now”, yes, my wife of today, for there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, only today.

Nan is walking again.  The M.S. has gone into remission.  Physically she has made incredible improvement, but I fear at times that she is starting to slip away, back to that dark shadow realm where I cannot follow.

Recently, after doing some studying on the subject I discovered evidence that leads me to the conclusion that Nancy’s behavior, some of her little quirks, those nerve-wracking (to me) little bits of idiosyncratic behavior are likely caused by a syndrome called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or, O.C.D.

None of Nancy’s doctors knowing the behavior patterns she exhibits has ever diagnosed her as having obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Perhaps they just forgot to mention it?

The more we understand the better able we are to rationally cope with the everyday challenges of dementia.

Understanding that O.C.D. is quite common and that it is not unique to Nan’s and my situation gives me hope and that knowledge has given me the tools to better cope with the malady.  Just putting a handle on the situation and discovering that others are walking the same path and that there are treatments is greatly encouraging.

I have chosen to allow Nancy to act out her little faux pas after all what she does is harmless and she is happy.  In other words, due to the fact that Nan presents no danger to herself or others I choose to ignore it.  On the other hand, if your loved one is acting out behavior that could be potentially dangerous to herself or others you must involve a doctor and treat the behavior with some of the available medications.

Common signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Your loved one may exhibit one or more of these common symptoms.  If you observe any of them let your doctor know.  There are medications that can lessen the symptoms.

  1. A tendency to constantly sort, and organize things.
  2. Constant pacing.
  3. Obsessively washes hands.
  4. Repeats actions, and sentences.
  5. Hides and or hordes items or food.
  6. Scratching or digging at their own flesh.

Often the best way to respond to obsessive-compulsive disorder is simply to ignore it unless it is something that could harm your loved one such as #6 where they are constantly scratching at themselves until they bleed.  As soon as you observe anything that could present a physical danger to themselves or others it would be time to involve your doctor.

Nancy has displayed signs of O.C.D. for several years now.  She sits on a chair in the yard picking up one leaf at a time, ad infinitum, and drops them into a bucket.  Or she tears pages out of one magazine after another and cuts out pictures or words that catch her eye.  Or she writes labels for and organizes videos over and over again.  Repetition is the order of the day, and these are all examples of O.C.D.

It took me a long time to look upon these behavior patterns as benign, or harmless, but I am succeeding, and praise God, as I said, she is happy, content from moment to moment, day to day.

This morning I went out to put the garbage cans next to the road for pick-up.  One of the cans, upon examination, contained some of our clothing.  There were three of Nan’s good blouses, and two pairs of her slacks.  There were also four pairs of my jeans.  When I asked her why my jeans were in the trash she replied, “They are too big for me!”

Yeah sure, there are times that I am just a tad frustrated but such is the life of a caregiver.

A CAREGIVER’S PRAYER

Dear God, please help me to be patient in all things.  Help me to realize that it is perhaps me that needs to be healed.  Help me to always yield to your will, to be kind and gracious at all times.  As frustrating as obsessive-compulsive behavior is to me help me to recognize that some of my habits must bring you to tears, and yet you love me and care for me.  Help me to be the epitome of love, to be merciful in all things, and to bring joy into my Darling’s life.  Thank you, Father, in Jesus’ Holy and merciful name I ask it, Amen


Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, OCD is a difficult one. Just be careful with the diagnostics. Symptoms may be related, however, they fall under a larger umbrella of an Alzheimer’s associated dementia. No need to put her in another “box” and label her if not necessary. Sub-types and symptoms of various other ailments often rear their ugly heads during this disease but are not the primary. Regardless, great that you have brought OCD out to the public as so many suffer from this disease. Awareness is crucial for family members and patients for maximum treatment results! Thank you Charles.

  2. Dear NH, it is interesting that doctors are always ready to tie labels to certain symptoms when almost all forms of illness might have something similar but lack the most obvious indicator of a particular disease? Now that is perhaps just a tad convoluted but diagnosis of disease is after all not a precise science. I knew a lady that spent her days cutting out four inch squares of cloth and then sawing them together in four inch tall stacks. The doctors eventually diagnosed her as having Alzheimers with the addition of OCD thrown in for good measure. It is all confusing isn’t it? The one thing I know for sure is that Papa God loves my wife as do I and this sojourn on this earth is after all only temporary. Thanks for the comment and blessings on you and yours. Chaz

  3. So happy to hear that the M.S is in remission and she’s walking again! Praise God! Our prayers are with you and Nan for a continuous improvement and recovery. God bless!

  4. Thank you, Lord, that Nancy is able to walk again! I’m sure that she’s much happier with her “sense of freedom”.
    I have never experienced OCD at home with any family members…
    only with students I’ve worked with. It takes someone with the patience of Job to deal with it day after day after day. Chuck, you are such a loving, devoted husband and Nancy is blessed to have you in her life. The Bible says we will not have more put on our shoulders than we can bear. We can only do our best, nothing more. He rewards those who are faithful. God bless you, Chuck, with His divine power, grace and love.

  5. Dear reader, I would hope that we all would stand for the weak and the frail. My prayer is that I can always love and cherish my darling and that we can all be there for those that need us. Our Lord has told us that when we assist the weak, when we give water to the thirsty, when we help the helpless, when we love the unlovely, in all these things we are doing it as it were to Him. Chaz

  6. When caring for a loved one with dementia, we have the opportunity to have the rough edges of our characters revealed and perhaps, with the grace of God, rubbed off.

  7. Ernie, aint it the truth! Caregiving is about like 40 grit sandpaper moving at about 500 rpm, it will either refine you or wear you down to a tiny nubbin! Chaz

  8. This story hits close to home, as my father-in-law died from early onset Alzheimer’s. At different points he demonstrated some of the same OCD behaviors you describe including the packing. It was such a curious thing and as you have said quite weird and whacky. Another thing he did fairly early on (prior to constant supervision) was compulsive shopping from the internet or the TV. This behavior was completely the opposite of how he was before the disease. Naturally, all his access to money had to be taken away. It is hard to watch someone lose their freedoms one by one as the disease progresses. I appreciate the honesty, humility, and humor you share with us in relation to dealing with Nancy as she has gone through this experience. Thanks for being a good example.

  9. Dear Kristin, the only thing we really have to give is ourselves and what we have learned in life. I pray that what you receive from these little vignettes of life lived by me and mine is positive and draws you nearer and ever nearer to the life-Giver, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God bless and keep you, Chaz

  10. Unka Chuck, I have a friend whose husband has Alzheimer’s so I asked her if she would like to hear about your experiences with Nancy as I felt they would be an encouragement to her. She said yes. Is it alright if I share this website with her or is there another venue you would prefer?
    Linda

  11. Linda, yes yes yes! Please by all means give her the email address for the APOPKA VOICE so she can go on the site herself! Anything else you need let me know. The more people it helps the merrier! Unka Chuck

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