Darce Fardy, a retired journalist and public information officer, is chronicling his experiences with dementia in this occasional series for The Chronicle Herald.
And so it goes, as more plans are made for what is likely to happen as my dementia advances. This is the practical stuff.
In my last column, I told you that we would be going to see a lawyer who was familiar with dementia issues. And we did. We wanted to discuss what measures we needed to take for a time when my dementia has progressed to a point where I am unable to make decisions for myself.
We all recognized that I am some distance from that point but being too early was better than being too late.
We both had met this lawyer when she spoke at an Alzheimer’s conference we attended. Although we had prepared living wills when I was 75, those documents needed to be looked at again with our future in mind.
I was, of course, participating in this meeting. I can say emphatically that I have no problems exercising the changes we will likely have to make. I expect that when the time comes I will be a co-operative guy.
We had already decided we would offer our bodies to a medical school. Our lawyer pointed out that the medical school would likely want to examine the brain of someone with dementia, particularly when that person had kept a public diary of sorts. I think my columns have provided much of that information. I would like to put myself in a position where I could help in pursuit of a cure for dementia. I know it sounds ghoulish, even perhaps a bit self-serving, but that’s the kind of conversation we need to have before the inevitable. It’s important for everyone, but, in my case, it’s important to have those conversations now.
Our next stop was the bank, where we discussed with our banker how we might deal with the possibility that I lose my wallet or reach a point where I might make inappropriate withdrawals or purchases, using either my debit or credit cards.
It seems the answer is to limit the daily maximum I can access on my debit card, and to lower my credit card limit. This decision has the added advantage of protecting us should someone else attempt to use either card. Our accounts have now been flagged by the bank so that any attempt to exceed these amounts using my card will be brought to the bank’s attention. I was able to reassure my family that I had no difficulty accepting these pecuniary restraints.
Over Christmas, we sat down with our son and two daughters and went over our new wills and our own wishes should we become incapacitated. They have now read everything and we have answered all their questions. I found all of this very satisfying and I believe the family did as well.
It was a first for all of us. It was salutary.
All of this may seem surreal but this is no cris de coeur. I’m still enjoying life and talking too much. I don’t think I am any more cranky than I ever was.
So far the family is doing well relating to a husband, father and granddad whose memory is fading. We had all six grandchildren — ages 10 to 18 — and their parents with us at Christmas time. And on Boxing Day we were able to invite close friends to come and meet the whole family. At that reception, Gabrielle, our eldest grandchild, chose to migrate during the evening between the adults in the living room and her five cousins in the den, all of them with their heads down, exercising their thumbs on iPhones and watching Big Bang Theory.
Gabrielle, who lives in Toronto and attends university in Washington, D.C, on a soccer scholarship, now drives, just as her granddad has stopped driving. Grandson Seamus, who lives near us, has his driver’s licence too. For Christmas, he received the keys to our car with a note attached reading, “Granddad’s chauffeur.” Tempus fugit!
The only awkward moment over the holidays was when I was dumb enough to wonder aloud about next Christmas. I should have predicted the reaction. Oh well! Even Granddad’s not perfect.
I have now been through two Christmases and 15 months since I was diagnosed, with not much new to report. (I will need a dispensation if I repeat stuff I have mentioned in other columns.) I sometimes forget names. I try to bluff my way through it.
Good friends are willing to help me out in such a subtle fashion that I don’t even notice the interjection.
Although I can find my way to any part of the city, I frequently do not remember street names. There’s no cause to fret over that yet. I walk to and from the gym, even in –15 C temperatures. When the sidewalks look iffy, I arm myself with a spiked walking cane. So with a sharp stick and a muffler masking part of my face, I probably look threatening to kids going off to school.
Now for the “fools walk in where angels fear to tread” bit. As you can imagine in the situation Dorothea and I are in, patience is required of both parties. Dorothea, of course, needs more patience than the “patient,” but the patient requires some too. (Here I enter the “angels fear to tread” arena.) After driving in Halifax for many years (I quit only a year ago), I “knew” the best routes to take downtown and the best places to park. Not surprisingly perhaps, Dorothea finds different routes to take and has different favourite parking spots. And she doesn’t appear to need a co-pilot. Well, believe or not, I have managed to stay out of it.
It’s tough sometimes, though.
A final story, again at my peril. In my era, most men I knew never did the wash, except occasionally for the dishes. So I delicately pointed out to Dorothea the other day that I was running short of clean unmentionables. She assured me that there’s a cache of clean underwear, pajamas, etc., available for unexpected travel or emergency. I should have known.
As time goes by, I guess it’s natural for me to think more about how all this will end. Tho’ I think I am an affable guy, I can’t help wondering how I will behave when my dementia gets worse. And I wonder how much of the memory problems are compounded by the natural aging process. I’ll soon be 83. I still have the curiosity of an old newsman.
February 07, 2015 (http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1267904-darce%E2%80%99s-dementia-plans-and-feelings-coexist)