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Even Ms A has upsides

I’ve always been a positive, outward looking, glass-half-full, don’t-let-the-buggers-win kind of person. And, of course, there are a few pluses. I’m discovering, even to My Loved One’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis – an occasional flash of light in the gathering darkness. Clouds, silver linings and all the rest of it. Here, in no particular order, are ten of them:

1.Better sleep Ms Alzheimer’s perpetual prodding at MLO’s ailing brain makes him very tired. So he sleeps like a baby. And that means that I (sometimes) rest more easily too. For two people who have struggled with moderate insomnia for years this is a bit of a bonus

2.Family When our sons were growing up we often despaired at their behaviour and attitudes and blamed ourselves – as most parents do. Now in their forties, both with families and busy businesses to run they are astonishingly, generously, movingly supportive, kind, competent men and we are deeply appreciative. We must, without knowing it, have done something right when they were young. The four or us are, I think, closer than we’ve been for a long time too and we’ve always been fairly strong on family stuff. Then there are their partners and ex-partners all cheerfully on board when we need them. The help is practical, thoughtful and makes me, in particular, realise that I am definitely not alone with MLO and the foul Ms A.

3.Wonderful friends Since I started writing these blogs literally hundreds of people – some we know very well and others whom we know only slightly – have expressed concern, offered help and sent love. I feel more supported and fortunate than at any other time in my entire life. Thanks, Folks. Great to know you’re there.

4.Chocolate biscuits What a lot of lovely varieties there are out there. For decades we abstemiously forewent them. Now they’re back on the shopping list because I let MLO have exactly what he fancies to eat. And it would be rude not to join him wouldn’t it? The M&S “extremely chocolatey” range are our favourites.

5,Learning curve For years we’ve been a team with complementary skills and MLO has done most of our “admin”. Now that he struggles with that I’m having to develop new skills rapidly. Life is suddenly full of firsts. In the last week alone, for example, I have taxed my car from scratch and cracked online business banking with a fiddly fob thing.

6.Safety awareness I now notice steps and other hazards in a way I never have before. Because MLO is shakier on his feet than he used to be I am constantly saying “Mind this”  or “Watch that”. Of course you should never be casual about safety, whatever your circumstances so I regard my heightened awareness as a gain.

7.Time to stand, stare and share Suddenly the simple things seem good. Sometimes it’s enough just to stroll in the park or listen to and watch the parakeets in our south London garden. Yes, I know it’s not PC to like the latter but we’re not and we do.

8.Getting things in proportion There is nothing like a diagnosis such as the one we’re living with to make you sort out what really matters. Things I might once have got very uptight about – such as whether the garden gets weeded or getting exactly the right sort of pre-show snack (he still comes out theatre reviewing with me) – are suddenly revealed as the trivia they are. Not worth fretting about. Better to focus on things like remembering to hug him and tell him how much I love him.

9.Sympathy for others I hope (but it may be a vain hope) that I’ve always been kind to everyone who needs it but I am by nature, brusque, impatient and always in a hurry. And I’m sure I’ve often ridden roughshod over vulnerable people. I’m now conscious that I can very easily spot other people who are dealing with intractable problems in the same way as we are. My becoming even slightly  more empathetic and sympathetic can only be a good thing.

10.Education I’ve learned to spell Alzheimer’s.

 

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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