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Chins up, folks

The last couple of blogs have been a bit gloomy. One loyal reader told me that I reduced him to tears last week and I’m not sure whether that’s something to be proud of or sorry for.

I’ve been reflecting, therefore, on some positive things about living with Alzheimer’s. Watching Ms A nibble her way into your life and marriage is no bed of roses but of course it isn’t all bad all the time.

Here are ten pluses. Sort of.

1.I have some very supportive friends, most of whom have stood back and let me get on with it for years because I’m a pretty independent person. Now, in their different ways, and using a fabulous range of talents they are surging forward with practical offers of help. And I’m gradually finding the humility to accept them. I feel quite spoilt and very loved.

2.I’m learning to prioritise and get things in proportion – probably for the first time ever. If My Loved One accidentally takes a second loaf out of the freezer which then gets wasted because we can’t eat it fast enough and it’s now thawed, does it really matter? Is it worth a major strop? No. A good lesson in forbearance.

3.Sometimes Ms A makes me laugh aloud. Driving into Worthing recently, a town I don’t know at all, I told MLO that the railway line was my landmark. “Once we’ve crossed it we’re virtually at the venue and I’ll look for somewhere to park.” I said. Five minutes later he was anxiously trying to direct me to one of Worthing’s two railway stations. We were going to a concert. Why on earth did he and Ms A think I wanted to go to a railway station? Smile with me

4.I have “met” hundreds of delightful people through writing these blogs. Some are simply kind and friendly.  Many are dealing, or have dealt, with Alzheimer’s. The empathy and the universality of the experience are heartwarming.

5.I have discovered a talent for form filling. I did the 29 page monstrosity masquerading as the Attendance Allowance form. It took me three hours but the application was successful and we’ve recently been awarded the upper level. Then I did the Blue Badge one – and we’ve been approved. Perhaps I should set up as form filling consultant. New sideline?

6.My driving has improved. I was always OK but now I have no one to share it with I am more resilient and, I think, more aware of all the things you need to be aware of. I’ve driven 10,000 miles in the last 12 months. As with anything else, there’s a lot to be said for plenty of practice – although the car is always filthy because MLO cannot take it to the lovely polishing Poles as he used to and I never seem to have time.

7.We can still share the things – mostly classical music – that we’ve always enjoyed together. That means plenty of concerts, ballets, operas and so on. Occasionally he’ll still look at me with his eyes shining in the middle of something good and for a few moments it’s like old times.

8.I think I’m getting generally more capable as I have to develop new skills to make up for the ones MLO is losing. I’m now a dab hand with the dishwasher, washing machine and dustbin routine, all of which he used to do. I can also lift and carry things that I didn’t previously think I could. I deal with most of our admin too. I can even tell you how much our utility bills and council tax are (I won’t, though, because it’s very boring). Until recently I wouldn’t have had a clue. Life is one long learning curve.

9.We are closer than ever to our astonishing supportive sons . When I go off on a music course or a little break with one of my kind, generous friends, one of the “boys” willingly downs tools (literally) and comes to take charge. They often house-sit if I take MLO on holiday too which is a real bonus, especially for our cat who then doesn’t need to go to a cattery.

10.MLO’s appetite, while still good, is less than it was. So my new project, rather than eating all the leftovers, is to cook less and adjust portion sizes. And that means I might lose some weight. Hurrah.



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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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