Slow, seeping loss of loved one

Alzheimer's disease is a heartbreaking condition that gradually robs people of their memories. A Tauranga woman, who did not wish to be named, recounts her journey from her husband's alzheimer's diagnosis until he passed away in May.

"About seven years ago I first noticed the small changes in my husband that started our journey. He would forget simple things and we would laugh at these as 'senior moments'.

"I soon realised that these moments were becoming more frequent and were more serious than an occasional lapse of memory.

"We were living overseas at the time and when he was eventually diagnosed with alzheimer's, I decided to bring him home to New Zealand, hoping we would have more family support here.

"We moved to Tauranga in 2009, my husband had lost all motivation to do anything on his own and was no longer interested in his favourite hobbies.

"He would not talk about his illness and seemed in complete denial.

"For many months his condition did not seem to change but he became very withdrawn. Life became stressful when he went through a stage of suffering delusions, usually during the night.

"He would become very agitated, insisting that there were strangers in our house, go looking for a gun to shoot them, even taking pictures off the walls so the intruders couldn't steal them.

"Many nights I could only sit with him until these episodes passed. In time medication helped.

"Soon my husband needed help with everyday tasks. He started continually asking for his mother.

"It was pointless telling him she had passed away many years before, as he would get upset all over again each time I told him she was no longer with us. So I would tell him she was okay but not able to visit that day. I felt this little white lie was worth his peace of mind.

"The hardest part of my husband's illness was when he realised that something was wrong, he would cry and say he didn't want to live.

"To see this happen to one you love is devastating. All I could do was comfort him.

"Towards the end of 2011 my husband's social worker made me face the fact that I could no longer carry on as his full-time carer, and arranged for him to be admitted to a secure unit. It was such a hard decision to make. I felt that I was abandoning him, but I knew the stress was taking a toll on my health.

"In time my husband settled and drifted into a stage where he was not so aware and his forgetfulness became a blessing as he became content with his surroundings and it was wonderful to see him smile again.

"Although sometimes he was not sure who I was, we were able to share some special moments together before he passed away at the end of May 2012.

"The caring support of our professional helpers eased this journey for both of us."

As told to Kiri Gillespie

- Bay of Plenty Times

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