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Karen and Jim, June 2012.

Karen and Jim, June 2012.

Jim isn’t driving anymore.

It wasn’t his decision. It was mine. Even though we have known this day was coming for years, it doesn’t necessarily make it an easy decision. Maybe I could have waited another week, a month or longer. Who knows?

I am tired of being in charge all the time. I really don’t like making such tough judgment calls.  I just took away Jim’s independence. I took away someone to help trudge the kids around. I took away something that Jim has been doing since he was 16. I took away his ability to grab the keys, hop in the car and drive to the store, the park, or across country (which we have done a couple of times).

In true Jim fashion, he is taking this all in stride. He doesn’t complain, argue or get upset. He trusts that I am making choices based on what is best for our family. How do I know what is best for our family? Sometimes I feel like I am 10 again and searching for my own path in life. I don’t feel old enough or smart enough or knowledgeable enough to be the one making life altering decisions for anyone. I suppose I took on that role the day I brought a child into this world, but somehow, I am still not sure I am the right person for the job.

Jim on the other hand has always been so sure of himself and knowledgeable about so many things. I relied on his input all the time. I realize now more and more how much I did rely on him. For so many things.

When it was time to discuss him not driving anymore, he just said, “OK.” That was it.

The next day, I brought it up again to find out if he remembered and to make sure he was really all right with this new way of life. He told me he thought he could still drive close to home. I told him he was right, he probably could. We hadn’t had any instances for concern other than his increasing decline in short term memory loss, inability to multitask or ability to make decisions. All things that are needed in driving.  Well, there was the time he sideswiped a trash can in the neighborhood which knocked off his passenger side rearview mirror. But in all honesty, the trash cans on our streets are sometimes really far out in the road. And not too long ago he got a ticket for running a red light. We got the ticket in the mail. It had pictures. I was dumbfounded. Jim DOESN’T speed or run stop signs or red lights. That was the very first ticket EVER for Jim. Of any kind.

I told Jim,”I would rather take the car keys a day too soon than a day too late.” And he concurred. I would never forgive myself if something happened to him or someone else because I was being selfish and not wanting to make a hard stand. Or give up his help with the transportation.

I am very, very grateful for Jim’s fantastic attitude. I know many others have to deal with all of the same issues I do, but on top of it they have to deal with their loved ones’ denial, anger and arguments. There are many, many facets to this disease. It is so much more than grandpa forgetting a name or losing a set of keys.

Decisions are anguished over. Lives are changed. Friends are called upon to change their daily routines and to volunteer to help. Dynamics of families are forever upended.

I sometimes feel that it is like being handed a life sentence in Hell. There is no hope of reversing the sentence or getting out early for parole or good behavior. You are locked up and the key is thrown away. It really just isn’t fair. I sometimes look at Jim and feel sorry for him. Especially when I think back to his love of life, his joy in his family, his love of travel and adventure. Alzheimer’s Disease is slowly robbing him of himself and robbing the world of a fantastic guy.

Since we made the decision a few weeks ago for Jim to stop driving, he has automatically volunteered to drive the kids somewhere or go to the store for me. I have gently had to remind him that he isn’t driving anymore. He seems resigned to the fact and is thankfully an amazing Alzheimer’s patient. I am learning that I have to plan further ahead and ask for more help. Neither of which are easy for me. I am learning as I go.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (12)

Let’s Park the Car

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Oh boy. This is a follow up to a previous post about Jim losing the car keys when he took the dog for a walk….

Today I received an e-mail from a reader. She let me know her child attends the elementary church school  located at the end of our street. She mentioned a message sent out today about a set of keys that were found on the corner and were at the church office. I knew as soon as I read the message that those were Jim’s keys. And yes,  they were indeed Jim’s keys. Complete with the little key fob to help us find them when they are lost.

I was at once elated to have found these keys with the help of someone that had read my words and put two and two together. She mentioned in her message that she often sees him walking by with the dog. Are you getting the same sense of community that I am getting? I feel so protected and looked after. Something I don’t feel with my husband, for obvious reasons.

I was also completely confused and sad. How was it Jim was so certain the keys had been in the trashcan? He continues to say that he heard it beeping when he pressed the button. But obviously and thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Now, on to the elephant in the room….Jim driving. We have limited his driving to close places and familiar roads. But this decision is mine to make. Remember, he was tested last July and passed the four hour test. But I have seen his decline, our friends have seen his decline and our children have seen his decline. He is not the same man that took that lengthy and thorough examination last year.

It is easy to say, ”He shouldn’t be driving, so just don’t let him drive.” There are many ramifications that come along with this decision. The least of which is helping chauffer the children to and from, helping with grocery shopping, running quick errands and providing a back up when I am not home and Frances misses the bus or needs to be picked up from school. The main thought is the deprivation from this point forward of independence for Jim. Without the ability to grab a set of keys, start the ignition and put the car in gear, Jim is completely and 100% dependent on someone else to get him anywhere. I wouldn’t trust him to navigate the bus system. I suppose he could take a cab, but again, there is a bit of dependency on someone else to provide the transportation. This is a weighty issue and I know the answer, but I really don’t want to be the one to pull the trigger.

Thankfully, Jim is a kind and gentle soul. He goes along easily (99% of the time) with my decisions and accepts that I am making the best decisions for our family. I have discussed his driving, or not driving, with him and he simply said, “ok.” Yes, I do know how lucky I am. Yes, I know how many caregivers go through torturous times with taking the keys from a loved one. I am lucky. But then again, not so much.

As if the emotional roller coaster I have been on the past couple of months hasn’t been enough, I now am at that crossroads I have been dreading for a long time. With our very hectic and busy schedules, only having one driver is going to make things much more complicated. I have known this day was coming, but it was always sometime in the future and I was trying to focus on the “right now” moments.

I would rather take his car keys from him a day too early than a day too late. That is the only solace I can keep repeating to myself to help me stay focused and true to what this decision is being based on.

Again, this life sucks. This disease, sucks. This all just really sucks. More for Jim than for me. And he seems to take it all in stride. Thankfully, that is definitely a bright spot in such gloom and doom. He has a great attitude and continues to help as much as he can and shows his family how grateful he is for our love.

As I struggle with this judgement call and the upcoming consequences of such a monumental decision, I must steadfastly focus on those positives and learn to appreciate those small blessings.

 

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (21)