Saturday, December 10, 2011

Breaking the News — Done and Survived

‘I don’t think we need to tell everyone,’ he said.

‘I think I have to tell the family,’ I said. ‘Your kids need to know. I feel a responsibility towards them.’

‘Well OK, but don’t make a big deal of it.’

‘I won’t have to. They already know something’s going on with you. It’s not going to come as any great surprise.’

‘But I don’t know how to explain it to them! What will I say?’

‘That’s all right; I can do it. We just need to say that you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s in the ‘mild to moderate’ stage, and you’re now on medication to stop it getting any worse and maybe even make it a bit better. Just the simple facts.’

So that’s what we did, contacting extended family, including some close friends who count as family, by email.

I also put it to him that we need to inform any medical people we deal with. He agreed, so I told the chiropractor when we had our session yesterday. Good move — he informed us that Vitamin B12 can help with this condition. I’ll have to double-check with our doctor that it won’t disrupt the carefully balanced cocktail of tablets which Dear Husband is already taking, but I imagine it will be fine.

DH himself suggested we should tell the writers’ group. When the time came, yesterday afternoon, I asked, ‘Shall I tell them or will you?’ He gave me the job, so I trotted out the same factual statement, in the form of: ‘There’s bad news and good news.’  To the good news I added the fact that the specialist, while advising, ‘Do what’s easy; do what you can’ in regard to writing, also strongly recommended that D H continue to attend the writers’ group. 

‘Oh yes!’ they said. ‘We love you, and we’d miss you if you didn’t.’

I must say, it is a relief to me to have things more out in the open, particularly in that group, which we attend weekly. DH is not obviously ga-ga or anything; to most his condition must seem like the normal mild forgetfulness of ageing. Only I, who live with him, experience all the Mother-and-Son* moments, either farcical or alarming. 

One group member who is a health professional has let me know privately that she is aware of what we’ve been coping with; her quiet understanding has meant much in recent months. Others didn’t really get it when I tried to suggest, discreetly, that DH might not be up to some of the writing they would like to see him do, such as completing an unfinished novel. And when I stepped in to do practical things for him such as opening a document on his laptop instead of leaving him to struggle fruitlessly, I felt (rightly or wrongly) that they thought I was being controlling and over-anxious. Now they can have more realistic expectations. 

Meanwhile he has gone back to using pen and paper, leaving the laptop at home. He actually wrote yesterday, producing a very good response to one of our exercises. This has not happened for quite some time; we got used to him saying, ‘Pass’ instead of reading anything out — because there wasn’t anything to read. Can this revival  be due to the new tablet already? Or is it because of the energy release in no longer withholding something?

*A popular Australian TV sitcom of the eighties and nineties, oft repeated, in which an adult son cares for his mother who suffers early dementia.


  1. I can't begin to imagine what this must be like or how hard it must be telling people around you. Your strength and positivity shines through in this post and I wish you and DH well with the journey ahead.

    I used to love episodes of Mother and Son (sad I guess when you realise the reality for many which lies behind the actual scenes)

  2. I think it was wise for you/husband to tell those in your circle of friends and family and health care providers about his diagnosis. I am saddened by it, as I am sure you all are, but having the support of others as you journey this together will be immensely helpful I do believe. May your holiday season be a peaceful enjoyable one!


  3. Thank you, Fi and Betty! Your kind wishes do help.

    Fi, I think we all do tend to laugh at what might otherwise make us cry — but part of the humour in Mother and Son was Maggie's manipulativeness, which thank goodness doesn't apply in this case.

  4. Oh this is one of those sad turmoils of life, that's why we need to make each day count...but it is good to let all your close circle in....otherwise they can't even begin to aid, understand or rise the bar for making what there is left in life beautiful...God Bless you all...

  5. Thanks Karen. Yes, it is proving to be the best course. I had thought many woud have guessed before, but apparently not. Their knowing does make a positive difference.


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