Nov 142013
 

lehmann

Next month, Mary Margaret and I will have been together 50 years.

She is a very positive gal, extremely caring and inclusive with her friends. I am not always a social animal. Mary, however, is very outgoing and makes new friends easily. These days, we are attached at the hip… but it wasn’t always this way.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

After I received the diagnosis our lives changed. At the time, Mary Margaret and I were living in California, but this news caused a great sense of stress, so we relocated to Minnesota to be closer to family. Moving wasn’t difficult – it actually took a weight off our shoulders. Then one of my wife’s friends said “Why don’t you call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24-hour helpline?” That really changed our lives. Not only have I become very involved in the Association, but so has Mary. During our career years, we really did very little together – now we do everything together. Our connection to the Alzheimer’s Association and shared commitment to raising awareness of the disease has brought us closer together as a couple.

Before I received the diagnosis, Mary and I were absorbed in our separate professional lives: She had her activities, and I had mine. If we got together on a Sunday, it was a big deal. It’s almost like we are dating all over again. She has turned me on to subjects I wouldn’t normally be interested in, and we have immersed ourselves in an eclectic series of programs. She is an avid reader and I’m not; however, through themed book presentations I have been able to learn something new with Mary, and that was a different experience for me. In turn, I have turned Mary on to the arts and now we are both passionate about visiting museums. There isn’t a local museum we haven’t been to!

We support each other.  The experience for caregivers and care partners is unique to the relationship. Mary and I support each other on a daily basis; we have to. She is the social contact, the “hostess with the mostess”, and I am her assistant, you might say, helping in the ways I can. I’m not a terribly patient person, so I am trying to be more patient, which is the least I can do.

The biggest thing that I notice is her relationship with other caregivers. I have a deep respect for the sacrifices that caregivers make every day to support individuals like me who are living with the disease. Today, there are more than 15 million unpaid caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States. The role is demanding; they are our lifeblood.

Mary Margaret’s compassion extends beyond our relationship. She spends much of her free time talking with other caregivers; learning from others and offering support. She has hundreds of followers from all over the U.S. on Twitter, and she will refer articles to them to get feedback and exchange ideas. Compassion is in her genes! During National Caregiver Month, I want Mary Margaret and other caregivers to know that I am grateful. THANK YOU!

What makes a caregiver in your life special? Leave a comment here on the blog, or leave a tribute for a caregiver or care partner at the Caregiver Center.

About the blog authorKen Lehmann is a member of the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 National Early-Stage Advisory Group (ESAG), and he pays tribute to his wife and very special care partner Mary Margaret during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. As an Advisor, Ken encourages others living with the disease to avoid worrying about the past, but to “live in the moment.” 

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  4 Responses to “A Tribute to My Care Partner”

  1. Alzheimer’s is a serious disease that affects not only the patient, but also, and perhaps above all, his family. We need to remember that.

  2. My grandpa was 69 years old when he passed, my grandma was his biggest supporter without her I don’t know how we would’ve done all of that from changing him to feeding him and bathing him, it was a really tough time for me and my family. My mom was by his side everyday through it all helping with so much. It’s not an easy thing to go through it took a toll on our family he was like a father to me because mine wasn’t around but my grandpa he was. He will be missed and any family that has to go through this just know don’t give up .

  3. My grandfather was a marine and a fighter to the end.

    Even though he didn't always recognize me on the surface, I could still always see the love in his eyes. The caregivers were just amazing, and I have no doubt that many should be regarded as Saints in the making.

    ~Amanda

  4. My dad had alzeimers he passed in 2009. My mom was his sole caregiver for the first ten years. I still wonder how she did this for so long. Not one day goes by that I don’t think of them. My mom passed last year. My experience leads me to a darker side of this terrible ,destructive disease. You see, not all the care received by my parents was admirable. I strongly suggest anyone who has a loved one in any care facility to research your opinions. Abuse is ever present and, although I would have never believed it, I wish I would have done everything different. Please reevaluate your options if you are in these shoes. At the very least be present as much as possible and extremely involved. On another note the most difficult thing I dealt with was my loving, giving, hard working dad, at the end, didn’t know who I was. He was afraid of me because I was a stranger. He simply, in my opinion, thought I was there to abuse him. Don’t remember these days. Try to remember the good days. The guilt is over powering and, like me, you may never be the same person.

    God bless you through this .

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