Monday, March 25, 2019

'Do I stay here?'—Love endures daily through dementia, separation

     "You're here!" says Paul Lovell, greeting his wife of 41 years as she walks into his room. "Don't go away!"
     She has come, as she does every day, to be with him at lunch.
     "You look so beautiful today," she says.
     "I do?"
     "No, the guy in back of you," she says. "You look really good. You got your blue sweater on. Your blue pants. Your blue eyes."
     "Thank you.," says Paul. "I gotta keep up with you."
     Paul is 89. Anita is 85. She lives in their tidy home in Morton Grove. He lives in Room 222 at the Presence Sister Bonaventure Rehabilitation Center in Park Ridge,
     Their conversation is a blend of teasing affection.
     "He can hear; I can't hear," she says. "I told him he can hear two worms making love in the yard. I can't hear anything." 
     "The reason you can't hear is because you're talking too much," Paul says
     They both laugh.
     "That's true," she admits.
About 1.4 million Americans live in nursing homes; half for dementia-related reasons. One is Paul Lovell.
     "It's sad, about my husband," Anita says. "Even though he has dementia, he's so aware of everything. He'll say 'Where you're going?' I say 'I'm going home.' I've been there all morning. He says, 'Aren't you home now?" I say "No. This is your home." He says, 'Are you going to leave me here all alone?" I say, 'You're not alone Paul. You have people taking care of you."
     She picks up a large book celebrating the 2006 centennial of Park Ridge Country Club.
     "I was the only Jew in the whole country club, don't you know?" she says. "I got nervous before we got married. He said, 'Don't worry about it."
     She finds a section about Paul.
     "Oldest man ever to win a club championship," she says.
     "Did I ever see that?" he asks.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this story of Paul and Sheila. Through all the struggle and heartbreak, a bright light of love and hope seems to shine on them.

  2. Very nice vignette. The couple seems to get along pretty well under the circumstances. It's terrible when suspicion turns to paranoia turns to violent hostility. The Lovells seem to have been spared that horror.


  3. Our family went through this with our mother. It was harder than losing our father because we still had the physical presence of Mom but she had left us, without a clue as to who we were, for the last couple of years of her life. It did lead to a couple of funny moments, as in she told my sister she was looking old or told my wife and I we spend so much time together, we should get married, so we do treasure those.

  4. Our Mom started developing dementia in her mid 80's, the type were you lose short term memory but can recall past events as if they occurred yesterday. Eventually we decided to go with at home hospice care, a CNA visited three times a week, with a RN visiting once a week. With time the bad moments are forgotten, as Fred noted there are moments to be treasured. You learn patience, if she asked where a relative is, it's useless to say they died, just say they went home. Taking her to a hospital for a test she points and asks what is that street? It's Cermak, in a hushed confidential whisper she says "oh Dad isn't going to vote for Anton Cermak." Slept and napped a lot of the time, she stayed up attentively watching the final game when the Cubs won the World Series. Then every week or so before she passed away, I'd say the Cubs won the World Series, that always cheered her up. She would like to have her back scratched, and one time couldn't articulate where she itched and started crying. In frustration I put my hands on my hips and sternly said "stop your crying, or I'll give you something to cry about!" She replied, "What? Are you going to give me a diamond ring?"

  5. My wife and I drove down to Miami to see my aunt, who was a few weeks short of turning 95. Dementia had stolen her away not long after her older sister, my mother, passed away. She and my cousin, her youngest daughter, were waiting for us on the front porch. The ravages of time, and her illness, had made her look like an identical twin of her sister, which creeped me out quite a was as though my mother had unexpectedly returned to life.

    My aunt repeatedly asked for her sister by name, and we would look at each other and there'd be an uneasy pause, until one of would say "She's resting"--which was all too true. My mother was...and is..."at rest"--but soon my aunt would begin to stare at her daughter and ask: "Where's the OTHER Julie?" She thought she had twin daughters, both named Julie. That had to be tough for the only Julie, I'm sure, but it also jolted my wife and me.

    Song lyrics seem to be one of the few things that dementia victims retain...and when we sang "Pennies From Heaven" my aunt knew every word, and sang along in that strong clear voice that I remembered from my kid days. That was the moment that made every mile of the long shlep to Florida worth our while.


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