By Marie Marley
I took care of my beloved Romanian 30-year life partner when he developed Alzheimer’s. The disease began very slowly, and for the longest time I just couldn’t understand the changes he’d been displaying. He’d become short-tempered, often confused and sometimes unusually forgetful.
Then one night he was found driving on the wrong side of the road. Realizing what he’d done, he pulled over and stopped. A wonderful lady pulled up behind him and asked if he needed help. Seeing his bewilderment, she gave him a ride home, and he told her to call me. That’s when I began to wonder if he might be getting Alzheimer’s.
I took care of him for four years. When he could no longer live safely at home, I was regretfully forced to place him in a nursing home. It was an excellent facility dedicated exclusively to the care of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
He lived there for nearly three years before passing away. During that time, I often couldn’t reach him. Then one day I was in Walgreen’s and saw an aisle with stuffed animals. With great hesitation, I decided to buy him one. It was a tiny chick that peeped when you pushed a button on its chest. I was afraid my brilliant former lawyer and subsequent professor of French would be insulted that I’d taken him a child’s toy.
Quite to the contrary, he loved it, and immediately began caressing and kissing it. He named it “The Little Yellow One.” Then we began playing little games with it. We laughed like a mother playing with her small child. After that I took him more stuffed animals. He loved each more than the one before. I realized I’d made him magnificently happy. What’s more, I’d discovered a way to interact with him that was meaningful to us both.
After he passed away, I published a memoir about our life together, focusing on the time when he had Alzheimer’s. “Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy” is quite popular with readers. Those who are caregivers say it helped them very much, and those who are former caregivers say they wished they’d had it when they were caregivers. The memoir has been a finalist for five literary awards.
Since then I have published more than 450 articles on the Huffington Post, the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and Maria Shriver’s website. All deal with Alzheimer’s caregiving.
Then in 2011, I met Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN. We discovered we shared a mutual interest in helping Alzheimer’s caregivers, and decided to write a book exclusively for them. “Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers” has also received positive reviews from readers.
From my sometimes difficult experience with Ed, I unwittingly developed a new career—that of helping caregivers of people who live with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. My new career is deeply meaningful to me, and I plan to continue it for many years into the future.
About the author
Marie Marley is the author of ‘Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy,’ which was a finalist for five literary awards: The Eric Hoffer First Horizon Awards, The International Writer’s and Editor’s Awards, The Santa Fe Writer’s Project Literary Awards, The Reader’s Choice Awards, and The Indie Excellence Awards. She is the co-author (with Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of ‘Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers.’ She has also published more than 450 articles about Alzheimer’s caregiving on the Huffington Post, the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, and Maria Shriver’s website. She lives in Kansas City with her two adorable little Shih Tzus, Joey and Christina.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mariemarleys
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariemarley/
Huffington Post - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/marie-marley
Maria Shriver - http://mariashriver.com/blog/architect/marie-marley/
Books’ Website - http://www.comebackearlytoday.com/