Monday, October 17, 2011
The cost is getting higher
4:25 p.m. Today's project is to comfort one another and Jada our yellow lab, in the loss of her lifelong companion, Bailey, who could have been her little sister. Those two dogs were never apart, as Jada's loud howling now testifies.
Steve and I started out with a good morning after our devotion time, with him pulling out grass weeds in the garden, and me finishing up breakfast and starting some laundry. After I washed the dishes, I headed upstairs to take my shower and dress. Today was to be a day for business phone calls and organization. I had already set up Steve's care for the week, both at home and in adult daycare, and even arranged his Special Senior and Disabled bus transportation for one of the days.
Since Steve was safely occupied in the garden, I felt I could slip upstairs for a few minutes and get ready for the rest of the day. I was back in the kitchen for a few minutes on a phone call when Steve came to the sliding glass door all agitated. "We've got a problem! The dogs are gone!" So I said, "Well, go out and look for them. Take the leashes." So we hurriedly got the leashes out of the garage and he went outside. Within a minute, Jada was back on the front porch, upset and barking, which is what they do when they get out--one comes back and "tattles" on the other and when leashed up, helps Steve find her. So Steve and Jada set off on their typical neighborhood walking route to find Bailey, and I went back inside.
Steve returned with just one dog, so I got my keys so both of us could drive through the area to find Bailey. But just as I lifted the garage door, here came my dad to help with various home projects Steve has forgotten how to do. I explained where I was going, and he said, "With all that traffic around here, hope she didn't get hit." I dismissed that thought. With supervision for Steve in place, I was able to take off. I wasn't sure I'd be able to load Bailey into the Jeep unless she willingly jumped up, which she usually does, because my back is not very strong and she's solid.
I slowly drove down our street to Alessandro, turned left to come up the hill, and then made a left on Canyon Crest, following Steve's normal walking route. As I approached our corner, about a block away, I saw a police car on the other side of the median with the officer standing outside his open door, and a large dead dog--Bailey. I just couldn't believe it. How could this have happened? They've always come home! (or been impounded). I pulled over to the median and rolled down my widow and called out, "Officer, that's my dog." He told me to come around to the other direction so as not to block traffic and park. I related to him what had happened, and about Steve's condition, and how the other dog had come home to fetch us. He was surprised Jada hadn't stayed by the dead one and gotten hit also. I guess there's some "Lassie" in our smart girl!
Yesterday I was irritated about the vacuum cleaner, and then scared by Steve slipping out of the back of the house; now I'm devastated over the death of our dog. In all of these cases, I just wasn't able to provide Secret Service-level supervision for Steve. No one can, unless they are specifically assigned to the Alzheimer's victim and supervision is the only reason they are with that person. Family caregivers can't do it alone, and the stress of even trying probably takes years off of their lives.
It's yet another cost of Alzheimer's.
What to do now? In the immediate future, I'm praying God will keep Jada calm and not howling all night; for tomorrow, I'm praying for a calm, clear and focused mind to lead my Bible study group. I know Steve will be safe, because he can walk the dog and then work in the garden, enjoying perfect, uninterrupted, professional supervision with the assigned caregiver. I have honestly been praying about when I might need a caregiver here whether I'm here or not, and that time may be approaching. The Care Connexxus adult daycare is a good alternative for a day or two a week, and he talks positively about it now.
It is often said that God allows things to happen to get our attention, and this seems to be a case in point. Steve is not like his late brother Larry, who lost control of his limbs and therefore could not even get in or out of a chair independently. He was certainly not a flight risk. Steve is much more like his late father in his type of Alzheimer's--more than once Lorenz escaped the house while my dear late mother-in-law's back was turned. Thankfully, Lorenz was easily located and persuaded to come home. But I have received a wake-up call, no doubt about it, and I need to listen and act.
The Bible warns those who refuse to listen to the message of salvation, Hebrews 10:26-27:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Being an adversary of God's is the worst possible position to be in. So accept Christ as your Savior today and be assured of eternal life, the filling of God's Holy Spirit and the peace that Jesus promised to believers in John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
In grievous and tragic times, God does give me peace, but not paralysis. He wants me to take more serious measures to ensure safety and order here at home, but a part of me feels resistant. That is something any spouse of an Alzheimer's victim feels: we don't want to believe that our loved one will not get better, or even maintain the mental acumen they have today. The pain of that admission is too much. But that is a conclusion that must be reached for the good and safety of all. And responsible steps must be taken, period.
My dad stayed for lunch, we worked on a military document he needed, we finished putting "stop-leak" in my water reservoir, and even though I let him know how grateful we were, I needed to grieve alone. Steve didn't even seem too sure about what had happened, because I thought it best not to have him see Bailey's corpse. Later in the afternoon while we drove to deposit my Mary Kay commission check, he asked me if Bailey's accident had happened yesterday? or this morning? I wonder if he'll remember her at all in another few days--so very sad, just the loss of all information from his mind, as his disease accelerates.
My teacher daughter Heidi kept texting me to check the mail, I told her I had, and there was nothing there with her name on it. But she insisted, so I even went through the paper recycle bin. But something told me to go to the mailbox once again, even though I'd cleaned it out earlier that day. So look I did, and saw children's handwriting addressed to "Mrs. Krukeberry." I wondered why Heidi's students' papers came here, then duh! I'm "Mrs. Kruckeberry!" There were 20 beautiful handwritten sympathy notes for me in the loss of our dog!! (Heidi had come by while we were out, played with Jada, and left the notes for me). I just wept and wept, for the fact that I am loved and SHOWN that I'm loved! Steve enjoyed them too.
Jada appears to be calming down now, but we will trust the Lord to help that calm remain through the night as she settles into a crate with an empty one next to it. Maybe Bailey's smell will be a comfort before we fold up her crate and store it.
In fact, I will need to trust the Lord for my own peaceful rest--and for Steve's as well.