Martin put the teapot in the fridge, instead of the cupboard. He forgot to draw the shower curtain when he bathed. He shaved only half his beard, and didn’t seem to notice.
Martin and his wife, Anne Louise Larpnel, had been married for nine years when this behavior started occurring.
After months of gnawing worry, a trip to the doctor confirmed the couple’s fears: Martin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For over 17 of the subsequent years, his wife cared for him in their home in Southern Ontario. Their story is chronicled in Anne Louise’s newly released book, Martin and Me: My Life on Hold.
Reading Anne Louise’s writing feels like listening to a friend share their experience and insight over coffee.
The short volume details the 26 years the couple spent together, and Anne Louise’s reflections and advice about being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s.
While the author acknowledges she isn’t an expert, she offers honest and practical advice.
“I am simply a housewife and senior with a lot of common sense,” she says.
In her book, Anne Louise describes how their lives changed as Martin’s health declined. Each of them had been married once before, and had their own children.
By the time the former professor and oral surgeon was diagnosed, the kids had all grown and left home. Anne Louise did most of the day-to-day caring herself.
I am simply a housewife and senior with a lot of common sense.
She fills her book with the practical tips she learned over the years, covering everything from how to hazard-proof your home, to how to help your loved one maintain a social life, to how to prevent bedsores for a person who has become immobile.
Her tips are specific, straightforward and simple.
When dealing with difficulties at mealtime, Anne Louise writes, caregivers shouldn’t get annoyed if the person wants dessert before dinner. “What difference does it make, as long as your loved one is eating?”
Martin passed away in 2013, two months short of his 91st birthday. Anne Louise, now in her seventies, found herself with too much spare time.
“For weeks after I would look at the clock and think, ‘It’s time to get him ready for dinner, or whatever,'” she writes. “I have had to make a big adjustment.”
Anne Louise began writing, partly as a way to fill her time. She also hopes, though, that her book will help to ease the burden for other caregivers in the future.
“Strangely, the 17 years I was the caregiver went past very quickly. I didn’t think much about what I was doing. Like thousands of other caregivers, I just got on with it,” she says.
“It is my most sincere hope that if you have read my story, it will give you a better understanding of what you have chosen to do for your love one.”
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