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Married to Alzheimer’s

Married to Alzheimer’s


Tony and I have always had a pretty tempestuous relationship.

We are both very strong characters and perhaps it is a peril of being married to an actor.

If I had a pound for every time he announced – always in a grand, theatrical manner – he was going to leave me, I would be a wealthy woman.

He never has gone, though. The drama of the moment is the thing he relishes and I point out he would be mad to leave me. But now with the Alzheimer’s, Tony is leaving me and I will not get him back.

We share a home, but increasingly not a life.

Everyday companionship-like routines last thing at night: cleaning teeth, finding pyjamas kind of conversation. “Where’s the cat?” “Have the dogs had a wee?” “You did lock the back door, didn’t you?” The usual, humdrum stuff of all marriages.

Followed then by the more intimate, personal exchanges of togetherness – snuggled up in bed and sharing pillow talk.

How we take these moments for granted. Tired, we just want to turn over and go to sleep; we can always talk tomorrow.

It is only when those moments are slipping away we realise how precious they are. How much they are the glue that binds any partnership together. How much would I give to keep them and still be a wife and not increasingly a carer?

The shared laughter, interests, gossip, bitching, planning, hopes and dreams – all disappearing.

It is nothing compared to the fury and misery that swamps him as he vents his frustration.

So much depends on us being able to remember things that happen during the day. Events, chance encounters we would once have shared.

Hopefully, we are still some way off Tony completely retreating into the hinterland of his mind. Sometimes I wonder if reaching that final stage might not actually be a blessing for him.

He is aware of what is happening and can become very frustrated. These are the hardest times for me.

Trying though it can be to answer the same question repeatedly, it is nothing compared to the fury and misery that swamps him as he vents his frustration. I cannot do right for doing wrong.

I feel hemmed in by his increasingly skewed vision of the world as his ability to make sense of everything is gradually eroding.

During these periods it is hard not to feel he hates me. I hang on to the knowledge this is the disease and not my husband speaking, but it can be almost too tough.

My lack of sleep during these episodes is the real killer. His unhappiness makes him tired, so he spends a lot of time asleep in the armchair in front of the fire. This means he does not sleep well at night and wakes me in the early hours to talk or, worse, to rage.

A few months ago I went to see my GP.  I wanted him to give me sleeping tablets – not because I was having difficulty sleeping, but I thought they might help me sleep through Tony’s attempts to wake me.

Reprinted with permission of The Irish Times.

This feature is part of a series at The Irish Times. To read the entire series, start here.


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