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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dementia Timeline - First Anniversary of Joe's Death

This is my favorite photo of a very young Joe, on our honeymoon. 

Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of my husband's death. In reality he had been gone from me for a long time. The man in the bed, slowly dying, had not been my Joe, my husband, for a long time.

They originally told me that it was unlikely that Joe would live beyond March 2011. He had been in the nursing home quite a while at that point. He didn't actually die until August 1, 2012.

I was forced to place him for his safety and mine on July 1, 2010. He had spent two hours one day late in June trying to escape from me. He had no idea who I was but he needed to go home to his wife and children, and I was keeping him from doing that. He spent 3 days in a local hospital while they tried to determine if there was anything they could do for him, or if it was just the way his disease had progressed. And then the nursing home.

In November 2010 there was a crisis that he never came back from. Hospice was on board by that time. He became totally bedridden not long after that. He continued to decline and then, he plateaued, more or less. The decline slowed down, but he did continue to decline.

There are stages in dementias. And Joe died at the last possible stage -- 7F. There is no 7G. By the time he died he could not hold a sitting position, or even hold his head up. He could not smile. He could not say even on word. He literally did not know that someone was standing next to him, or interact with that someone at all. I was told that he had stopped interacting with the nurses and aides who physically took care of him or fed him.

And I started mourning way back in early 2011 when most of the interaction stopped.

During the last week of his life I went numb. You survive this kind of death of a loved one by never expecting the death to actually come, and I did that. So when it happens, you go numb. Or at least I did. I'd done what crying I was going to do months before, years before. I stayed numb until I once again found myself, alone in the house with no one in it but me, after the visit to the cemetery.

And then I began to work on my grief. There were some surprises. As I read the widow books I discovered that I had already done a lot of the things new widows do. Most of the financial stuff was already done. Partly because his time in the nursing home got so long that I had to do a lot of financial things you generally don't do until after someone dies. And I had already begun to build a new life.

There had been changes in the master bedroom. A new bed was purchased before he died because the old one was in such bad condition that it had to be replaced. The bed was a new size, because I was alone, and was miserable in a King Sized bed. A sewing area had taken over the once empty area near the bay windows. I had never bought the reading nook furniture for that area. Most of the rest of the house has stayed the same. Some pictures were changed out in the dining room, but I haven't panted the house again yet. And over the last three years my quilts have gone up on the walls so I can enjoy them.

I had begun to find widow friends to take the place of the couple friendships that always go away when the couple doesn't exist anymore. I was surprised that I actually made some couple friends after he was placed and that they included me and another widow in some of the things they do. But I wasn't surprised that the other couple friendships went away. My mother was a widow most of my childhood, so I knew how that kind of thing goes.

So after a couple of weeks I picked up the threads of rebuilding my life. Now, a year later, I'm mostly doing OK. I've been working on my physical conditions. I did dental work, got needed medical tests, and got myself a shingles vaccine early on. This year it has mostly been trips to the chiropractor to fix stuff that has been part of my life since I was very young. Progress has been slow, but there has been progress.

Today, the last day of my first year of widowhood seemed to be a good day to take stock. I've been journaling and now I've blogged.

Take care all.


  1. I see why you like that picture of Joe...he was very handsome! God bless you, Stella. That first year is so hard. Every event, every day, you think, "One year ago today....." Your recent memories contain so many "lasts". It takes time to build other memories to cushion the recent past. And although you never forget the loss it somehow becomes easier to carry with time.

  2. So many memories... think of how far you have come. Moving from caregiver for Joe to caregiver for yourself it seems. Lovely photo too!

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  4. Thank you for sharing. So much info for people going through this same thing. Each dementia person is different. We go through a lot of changes. I've helped myself by reaching out and helping others with my quilting, crocheting, gardening, and dealing with new health challenges.

  5. Stella, I so appreciate your blog. Thank you for this post. It is so heartwarming and open. I'm thankful that you have had the fortitude to take care of yourself. And I'm amazed at all the new things you keep on learning.

  6. Stella, I admire how strong you are and all your initiatives. I wish you the best and I follow your blog, to see how you are doing! Love from Amsterdam.

  7. Good for you, Stella. You are a strong person to take care of yourself and continue your life while cherishing your past.