I’ve finished reading my advance copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias and I am deeply moved by the brave and loving stories shared in this collection. As we approach the release date of April 22, 2014, I will be blogging about some of the stories that I found particularly touching.
One such story was about a man who had been married for many, many years to the love of his life. Once his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he tried his best to adapt their lives to deal with the disease. One area where his wife really struggled was with telling time. For those of us who have dealt with Alzheimer’s in our own family, we are all too familiar with the “clock test” and how that is used as one marker to determine a person’s cognitive functioning. My dad never took the test that I am aware of, but my mom did. My mom does not have dementia, but when she developed cancer, she was so ill that she stopped eating and her potassium levels dropped dangerously low. This can impact cognitive functioning, and boy, did it ever. I watched my mom struggle to draw that clock, and I thought my mom was facing the grim future of my father. Fortunately, her cognitive function was restored once her illness was treated.
But back to the story. After the wife repeatedly asks the husband in the span of a short time when dinner is, the man puts on his thinking cap. Knowing that she cannot tell time now by a traditional clock, he sets out to recreate the tool we use to tell time. He removed the second hands and the minute hands, leaving only the hour hand moving. He then places a piece of tape above the hour they are going to eat. With the simplified version of his clock, his wife can now understand when their next meal will be, relieving a bit of stress for both of them.
Will there come a time when his wife will not be able to understand even the reconfigured clock? Probably. But the love and wisdom shown in the husband’s actions will definitely withstand the test of time.