From the beginning of our walk with my wife’s parents, it was their failure as a couple to deal with a dangerous situation that called us in to take over. He was the caregiver and she the one cared for but together they could not call the ambulance because of their shame at having paramedics come to relieve her in an embarrassing situation. 24 hours later he called his children but by then she had started to deteriorate. It took us a couple of months to heal up the problems this caused.

Her Alzheimer’s is more advanced then his undiagnosed Alzheimer’s/dementia combo, but his continuing deterioration is affecting many aspects of her care. Originally, he opposed every new change big or small and even to this day will say that moving away from their home was a big mistake even though there was no way for them to safely stay there. She was the one who would end up agreeing with me about every change despite his grumbling and resistance. This of course did not make him more appreciative of me and my efforts to support them. It was not unusual for him to tell me to buzz off, that I was not welcome and that he could handle everything. Sometimes it was better to do this and for me to take the ego damage from his dementia as there was no winning such an argument without causing major conflict between them. Sigh …

At the same time, she can be wickedly hard on him, and so I routinely stop her dead in her tracks pointing out how devotedly he is taking care of her. Though I accept that she can’t do better, I will not let him take that kind of verbal abuse when I’m around.

These days he is forgetting a lot of things and needs more and more support, while she can no longer remember things for more than a few minutes, unless of course it is an emotional experience which then sticks longer. Despite his obvious need for more support, something he recognizes, and the advancing state of her deterioration, he can still from time to time warn me that if he doesn’t like what I’m doing (insisting on his wife receiving the care she needs for example), that they will be packing up and going back to Kingston.

It has been hard for them to make the adjustment to living with us, leaving behind all that is familiar, their home, their friends and their independence. She appreciates the support, and knows they need it, and despite his denial, from time to time he is truly grateful and reaches out and gives me a hug. They are a couple of wonderful old saints, who like all saints have their foibles and issues, but have also shared more than 60 years together. I am grateful to be giving them such a gracious, smooth ride for their inevitable slow decline. And yet I know I’ll need all the grace God can give me as their deterioration will make keeping things gracious and smooth increasingly “interesting”, to say the least.