When I first met my wife Peggy – I remember that night so clearly. I took her out to eat. The entire evening was filled with magic. We talked, she smiled a lot, and I was hooked. We hit it off like two lovebirds. Soon after, we tied the knot.
Looking back at Peggy’s life—she spent 15 years at AT&T where she enjoyed a successful career in management. No matter what she stumbled into on the job—she handled it with grace and tenacity. A proud moment for Peggy was when she pulled off a big presentation for five corporate vice presidents.
Peggy set herself apart from her peers, with her go getter personality and sharp-as-nails vocabulary. She was so quick with ideas, thoughts, and solutions. That was back in the late 1980’s.
Fast forward to 1998—that’s when I noticed subtle changes in Peggy—at first barely detectable—she forget to brush her teeth. Then it became more obvious—she wore the same slacks and blouse for several days. Clearly, something in Peggy was changing.
We finally met with a doctor to get some answers. It was hard to understand exactly what was going on. Even the doctor wasn’t sure. At first, Peggy’s memory faded, but when she showed signs of depression, the mood changes blurred the lines for the doctors and the diagnosis.
We all have our ups and downs, but depression wasn’t in Peggy’s DNA—it wasn’t a typical personality trait for her. She was usually upbeat and energetic.
She used to love running 5K races and she had an insatiable appetite for reading. But that all stopped and she no longer did the things that used to bring her joy.
Doctors thought it was dementia, or depression, or possibly depression that mimics dementia—something they referred to as conversion, which happens when people give up on life.
As Peggy continually declined, it was up to me to help her get dressed and remind her to brush her teeth. At times she became combative, it is a sight you never think you’ll see—until it happens. But that’s just how neurological diseases generally progress. So I adapted to the changes—as many caregivers do.
Eventually Peggy’s appetite dropped off—which led to dehydration and a trip to hospice. Thankfully, she regained her strength and came back home a week later.
Eventually the day came when I held a spoon in my hand to feed my wife—like a parent feeding a child. I had to learn how to convince her to eat. Peggy likes raisin bran with Ensure. Sometimes I dunk spoonfuls of it in her grape juice—she likes that.
During mealtime, I pay attention to Peggy’s energy level. If she’s too tired, she’s less likely to eat. The times when she won’t eat, it takes a little more patience on my part. There’s no point in trying to force feed someone with no appetite. They usually win.
Here’s another trick I’ve discovered. I place a small spoonful of cereal on Peggy’s lips – just to give her a taste. Then I wait. When she’s ready, she takes a bite. It takes time. I can tell you, most home care workers don’t have time for that.
And that’s just one reason why I do what I do. I know I can give my wife the best possible care—better than anyone else in the world. For one simple reason—I love my wife and I want the best for her.
Just last year, Peggy stopped walking. But she still taps her foot when she hears a song on the radio. She likes Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Madonna.
At this point, my wife relies on me for pretty much everything. That includes bathing and cleaning her up after she uses the restroom.
I use Sage Comfort Shield Barrier Cream Cloths to keep Peggy’s skin clean after she uses the toilet. Even though I stay on top of her hygiene and skincare, the wipes sure help protect her skin. And I’m happy to say—no skin breakdown so far. So I’m sticking with Stryker home care products.
In closing—I can tell you that I am a caregiver because I want to be that person. Caregivers take on the role for different reasons. But for me—while it’s not easy to be on call all the time—I enjoy being with my wife of 29 years—and being there for her. I get a tremendous amount of joy seeing how well Peggy has done under my watchful care. I feel that is it my greatest achievement.
No individuals or organizations were compensated by Sage or Stryker for contributing to this article.