Dear Annie

Warning signs of undiagnosed dementia

Annie Lane, syndicated columnist

Dear Annie: I’m writing in response to the letter from “Brokenhearted Grandma,” whose husband grew angry and controlling over time. Reading about what has happened in her family brought back memories of what happened in my own family.

After 20 years of marriage, my husband also became angry, self-centered, self-destructive and uncaring about the consequences of his hurtful and neglectful words and actions. He would tell lies to everyone, including our friends, our counselor and his doctors.

Although he still looked like the wonderful man I married, I felt like I was living with a total stranger and felt it necessary that we separate. Our three grown daughters and their families also were confused by the changes in him and spent less time around him.

Ten years later, as we started the divorce process, it became obvious that he was less and less able to care for himself. At that time, it was determined he was entering the later stages of dementia. He passed on soon after.

How I wish I had known much earlier that he was not in control of all the harmful changes we saw in him. I’m just wondering how many marriages and families are destroyed by the consequences of undiagnosed dementia that can develop over decades. — Wishful and Wiser Grandma

Dear Wishful and Wiser: I am so sorry for your loss and the pain and suffering you have undergone. Many readers wrote in about their experiences with the same behavior. I hope your letter encourages others to test early for dementia.

Dear Annie: I am a paid caregiver by choice. I retired as a surgical assistant and quickly knew I wasn’t done working. I felt a bit worthless, honestly. So, I started working for a caregiver agency, though you can do this privately as well. I absolutely love it! It’s very rewarding.

It is not my own family (though I adore my clients), so it doesn’t exhaust me like these family members, spouses or significant others. These folks need a break. I give that to them along with a fresh face to the person being cared for.

I’ve done full days and full weeks, all the way down to a day or even a couple of hours at a time. It can be costly or covered by VA, your state or some insurance plans. But it is totally worth it for the person who is exhausted from being the sole, or even the principal, caregiver. I hope “Caregiver” and others in their situation would give this a try if at all possible. Find agencies and private caregivers via your local council on aging or local senior or assisted living facilities. Even a few hours or a day of relief could make all the difference. — Hired Caregiver in Michigan

Dear Hired Caregiver: Thank you for your letter and, most importantly, for your service. You sound like a wonderful person. I hope your letter inspires tired family members to hire services like your own and take the breaks that they need.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.


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