Mothering My Husband

My husband has Alzheimer’s Disease. He has lived in nursing homes for almost two years now. Over the New Year’s weekend, he was in the hospital. He had problems with his bladder and was having seizures. He spent much of the time in a deep sleep, but when he was awake, I found myself on constant guard to keep him from throwing off his clothes—lost that battle—and climbing out of the bed–almost. His hands shook so badly I had to feed him.

I had to speak for him to the doctors and nurses, struggling to interpret his garbled sounds and gestures and transmit basic information to which he no longer has access. I had to explain over and over why he could not answer their questions, why he needed extra help.

He has been wearing diapers—call them adult protective garments, Depends or whatever; they are diapers–At the hospital, a nurse installed a catheter, a tube that drains his urine into a plastic bag. He screamed and fought as if he were being killed. He did not understand what this was or why he needed it. He also screamed when the nurse poked a needle into his hand for the IV and another nurse placed sticky tabs on his hairy chest to hook up a heart monitor.

He did not understand any of it. I stood close by, trying to reassure him and trying to keep him from dismantling the medical gear. When I said he would feel better soon, he did not understand any more than a baby (or my dog). All he knew was that he was scared and hurting and he wanted to go home.

Standing by his bed for those difficult hours, exhausted and hungry, I sometimes wondered if this would be any easier if I had had some practice with children. At least I would know how to spoon applesauce into his mouth without getting it all over. I might be more comfortable checking his diaper to see if he has soiled it. I might be better at finding words of comfort and reassurance.

There are certain things mothers seem to know, and I don’t. I never expected to use mothering skills on my husband, but that’s the way it is.

Have you experienced times when you needed to dig out those maternal instincts? Please share.