"I cared for my husband for nine years and during that time I slept with one ear open..."
Before my husband Korgi had his first stroke in 2009 he had been a test pilot for supersonic fighter jets in his homeland of Sweden and following his retirement we came back to live in Riddells Creek. My first inkling that something was wrong was when we were driving back from a holiday in Queensland. Korgi took the first drive and I settled down to relax after pointing out that he was driving too slowly to be on a freeway. As my eyes closed, I had the feeling of going very fast and when I opened them I was confronted with us hurtling towards the back of another car. Following my yelling at him to slow down he said, "but you said I was going too slow". I drove the rest of the way. A few days later he suffered a stroke and it was then confirmed he had also had a stroke four weeks earlier while travelling alone to Sweden, for a family function. I was then told that he would be suffering dementia for the rest of his life, and so I became his carer.
The next year we decided to again go back to Queensland for a winter break. I checked us in at the airport, got the luggage organised and arranged to be transported down to the lounge. As soon as we had boarded the aircraft, Korgi asked for a red wine AND a beer. He was asked (very nicely) to wait until drinks were being served and I also explained he would have to wait. However, the next time a flight attendant walked past he once again asked for a red wine and a beer NOW. Again, it was explained he would have to wait and again I explained things. When the time came and he was asked if he would like a drink, once again he gave the same request. It was explained to him that due to rules he could only have one alcoholic drink. He argued quite vehemently and I ended up with an unwanted red wine and a very red face. The next year I decided we should drive up to Queensland instead of trying to pacify things with a flight attendant. I had not realised that he would have to stop frequently for a pee and it could be anywhere in full view of anyone around. We never went back to Queensland or on any other trip.
Sometime later, we had friends visiting from Sweden. As I normally did with visitors, we took them up to Mount Macedon. After enjoying ice creams while sitting outside in the sun at the café we decided to walk to the Cross. Korgi couldn't walk very far so we left him sitting comfortably at the table with a soft drink. On returning some 15 minutes later we found him sitting on his 'wheely-walker' inside the café demanding (very loudly) to be served with a red wine. The staff were trying to explain to him that they could only serve him alcohol with a meal due to their licence. We left there after I had apologised most profusely to the staff who were, of course, not used to dealing with a person with dementia. Another lesson learnt and I never left him alone in a café again.
At home I was more fortunate than a lot of carers of people with dementia. My husband became quite immobile and therefore I was able to leave him for short times while I went to the supermarket. Or so I thought! On one such occasion I came back into the house to find him on the phone. Somehow (and I never found out how) he had got the phone number of an airline and booked himself a business class ticket back to Sweden. He had written down the phone number on a piece of paper, which I grabbed and immediately rang. I was able to explain that even if he managed to get on the plane (which was impossible without considerable help) for a long-haul flight, he would most likely have another stroke.
Fortunately, the woman at the other end was able to cancel the ticket before it got into the system. By the time I had finished the phone call he had already forgotten what he had just done and it was never mentioned again.
I cared for my husband for nine years and during that time I slept with one ear open (so he didn't mistake the wardrobe for the toilet, or have a fall), and our social life dried up (as happens when someone gets dementia), but I am very grateful to Woodend Lifestyle Carers for all their support. To be with people who understand is extremely helpful and gratifying.
The Woodend Lifestyle Carers can be contacted by calling 5420 7132. Although located in Woodend, the group is for the whole of the Macedon Ranges and its neighbours.