FTD – Mission Impossible!

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Work – it means something different to everyone. What is it anyway? I have written about it here before, about what it means to someone with FTD. It represents having control over one’s life, contributing to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As much as we all say “Oh God, it’s Monday already?”, work gives context to our lives, it gives us purpose and drive. If you’re lucky enough to love what you do, then it isn’t “work” in the true sense of the word.If you have a calling, a vocation, then your work is the very meaning of your life.

Three weeks ago, I went into my job of more than ten years as usual. It was the place where I had received a huge amount of support during our FTD years. The place where I felt safe from the ravages of the bastard disease, if only for a few hours. Work was my savior on those days when my world was closing in and FTD commanded my every waking moment. In a responsible, high-level position, I had to focus on other people and their needs, instead of mine and those of my husband. It gave me a wonderful sense of pride and humanity to be in a place where only those closest to me knew what was happening in our lives and those I served had no clue.

Three weeks ago, I went there as usual, bright and early. Two hours later, I was in my car on my way home from that place for the last time. Ten and a half years finished and over. My supporters and antagonists left behind to move in the “different direction” that, it had been decided, did not include me or my position. It’s ok. I tell you this not to glean sympathy or pity. I tell you this because I am happy that I am healthy enough, mentally and physically to understand what freedom this new turn of events will offer.

donald trump

It has given me fresh perspective. I don’t think that the decision was intended to please me, or make me happy, but it actually did and does. Now I have the time and energy to devote to –well, whatever I damn well please. Now, I have the benefit of knowing that I have spent the last ten years working towards this moment. Five of those ten years have been spent in grief and loss. But those people, that place, gave me the strength to get through whatever FTD had to throw at me. My work sanctuary sufficed to give me the stability I needed to survive the last five years and I did.

Actually, I did more than survive. Because, despite the best efforts of the bastard disease, I not only survived, I thrived. I thrived because I had the support, the love and the salvation that I needed to get through it all. All those things that you are going through are survivable. I’m pretty sure you don’t think so, I never did. Actually, I never even really thought of it in that way, I simply got through the day-to-day, just like you do. But now, on the other side, I can see that everything I had in place – my family, my friends, my work, were all just crutches that were available to help me. I know that some of you feel that you have little or no support., your families, or those of your loved one having abandoned you in some way, or they just don’t get it. But, even though you may feel alone, be patient, because someone, somewhere will be coming along I am sure. Not in the romantic sense, but a person or persons who will be a support and comfort to you.

Along my journey, not long after Alan died, I met a woman, a minister no less, who had also lost her husband to FTD. The chances of this happening are pretty random, but meet we did and share we did. She was just in my life for a very brief time before our paths parted, but I believe she came into my life for a reason and I am very grateful for that. She was part of my “life in progress” situation.

The FTD path is never easy, and I mean , never. You all have a different story to mine and to everyone else who is caring from someone with FTD. Some of you work outside the home in addition to caring for your FTD’er and that is challenging indeed. At the various stages, some of which only last for a few days, you come up with ways that will ease your path and get through this particular stage.

For example, when my husband’s sense of time was slipping, I would leave for work before he was awake,  prepare his breakfast, leave a note out on the counter to tell him his lunch was in the fridge and put a note on his sandwich in the fridge saying “Lunch”. Phew!  One time my son went over to check on him at 10 am and he had already eaten his lunch. Hm. So my devious plan didn’t work then.

So with FTD, your new mission, should you choose to accept it, is to invent and reinvent new ways in which to keep your FTD’er alive and well. Every single day. If you’re lucky, you may get through a few weeks, or even months, without a significant change. But change will come, as sure as the sun rises in the morning. It will keep you on your toes that’s for sure. Reinvention of yourself and your routines and schedules is the only way to cope.

  • A sense of humor will keep you sane. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Cry at the futility of everything, then laugh again in the face of FTD and give it the bird.
  • No matter how ridiculous a solution seems, give it a try. You never know. Chocolate ice cream for breakfast? If it gets you out the door to work and them to day care, what the hell? Puddle jumping in wellington boots? Sure. Reruns of “Two and a Half Men” on a loop? Heck yes, if it gives you 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to do something you want to do. Fake ID/credit card? Thank you. When it doesn’t work?- “Oh those things are hopeless, I’ll call the bank/DMV tomorrow and complain”. Kid’s toy paper money? Oh yes.
  • Flexibility with work schedule is a godsend if you can do it. I used to go in at 4am so I could be home at noon. Since my husband rarely rose before 8am, it worked. I realize that’s not for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • “Therapeutic fiblets” are invaluable. “The car is in the shop”, “I will call _______ tomorrow”, “That door lock is broken”, “The store is closed” etc etc.

As you can see and you know, being an FTD caregiver is in itself a full time job. Being inventive and creative about your life is a necessary part of it. Don’t be too hard on yourself is probably the single most important thing. No-one ever died from not getting a shower today, or eating vanilla ice cream for three meals a day, even with diabetes. Co-morbidities, or other illnesses that your loved one may have in conjunction with their FTD, become insignificant once you’re faced with the inevitability of FTD. Keeping them healthy is a poor second to keeping them safe.

One of the hardest things sometimes is to do what everyone urges you to do – “cherish every moment”. Good advice indeed, but sometimes that takes work too. Sometimes all you want to do is lie down and sleep, even if it means missing a momentary spark of lucidity. There comes a time when you have to give in to your own emotions and exhaustion and give yourself some succor. Being an inventor is exhausting. You come up with a million ideas, but only one of them works. It’s worse than being on Shark Tank. Your efforts will be dissected and rejected. Your FTD’er will give you that glazed-eye look and your plan will bite the dust. Oh well, on to the next thing.

The constant need for change is defeating too. You are trying to keep all the balls in the air – work, home, children, school, aging parents, and that annoying ticking noise in your car. And then come up with a solution for how to hide that bag of Doritos in a place where it cannot be found – again. If you are like me, your job is a haven of non-FTD related stuff. The people there are demanding in a different way and, for some reason, don’t seem to be nearly as much trouble as the one you have at home. The separation is bliss. Of course, many FTD caregivers don’t have the luxury of going out of the house alone every day. For them, life is a constant loop of invention and distraction, cleaning and hiding. You people are warriors of a different nature. Hardened to the sights, smells and sounds of your love slowly drifting away. I for one feel that I got off lucky in some respects. Going out to work saved me from my own insanity. I salute you for being there 24/7 and giving your all. Caring for someone with FTD is definitely not for wimps and Mission Impossible is handled every day.

This message will self-destruct in one minute. Make sure that you don’t.

 

Frontotemporal resourcefulness – get crafty!

At first, this post was just going to be an uploaded pdf file [find that here –  FTD Resources] – a list of excellent links  for FTD caregivers.

However, this week, many new FTD people have come into my life. With a multitude of issues going on for them, it seems like an endless supply of problems for which there are scant resources.

Although I have the list of links, websites, books etc. it seems that what people need is a particular, down-to-earth, list of how to stay sane in this maelstrom of FTD. I don’t have an exhaustive list of course. Far be it from me to be the FTD guru. (Although I know someone who probably is).

Guru

I don’t presume to know even a minute amount of all there is to know about FTD. Just my own experience and what I see and hear from other people traveling the same path.

You do have to get “crafty” though. Even though it may go against everything you’ve learned in your relationship thus far. You’re in unchartered territory here as far as behavior and handling it goes. You’ve probably never seen some of the things you’ll be or are seeing. FTD the bully makes people do things.

  • Your loved one may behave in ways you never thought possible.
  • They may say things you never thought you would hear coming out of their mouth
  • You will have to do things you never imagined yourself doing.
  • This includes creative fibbing (otherwise known as lying), pretending something is what is not, and getting crafty about your own behavior.
  • You will have interactions with people that once may have made you embarrassed but now are a matter of survival.
  • Your love will be tested to the limit

The key here is love. Love for the person you knew. Love for yourself. Love for what is right.

Love treeUnfortunately, unrequited love is harder to handle.

TEN IDEAS FOR NOT GOING AROUND THE BEND YOURSELF

  1. It is VITAL, d’you hear me? VITAL that you listen to your own body, your own mind, when they tell you to stop, slow down or walk away. It could literally mean life or death. Sometimes, in an aggressive FTD person, walking away is all you can do. As heartbreaking as it is, you have to mentally walk away a long time before you may physically have to.
  2. Take a break. I mean it. Get a respite grant (www.theaftd.org) and have someone else do the caregiving for a couple of days. I know, you have no-one. No-one else understands. No-one else can do it….There’s a million reasons why you can’t. Find just one reason why you CAN. You have to go on. What’s the worst that can happen? They are angry at you for going away? So what? You won’t be there and once you’re away, they won’t care. There is often a genuine fear of abandonment in FTD, but that can come just when you go out to the car or the store. Since time is often irrelevant, two hours or two days, it won’t make any difference.
  3. Get help.There is something for everyone out there. It may take some time and effort, but it’s there. Get someone to help you. Research – call, write, email whatever. Get everything that is due to you. There are agencies that just do that. Match you up with the right services.
  4. Accept. Accept that nothing will ever be the same. Accept that he/she is going or gone. Once you do that, you can cope more easily. If, like I did, you try and keep things normal long after normal is gone, you will become frustrated and bitter. These two emotions will interfere with your ability to cope. Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance is the strong response to an unchangeable situation.
  5. Don’t try to rationalize. Your loved one is not the brilliant engineer/artist/doctor/financier that he/she once was. For me that was one of the hardest things to understand. I am not known for my ” glad sufferance of fools” shall we say. Not that my husband was a fool, quite the reverse in fact. Like many people afflicted by FTD, he was intelligent, articulate, and quick witted. But it was very hard for me to talk with the child he became.
  6. Agree. Agree with everything they say. You can always back out or change your mind – even minutes later. They won’t realize what you’re doing (see, crafty!)
  7. Blame someone else. I found that “those people” were very useful in taking the blame for just about everything that happened that my husband didn’t want. The bank, the DMV, the government, the doctor, anyone that was fairly anonymous that my husband didn’t know well. The ambiguous “people” at the bank were idiots because, when he lost his debit card (for the third time) they took ages sending him a new one. In fact, it never arrived. Perhaps because I hadn’t ordered it. After my telling him it was on its way about three times, he forgot all about it. Moved on to the next gripe. Probably how many dirty dishes there were for just two people.
  8. Lower your standards. Yes, I know, you like your house, yard, clothes to look nice. But let’s face it, there’s not much point in having a lovely redecorated house if someone’s going to trash it, poop on it, rearrange it or generally abuse it now is there? Better to spend the time helping them get through the day with the minimum of fuss. The mess may drive you nuts at first, but once you feel the benefit of not having to repeat yourself multiple times daily, you will be less stressed.
  9. Respect. When you have been in a healthy relationship with someone for several or many years, you develop a comfortable pattern. This established security is severely threatened, then demolished by FTD. But is difficult to let go. Difficult in the extreme. How can you stop giving your loved one the reverence they deserve and have had for so long? Well, you can’t of course. But the respect and love now have to be of a different priority. You still have them but they are trumped by the practical needs. The cleaning, the dressing, the prompting, the directing. It’s weird to have to show or tell your partner of many years which leg to put in his pants first.
  10. Independence. One of my top priorities was that my husband maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible. When it was no longer possible, I pretended he still had it. He believed me. And that was the most important thing. That he never felt like he wasn’t doing things on his own, even when he wasn’t. I never let him believe that he relied on me for anything until he was no longer aware of how much he actually did. The only thing that was an issue for a while was money. He could never get used to the fact that he had no income of his own. It made him feel less than a man. But even when I gave him an allowance every week, he would lose it or hide it, then say I hadn’t given him any. A no-win situation, but it passed.

And that’s the secret really. This too shall pass. Everything passes. Each stage or phase within a stage passes to the next, sometimes with barely a day in between for you to catch your breath. But you must. You must catch your breath. The bastard disease cannot be allowed to claim more than one life at a time. There is so little to combat it, but the one thing you cannot do is allow it to claim you too.

Be crafty. Invent new ways of handling it. Get creative and make your life easier. The hardest part is changing from the life you once knew. But you can do it. You really can. Use all your tools.

Love, honesty, respect, kindness, laughter, and tears.

They all help. Somehow you will get around the obstacles and on to the next challenge. Your solution will be crafted with love and so it can do no wrong.

quilled hearts

 

FTD – New Year, New Phase? 5 tips for moving forward.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The ever-changing landscape of what FTD looks like today in your house. It is temporary. It changes day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute.

The impending New Year brings uncertainty, other than that phases will come and go. Each one is completely different to the last. Sometimes, behaviors from one phase carry over to the next, sometimes disappear completely.

Ocean tide2

The ebb and flow of FTD is like the ocean. The tide brings in all kinds of flotsam and jetsam.

Then takes some of it away again. Permanently.

To be prepared for such drastic change, you need to protect yourself and family from the feelings of helplessness and frustration.

1. Accept.  Accept that the changes are inevitable. Accept that they may be here today, gone tomorrow. Accept that there is nothing you can do to alter the course of the disease, only your attitude towards it. Acceptance of “It is what it is” will really help you to handle inappropriate and strange behaviors.

2. Don’t argue. Arguing with a person with absolutely no logic or reasoning is fruitless and frustrating. Going back to (1) above, you have to accept that your loved one has no insight or sense of reason anymore. Sometimes however, I have to admit that arguing feels good, even though you know it’s useless. It helps get out your frustration. Your loved one will look at you as if you have two heads because to them, you are the unreasonable one.

3. Be kind to yourself. When it’s all over, no-one ever says “I wish I’d waited longer to get help”. Or “I wish I had not taken a respite break when I had the chance”. If it is at all possible for you to get away for a few days, do it. Or even just a pedicure, dinner out with friends or day at the beach. You can’t go back and redo it.  In my experience, being afraid to do something of which you think your loved one would not approve or want you to do (leave them for a day) is purely one-sided. a) They won’t even know what it is that you’re doing and b) you don’t actually have to tell them. See item 4) below.

4. Therapeutic fibbing. This tactic may be the single most valuable tool in your arsenal throughout the course of FTD. You have to remember that your loved one, after a certain point, has no concept of time, place (other than your familiar home maybe) or situation. Sometime, they will just be argumentative because that is the phase of the disease they are in. I once asked a member of my support group why she was so concerned about telling her husband that she was going away for the weekend with a friend. She replied that he would not like it. I asked her “What will he do?”.  She replied that he would be grumpy and disapproving”. I said “So what?”. She was leaving him with a carer with whom he was very familiar. So she knew he would be safe and well-cared for. She told him she was going to see a sick friend, went on the trip and he was just fine. The carer said that he never even asked about her. When she returned he just said “Hi” and carried on with what he was doing. Like she had never left.

5. The voice of reason. You will probably give your loved one way too much credit for understanding what is going on. Because that is how it has always been. Each being deferential and respectful of the other’s needs. Other than keeping them safe, comfortable and loved, there is little else you can do. You cannot defer or appeal to their prior intellectual status. Not that you should treat them like an idiot of course, but don’t give them credit for making good choices or decisions. They can’t. Not anymore. You are now in the parental role of making all their decisions for them. That’s not to say you should dismiss what they say (or try to) but merely agree and then do whatever you were going to do anyway. Agreeing is one of the tools.

This year will certainly bring new behaviors.

New choices. New fears. New decisions.

For some of you, it will bring new status. Perhaps this is your loved one’s last year. Perhaps 2014 will bring the last stage.

I’m not trying to be morbid or scary. Just realistic.

You will know if it’s the last year. You will know what you need to do.

You won’t need a list of tips.

You will need all the love you can muster. But you will know that you have done everything you can do to ease the passage to the next phase.

Whatever that is.

Inner_Peace_by_mcbadshoes

I wish you inner peace, love and serenity for 2014.

Walters Times Three – a Match for FTD! Seven Pointers for Getting Your Way by Bending the Truth

Spiders web 3

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

  – Sir Walter Scott

Ah, the art of deception! Sir Walter had no idea how often this quote would  be used, misused and mis-attributed (to William Shakespeare apparently)

In your ever-increasingly complex world of FTD, the web of “therapeutic fibbing” grows daily. Untruths lead to more untruths. And so your world, like that of Walter Mitty, becomes something else. Two Walters, three if you count Walter White of “Breaking Bad” fame. Liar, liar pants on fire!

It’s not that you would ever want to deceive your loved one per se, more a matter of survival. FTD brings out new characteristics in all of us –  the afflicted and the people around them. It’s a matter of being in the moment and doing what’s right just now.

  • Just say “OK”. To whatever it is. You can always renege later – they won’t remember.
  • Leave the room (on a pretext if you have to) then come back in and present or ask whatever it was you wanted them to do again. They’ll probably acquiesce.
  • Don’t argue – they have no sense of reason or logic, remember?
  • You can even tell them that whatever you’re giving or telling them is actually what they want. For example, strawberry instead of raspberry flavor (same color). Non-alcoholic beer/wine. Having four of the same tee-shirt they love.
  • Don’t tell them in advance of a field trip. “Are we there, are we there yet?”  “Is it today?” “Is it today now?” Just give them a little warning, Or none.  Just go. Sometimes that works even better if you have a semi-compliant  person who will go wherever as long as it’s with you. I got my husband to an in-patient psychiatric unit by telling him it was where a Dental Specialist was. (He had just had dental surgery and was in a lot of pain and was very angry). Remember that just because they will do it today doesn’t mean they will tomorrow.
  • Sometimes you can lie by omission. Just don’t tell them what you’re doing or why. Don’t volunteer any information that isn’t necessary for them to know.
  • Ask yourself “How will it be better if I tell him/her exactly whats going on?”

Come on, which one of you ladies has not hidden a purchase in the closet and then got it out a couple of weeks later, saying “Oh this? No, this isn’t new, I’ve had it for a while!”

See, you’ve done it before.

It takes a little practice, but it works.

And before you’re done, you will be capable of Oscar-worthy performances.

Now I know that doing these things to your spouse/father/mother/sister/friend seems terrible. But remember, your spouse isn’t the one standing in front of you anymore. Well, it’s his or her body, but the person you respected and loved has, to all intents and purposes, gone.

You now have to learn to be just you. They’re not your support, partner, friend anymore. It’s a harsh lesson but you have to stop pretending that they even care about anything significant anymore.

Self-preservation. Retention of your sanity. FTD is a long haul. There is no way you will survive telling the truth all the time. You may need to make your peace with your higher power, but believe me, it will be worth it.

It’s not wrong. You’re not a bad person.

Loving someone means making sacrifices. You will have made and will make many more before the FTD is done.

The bastard disease will make you do things you never thought possible. Things you previously thought wrong or bad. Maybe they were before.

But not anymore.

Now the whole playing field is different.

All bets are off. It’s you against the bastard disease and it will do its damndest to make your life hell.

Save your sanity. Be a Walter.