Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dealing with Cognitive Issues

Many caregivers are taking care of loved ones who have cognitive issues. From what I have read, this can be one of the most difficult and challenging things to deal with. You must be on constant watch over your loved one because in just a few short moments you could find them in a very dangerous situation.

Maybe your spouse isn't there yet....but you are starting to see small changes in him/her that concern you. Things like misuse of words, slowed responses, forgetting things that were once very easily recalled. Asking the same question two or three times. Or maybe just misunderstandings taking place more and more frequently. Maybe you're seeing some personality changes, or just some quirks that concern you.

These things can be difficult to handle. Especially if you are alone with your spouse most of the time. My Dear Hubby has some mild cognitive issues. Nothing serious, really. But at times they can be frustrating for him and for me.

It seems that the times that I am alone with him more and more without other adult communication is when it becomes more and more difficult to deal with. It seems that after a while of cognitive issues and misunderstandings, you begin to doubt YOUR mind. You start to wonder, Did he just ask me that? or is my mind playing tricks on me? Or you start questioning your ability to carry on a conversation, to explain things in a way that your spouse can understand.

Fortunately, when Dear Hubby and I have times of difficult communication, I can often call my adult children into the room to help us work through it. Sometimes, it helps you to have someone else to say, "he's just not getting it."

I think, perhaps, the reason this seems to help me is this: most days my Dear Hubby is completely coherent. He can talk, carry on conversations, maybe misuse a word here or there, but he is completely understandable, and he understands me. But there are days, when perhaps he is more fatigued than usual. Or maybe his brain is just not working as well, and I am thinking I am dealing with a completely coherent adult.....and I'm really not.

It's a difficult transition....some things he can handle just fine and some things he can't. If he is under pressure or stress, he will have a more difficult time with cognition. If he is tired, you can be assured there will be communication issues. If we can discuss things and then if I can walk away and give him time to think, we can usually come to an agreement. It's not always easy to do though. Sometimes you want to resolve an issue NOW.

But, in the end, as long as he is able to make informed decisions, he needs to do that. Sure, I can rob him of his adulthood by making each and every decision for him without asking his opinion, but that's not what either of us want.

I want to retain my marriage in spite of the caregiving.... And, in spite of his disability, he wants to retain his dignity. He wants to feel that he is still part of this marriage. It's a fine line we walk. And, it can be very frustrating. I think dealing with a spouse is so much more difficult that dealing with a parent, an ill child or even an extended family member. My husband and I are in a marriage together. We have a deeper connection than any other relationship experiences. And, sometimes these changes rob us of some of that. We must protect it as much as we are able.

If your spouse is experiencing more and more cognitive issues, perhaps it's time to have him/her evaluated by a physician. There may be medications that will help.

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