Life after Alzheimer’s: Six things my husband taught me

After my husband Bob’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, our lives changed forever. He never stopped teaching me and reminding me why I loved him.

Here are six things I learned on the journey through Alzheimer’s with Bob:

  1. Bob taught me patience. I tried to never raise my voice at him and answer every question, even if it was the tenth time he asked. I never had patience before. I was more a type A personality. I like having patience; it is much more peaceful.
  2. Bob taught me the good feeling of kind compliments. When we were out shopping, he would go up to a mother and child and compliment the child – “Look at you! You are a big help to your Momma. What a nice boy or girl you are!” The mom usually beamed with happiness that someone had noticed her and her child. He also complimented people on their clothes or hair. Being kind to strangers costs nothing and gives much.
  3. Bob still knew happiness and love. He may not have known how a person was connected to him – son, granddaughter – but he knew he knew that person and they made him happy.
  4. Bob taught me forgiveness. One benefit of Alzheimer’s is you don’t remember to hold on to hurts and disappointments. One Father’s Day, when there were no calls or cards from Bob’s daughters, I forgot to notice. We had a good day with his son and grandson’s family. I finally followed Bob’s lead and let the disappointment go.
  5. I learned to be grateful for the kindness of others. Many times, friends and family shy away when one has Alzheimer’s. It creates an isolation that is not good for the caregiver or the person. Socialization and human interaction is good and healthy. I was so grateful when someone stopped by or someone helping me in the yard came in to talk to Bob and share their time.
  6. It didn’t take a lot to make Bob happy. Life is made up of the simple things – people, good food, watching boats on the lake, living in the moment – and that is all we really have. Just today.
Jill Ballard and her late husband Bob.

My Bob was still there. The core Bob who made him who he was never left. It doesn’t matter that I cleaned his dentures, helped bath and dress him, made all his meals, gave him his meds and did his insulin shots. I cared for the house, the yard, the bills and repairs. It was OK. I knew he would do it all for me.

We talked about the news, watched sad movies sometimes and both cried and just lived our lives together as the couple we had always been.

We have choices in this world, and I chose to be happy and grateful I had Bob.

Jill Ballard was a caregiver for her late husband Bob, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010 and passed away in October of 2015. Jill was named Caregiver of the Year by AARP in 2015. She lives in Cannon Falls, a town of about 4,000 people in southeast Minnesota.


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