Ray Dedrick says when he recently signed a power of attorney form, it felt like he was signing his life away. That sheet of paper allows his wife Tee to make decisions on his behalf when he is no longer able to.
They know that day is coming because Ray has Alzheimer’s disease.
“This past year he’s gotten progressively worse,” said Tee. “The reality is, how much longer does he have? I don’t know.”
Tee is Ray’s primary caregiver. She takes him to every doctor’s appointment. She carefully doles out his many medicines each day. And she always keeps a calendar nearby to cross out the days of the week. She says Ray gets confused as to what day and time it is.
Ray recounts a day he woke up from sleeping on the couch. “It just threw it all for a loop,” he said. “I didn't know if it was Friday, Sunday, Saturday or if it was morning or night.
The calendar also reminds Ray when Tee is at work. She runs a catering and cookie company, and also cooks for her church family on Wednesday nights. She is the sole provider for the family.
“I do worry about what we are going to do when he gets to the point that he can't stay by himself. If I have to stay home, is that an option?” she said. “Right now, it's not, financially. That's not an option.”
Tee said she can’t help but notice how Alzheimer’s is altering Ray’s personality. She said he gets more aggravated these days and can be sharp with his words.
“Not everything comes out the way he intends to say it," she said.
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But she knows it’s not really Ray speaking. It’s the cruel disease that’s slowly stealing her soul mate.
“There are days you have pity parties and days you pull up your bootstraps and go you just got to get it done," she said.
Tee said it's important for caregivers to find opportunities to take a break, even if it’s just to grab lunch with a friend. She highly recommends those caring for people with Alzheimer’s to attend a coping workshop offered by Alzheimer’s Tennessee. The next class is March 21.