We’ve entered a new phase in our caregiving adventure, the part where my healthy, energetic demented wife, who buzzes around tirelessly during the day, now sleeps a few hours in the evening, then buzzes around, and up and down, all night too.
The problem is that she used to sleep soundly all night, and this quiet time was when I rested after hours of caregiving. Now, when I’ve finally drifted off to dreamland, I’m suddenly prodded awake and hear a voice in my ear demanding repeatedly,
And she really does need help. She’s cold, or afraid, or can’t remember where the bathroom is, and once there, what to do next. So I get up, but not with a smile and cheerful “sure thing.” More like the growl of an angry bear awakened prematurely from hibernation.
Unfortunately, my 2 a.m. growling sends my wife into an emotional tailspin requiring at least an hour of patient calm talk and hugs to successfully guide her through the required bathroom procedure and back to bed again. realizing that this process isn’t working for either of us, I’ve decided to adopt a strategy used in my wilder years when crewing on long distance sailboat races.
These journeys lasted for days and so the crew broke up responsibilities into shifts, called watches, when members were either on or off duty. For example, “A” Watch might be on duty from midnight until four a.m., then “B” Watch came on from four until eight A.m.. Yes, it was tough to force myself awake and out of my warm sleeping bag cocoon when I heard the call, “B Watch on deck!” but I was part of a team and I had a responsibility to fulfill. Complaining wasn’t going to change that.
I’m on another long distance race, caregiving for a wife with dementia. There are two shifts, “D” Watch for day, and “D” Watch for dark. Yes, I know the two shifts have the same name, but as this boat only has a caregiving crew of one, I’ve decided not to confuse myself. When I lie down to sleep at night, I repeat “D Watch on deck!” as a reminder not to growl at my wife when she will certainly wake me later.
As our circumstances change, I continue to adapt, as does my wife. Apparently, she decided that prodding awake a hibernating bear was producing undesirable results, and so has adopted a new strategy. She carefully fulls the covers off the bed, leaving me naked and exposed to the cool night air. When I reach reflexively to pull the covers up and don’t find them, I rise up to search. This is when I hear the voice nearby,
Damn clever, hard to get mad at such cunning, even at 2 a.m..
“D Watch on deck!”