COLUMN: Reflections on my new normal

I can’t believe what I bought today. I need a rain hat. The kind that has a wide brim to let the rain drip down to the ground ...

My View by Pauline Buck

I can’t believe what I bought today. I need a rain hat. The kind that has a wide brim to let the rain drip down to the ground rather than down my neck. Last week my son-in-law gave me his terrific yellow rain slicker that he never wears anymore and that I needed for walking Duchess the dog in the rain. It’s totally waterproof and warm, but has no hood. He lost it. (The son-in-law – not the dog).

So, I went to my favourite thrift store looking for a rain hat. After a quick glance through the women’s clothing I came up empty-headed (no comments please.) Then, I can’t believe this, I found myself in the Christmas décor section admiring a set of those little villages that light up. There was a church, a store, a post office and a house.  All for $15 – what a steal. But I’ve barely finished eating my Halloween candies! How could I even think of buying a Christmas decoration so soon??

The funny thing is, I was surprised I could even think of buying anything Christmasy at all. I was wondering to myself the other day if I would even bother with a tree and all that it entails this year.  There’s only me in the house now. And with the kids and grandkids being just down the street, I can get all the Christmas décor I want at their place.  So do I really need it?

My husband, who has been suffering with advancing dementia for the past two and a half years, was just transferred to long term care at Bevan Lodge after being in hospital for all of September and October. That leaves me living alone with no one but myself to decorate for. It also leaves me in a bit of a quandary. After being his primary caregiver for so long, and being unable to leave him alone in the house since March, it’s great to be able to go out whenever I want. I sort of feel like I’m on an extended respite week.  But on the other hand, I feel guilty that the reason I can pop in and out at will is because Bill was so sick.

Before his hospitalization, Bill was physically mobile but mentally losing ground. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to start making arrangements for long term care.  But every time I thought about moving him, I felt horrible. As it turned out, the “dementia gods” took the decision out of my hands – but not in a nice way.

Late in August, Bill developed a gum infection and the dentist prescribed antibiotics. The problem is, while antibiotics kill the bad bacteria that cause infections, they also eliminate some of the good bacteria in your system, including in the gastro intestinal tract (the gut). This can provide an opportunity for C.difficile bacteria to increase, which can cause an infection that is very contagious and can be fatal. To help prevent this, some people take Probiotics or acidophilus along with antibiotics to help replace the missing good bacteria.  I wish I had known that.

During six weeks of isolation on various IV treatments for  C.difficile, he developed a blood clot from lack of mobility, a couple of bladder infections and lost all his physical strength. He couldn’t stand, walk or feed himself.  The hospital care aides used an overhead lift to move him from bed to a wheelchair. All for lack of a tub of good yogurt!

After this, there was no question that he would have to go into long term care.  My hope is that with regular physiotherapy and participation in the exercise program, his strength will return and he will be able to walk again.

And me? Well, the great folks at the Alzheimer Society are helping me say “no” to guilt and I must admit I am starting to find ways to move forward with my new life.  I will definitely decorate for Christmas for my own enjoyment.

Pauline Buck is a local blogger and columnist at

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