Give Thanks When My Husband Has Dementia?

I was OK when my husband became ill.  I knew God had a plan.  I was still thankful when the doctor said his heart valve wasn't working, and he needed an operation. God was providing us with one of the best heart doctors in the country, and I knew the Lord was with us.  I could say, “If he lives I will praise Him, and if he dies I will still praise Him.  I was thankful when, a couple of weeks after the operation, Bruce's kidneys started working again, and he no longer needed dialysis.  I was overflowing with thankfulness then.  I knew he was on his way to recovery.

But, when it came to his mental health, it seemed like I was on a roller coaster ride.  After the valve operation when he awoke from the surgery he was in a state of delirium. He stared straight ahead and his words were gruff and made little sense.  I was horrified.  This was not the man I had lived with for 43 years. My heart sunk in despair.  Had I lost him forever?

I started bawling right there in the intensive care unit.  “Why didn't anyone tell me this could happen?” My bitter words poured out  through my anguish, and the poor nurse looking after him had to deal with yet another irate spouse. 

“Ma'am, you did sign a paper stating that you understood the risks, did you not?” I realized that she was actually afraid that I would sue, and though this irritated me, it also made me see that I was being difficult.  I knew, as a Christian I was doing wrong, and I did my best to bring myself in line, but the bitterness was still there. 

All I could think of was how he had clung to me just before the surgery, and how I had assured him that God was in control.  I had let them take him away, still innocently believing that everything would be just fine, and now I was afraid that everything would not be fine at all; it would be horrible.  I struggled with this daily.  As he started improving I would think I had it under control and then he would have a setback and so would I.

But I saw God's hand at work in every other aspect of Bruce's recovery.  After the first couple of weeks they told me that he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life, but then his kidneys started functioning again; they had him on an external pacemaker and were planning on giving him an internal one as soon as his platelets were down but then suddenly his heart kicked in to do its own work, and I knew God was healing him.

I saw him improving and I gave God thanks.  I gave testimonies, both written and in church, and I really was thankful, but I couldn't help wondering how long before his brain would heal.

A few days ago the doctor called. “Mrs. Flett, we have tested your husband's cognitive skills and they are very low.  He has dementia and is not going to recover.  He will get worse either gradually or in spurts. You need to make some decisions.”

I had just been told that the man I love, the man that was always so good with words, the man who could be counted on to remember the important little details, this proud, intelligent man would never think clearly again.  He would never preach another sermon, at least not with words. He would be like a little child, requiring help for his basic needs.  And I wondered how could anyone be thankful for that?

I cried for a while that day, and then I poured my heart out in the article “Doctor Called.” Brothers and sisters from various parts of the globe responded with warmth and I began thanking God for all the wonderful friends I had.  That small seed of thankfulness in my heart began to grow, and finally it was able to choke out the bitterness.  

I began to look around at all His blessings.  My children were being so supportive; friends from around the world were praying for us; we live in a country where free help is available, and I don't have to shoulder the load all by myself.  I can actually leave while someone else watches my husband and does my housework for me.  Now that is a blessing.  And, maybe best of all, through my experiences God has given me the wonderful opportunity to bless others .

1Thessalonians 5:18 says, in everything we are to give thanks.  God's instructions are for our benifit.  I am the one who is blessed by being thankful. Life becomes beautiful again.  I can live through anything He allows if he is with me, and He is always there when I am thankful.

I struggle daily.  It hurts to watch my husband, hurts to see him meekly allow me to help him.  But then I think of Jesus and how this King of Glory stood meekly while the devil's mesengers spit on him and mocked him.   Meekness is an attribute of our Savior.  Now I see that meekness in the childlike attitude of my husband.  I realize that God is still working on both of us, and I thank Him.  I know that I am growing stronger, and I thank him. 

I know that God is still in control, and, oh, how I thank Him!

The road will still be hard.  But I am so thankful that it is His chosen path for me because I know where the road leads, and I know Who walks it with me.

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  1. jreidross said:

    keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, keep hoping, keep loving, keep searching, keep praying, keep believing, as Jim Valvano said “Never give up”

    November 23, 2010

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