An Alzheimer's Nurse Shares a Patient's Story That Reveals What True Love Really Is
"Reliable Rodney" was a nickname given to an older gentleman who never missed a single day of visiting his wife of 60+ years, and a patient at the Assisted Living Facility for Alzheimer's I worked for.
Rodney had earned this nickname because for the 8 years his wife was a patient in our care, up until the day she passed away, he showed up, dressed to the nines, flowers in hand, on time - every single day at 5:00pm - on the dot... When visiting hours began. And everyday, he was as excited to see her as a teenager on his first date.
Yet during his visits, he would be awash with heart break as he began to notice more and more that his wife would look blankly back at him as her memories of him slipped away until one day she insisted he was a stranger to her and we knew that she would not recognize Rodney again.
Reliable Rodney was not detoured however... he would just explain to her that he was a secret admirer and Just wanted to have dinner with her. This worked for a while, but Alzheimer's disease is truly horrible eventually it's victims usually become quite angry and bitter toward everyone around them. They can be down-right mean and often are. It's just a known side-effect of this horrid disease and Reliable Rodney's wife was no exception to this unfortunately. His visits got shorter and shorter as she got more and more intolerant of his presence. Reliable Rodney, oftentimes after having to end a visit early, would sit in his car for a good 5 or 10 minutes before driving away because he had to dry the tears running from his eyes. As a nurse who works with Alzheimer's patients, I will tell you, the real victims of this disease are the loved ones of those afflicted and It was especially heartbreaking for us to watch this process happening with Rodney as we had all gotten to know him so well due to his daily visits.
Seeing the emotional devastation that Rodney was going through day after day after day, was heart-breaking. When a patient reaches the final stages of this disease, as nurses, we are trained to sit down with their loved ones and discuss the possibility of discontinuing future visits so as to avoid any further emotional traumas for themselves. As cruel as this sounds, we understood that the patient would have no idea if loved ones stopped visiting, but that it was the loved ones suffering every time they saw the patient. From a practical sense, accepting some cruel realities and being able to walk away and let go is best for the loved ones of those Afflicted with this disease. Me as well as all of the other nurses within this facility often tried convincing Rodney of this as we truly felt it was the best thing for him, emotionally speaking. But we couldn't seem to get our message through... he would just say, "Thanks for the advice, I'll see you tomorrow."
Rodney would always show up the next night to again try to wine and dine his wife of 60+ years but was often responded to as a stranger and criticised for anything and everything he did for her. One night, after a particularly difficult visit he had with her, I saw the tears Welling up as he signed out for the night. I went over to him and asked, "Why do you come in everyday to see her when you know she's not ever going to remember you? And I'll never forget what he looked at me and said. "She may not remember who I am, but I remember who she is."