On Mon­day, Novem­ber 27th, my hus­band, Joe, will have been in his new “home” in the mem­o­ry care wing of Carmel Health and Liv­ing for 4 weeks.

I’m hap­py and relieved to say…things are going real­ly well.

I’ve had some time now to decom­press, take a breath and get reaquaint­ed with my life and home with­out both Joe and my step dad, Steve, hang­ing out togeth­er in our liv­ing room.

Steve was Joe’s offi­cial care­giv­er for 7 months, com­ing to our home from 8:30 to 4:30, 7 days a week, to be Joe’s “com­pan­ion” while I worked on being pro­duc­tive in my two busi­ness­es as a per­son­al chef and a holisitc well­ness advocate.

Over this last week, I was reflect­ing back on this life expe­ri­ence and the actions I had start­ed to put into place, start­ing as far back as 2019.

I’m going to share my sto­ry because if this dia­log of my jour­ney helps just one per­son, it will be worth this post.

I’m call­ing it get­ting your “ducks in a row”…the def­i­n­i­tion which is “to be well pre­pared or well orga­nized for some­thing that is going to happen.”

This jour­ney start­ed in May of 2019…

Joe was on his way to Pine­hurst, North Car­oli­na, to meet up with his Citadel Class of ’59 bud­dies for their annu­al Spring “guys” get together…an occa­sion they had been doing for years.

Each year, on his way there, Joe would take the time to go to Lynch­burg, Vir­gina, to vis­it his sis­ter and her fam­i­ly, then spend the night and head out the next morning.

It was on that leg of the trip to Lynch­burg that Joe got lost. In his defense, there were major con­struc­tion detours through the moun­tains and he does­n’t use GPS…I know…crazy.

He did final­ly make it to Lynch­burg, but I was a ner­vous wreck at that point and begged him not to con­tin­ue on to Pine­hurst and that I would fly to Lynch­burg and we would dri­ve home together.

Need­less to say, he was­n’t hap­py about it, but he did go along with me.

Short­ly after being back home, I felt it was time to be proac­tive and deter­mine if Joe was hav­ing any neu­ro­log­i­cal changes to his brain.

Joe’s moth­er died from Alzheimer’s and his sis­ter was suf­fer­e­ing from it, so we made an appoint­ment for a screening,

After a 6 hour process of test­ings, ques­tions and an MRI, it was deter­mined that Joe had mild cog­ni­tive impare­ment, all with­in nor­mal brain changes for an 82 year old man…no restrici­tons on any activ­i­ty going for­ward from there.

This inci­dent opened up my eyes as to things that need­ed to be put into place so should that day come that there was a major health cri­sis for Joe or me, things would be in order.

We need­ed to update our wills, have our end of life wish­es known and set up finan­cial and med­ical POA’s (pow­er of attor­ney) for both of us. We hired an elder law attor­ney and got those pieces in place.

I became Joe’s full finan­cial and med­ical POA and Joe’s daugh­ter is set up as mine.

That was the first impor­tant duck in the row…getting the legal things in place.

The rest of that year and the next year, 2020…how could we forget…COVID…all went nor­mal for us.

We stayed healthy, Joe was busy at his office help­ing a client out of a tax cri­sis, my new well­ness busi­ness was start­ing to take off and my chef busi­ness con­tin­ued to thrive…life for the Geeslin’s was real­ly good.

Now, it’s May 2021…

The Citadel Class of ’59 Pine­hurst reunion…and the class deter­mined it would be the last one.

Joe real­ly want­ed to go, espe­cial­ly because it was going to be the last, so we talked about it…me feel­ing uncom­fort­able about him dri­ving that dis­tance alone…but he had decid­ed to not take the detour first to Lynch­burg to see his sister.

By this time, she was bed rid­den, non ver­bal and was­n’t rec­og­niz­ing any­one so we agreed it would be much bet­ter for him to have the mem­o­ries of her before she was in that state.

So, Joe packed his things as usu­al. His clothes, books on tape, the elec­tric cool­er filled with waters and non alco­holic beer…NO red flags that he should­n’t be going…NONE.

Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2020, I had installed the Life360 app on our phones, pri­mar­i­ly because occa­sion­al­ly Joe would bike ride alone and I thought it was a great safe­ty fea­ture if he had an acci­dent, I could find him.

It also helped for that occa­sion­al time he could­n’t find his phone…being able to “see” that yes indeed, he just left it at the office.

On the ear­ly morn­ing of Wednes­day, May 12th, 2021, Joe was loaded up and ready to head out on his trip…coffee to go in hand, I gave him a hug and kiss good­bye and of course I tell him…“drive care­ful­ly hunny!”

His plan was to dri­ve as far as Roanoak, Vir­gina, stop and get a room and dri­ve on in to Pine­hurst the next morning.

I’m feel­ing great know­ing I have that Life360 app on my phone so I can see where he’s at on his drive.

Joe calls me when he’s stopped for lunch and he’s in great spirits…I’m happy.

I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing in an online webi­nar start­ing that day for 3 days, so it’s actu­al­ly a great time for him to be out of the house.

I check the app from time to time and Joe is rolling along great…so I stay focused on the webinar.

Lat­er in the after­noon, about 4 PM, I glance at the app and I see Joe has just gone PAST Roanoak, stay­ing on Hwy 81…so I call him.

Me: “Hey hun­ny, looks like you’ve past Roanoak where you were going to stop for the night?”

Joe: “I’m ok, I know where I’m going..I feel fine, I’m going to keep going.”

Me: “But you’re not on the right road to get to Pine­hurst hunny…you’re on the high­way that will take you to DC! Please turn around and go back to Roanoak, get a room and start fresh tomorrow…that was the plan..please turn around and go back…if you keep going, you will end up in DC!…please, turn around and go back…I love you.”

Joe: “Ok Ok OK…love you too.”

I give a sigh of relief and focus back on my com­put­er screen and I’m not sure of the time frame..5 min­utes, 10 or 15.…but my phone rang…it was Joe.

Joe: “Ah…hi hunny.…here”

Here’s what I heard next on Joe’s phone: “Hi Mrs.Geeslin, this is Troop­er Mike…everything is OK…but I’ve pulled your hus­band over for dri­ving the oppo­site direc­tion on the interstate.”

Joe lit­er­al­ly just turned around on the interstate.

Troop­er MIke: “Has Joe been con­fused lately?”

Me: “No, he’s been fine!”

Mind you, I’m shak­ing at this point…

Troop­er Mike: “He doen­s’t know what time it is, where he is or who the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States is…”

Joe was tak­en into what’s called an emer­gency cus­tody order.

The Lexus was parked in a Hard­ee’s park­ing lot and he was dri­ven by Troop­er Mike to a near­by med­ical clin­ic, where he was exam­ined and stayed the night.

I called Mom and Steve and I’m hysterical…they come over and stay with me.

I was then put in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a man named Rich, who was in charge of orches­trat­ing the process of releas­ing Joe and screen­ing who would be pick­ing Joe up.

By the time that process was fin­ished and it was arranged that Joe’s youngest son and his wife, who live in DC, would be com­ing to get him and as well as the Lexus to dri­ve back to their home in Falls Church, it was 11:30 that night…

I. Was. Spent.

That day was the last day my hus­band would dri­ve a car.

Steve flew out to DC and the plan was for him to stay a few days before dri­ving the Lexus and Joe back home. The entire time he was there, Joe was dis­ori­ent­ed, con­fused and not “him­self” accord­ing to Steve, so I’m already mak­ing arrange­ments with our pri­ma­ry care physi­cian for a vir­tu­al neu­rol­o­gist “exam” as soon as Joe and Steve got home.

I need­ed a third par­ty to be the one to tell him he could­n’t drive…as the man LOVES to drive…even if hav­ing to add the word YET to the end of that sen­tence to avoid major pushback.…and that was the first of many com­pas­sion­ate lies to come.

Steve and Joe got home on May 19th and on May 20th, we had the vir­tu­al neu­ro­log­i­cal appoint­ment. We…the doc­tor and I…focused on the fact of mak­ing it clear to Joe that they need­ed to do some fur­ther exams and in the mean­time, NO DRIVING until we knew more.

He did have fur­ther test­ing soon after that and an MRI to deter­mine if he had expe­ri­enced a TIA…which he did­n’t have a TIA but did have fur­ther brain changes…it was clear now what we would be facing.

Because of hav­ing Duck 1 in place, I had full con­trol over any finan­cial or legal mat­ters. For­tu­nate­ly, the case Joe had been work­ing for his client was com­plet­ed, so no issues there and although his prac­tice was real­ly closed at this point, he still did want to go in everyday…and I was fine with that.

Oth­er than Joe not dri­ving, at this stage, things are more or less back to nor­mal. Then I’m start­ing to notice more lit­tle “changes” in Joe’s behav­ior and mem­o­ry and I knew I need­ed to take the next step.

Find some­one who can guide me through what this process of mem­o­ry loss/​dementia is going to look like…for Joe and ME.…the sec­ond duck in the row.

I made an appoint­ment with Jessie Hillock, own­er of The Mem­o­ry Com­pass, to come and do an in home eval­u­a­tion of Joe to see if his results would be same or dif­fer­ent from the very clin­i­cal, cold assess­ment at the neu­rol­o­gist office.

Jessie was love­ly and made Joe feel so com­fort­able, sim­ply hav­ing con­ver­sa­tion with him but at the same time, able to make obser­va­tions and ask ques­tions that gave her the data she need­ed to cre­ate a report on her findings…and it revealed the same out­come as the neu­rol­o­gist, that Joe was most def­i­nite­ly in the ear­ly stages of dementia.

That was July 2021.

Jessie gave me a good idea of what the pro­gres­sion can look like and what I should con­sid­er hav­ing in place.

With no long term health care insur­ance, if I need­ed in home care for Joe, I would need to get him qual­i­fied for the med­ic­aid waiv­er which would cov­er a care­giv­er help­ing me in our home.

I put this on the back burn­er at this point as we weren’t any­where near that stage…yet.

She also said that 65% of care­givers will die before the per­son they are car­ing for.…fact.

And the rest of our 2021 was filled from see­ing friends in Cul­ver in August to vis­it­ing the kids in DC with Mom and Steve in Sep­tem­ber to going to the Citadel for Joe’s class of ’59 reunion at the school’s home­com­ing in mid November…of course, me behind the wheel.

The win­ter months of late 2021 and into 2022 were unevent­ful but I could see fur­ther changes with Joe…subtle, but still there.

I had Jessie come for anoth­er eval­u­a­tion in March of 2022 and the changes from her first vis­it in July of 2021 were show­ing he had moved into the next stage of demen­tia. This is when she stressed it would be wise for me to at least get him on the list at a mem­o­ry care facility…just in case we need­ed it some day.…I put that on the back burn­er too.

Again, we kept going and liv­ing our lives and when the end of April rolled around, we took our spring trip with Mom and Steve to DC to see the kids and grand­kids and even though the changes in Joe’s mem­o­ry were notice­able, he was still man­ag­ing pret­ty well in the fam­i­ly activities.

In May, a close friend of mine was com­ing to Indi­ana for a wed­ding and asked if I want­ed to join her. It was in Ft. Wayne and we’d dri­ve up and spend the night and come back the next day. The only way this would work is if Steve could spend the night at our house so Joe would­n’t be alone.

That was the first of my future overnight get­ways with Steve step­ping in to “hang out” with Joe.…we jok­ing­ly called it “Man Camp.”

At the end of Sep­tem­ber, we had a sur­prise 90th birth­day par­ty for Mom and my sis­ter, Car­olyn was here from Aus­tralia. We had extend­ed fam­i­ly fly in from around the coun­try and we all had fun together…and Joe did great with every­one and all the confusion.

By ear­ly Octo­ber, I could tell it was time to get Joe qual­i­fied for the med­ic­aid waiv­er, as in home help was going to be eminent.…Duck # 3 in the row.

Jessie had giv­en me the heads up that if could be a gru­el­ing process and high­ly rec­om­mend­ed using an elder law attor­ney. She was hap­py to hear we already had a rela­tion­shio with Apple­gate & Dill­man and on Octo­ber 12th, I had a con­sult with them of what that process would look like and if they felt con­fi­dent we would qual­i­fy. Steve and Joe’s daugh­ter, Susan, joined me.

And so that process start­ed and hon­est­ly, it was sim­i­lar to get­ting a mort­gage, BUT worth every penny.

The infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing process from me to the lawyers start­ed on Octo­ber 25th, I had to have two CICOA (Cen­tral Indi­ana Coun­cil On Aging) phone inter­views and all of the infor­ma­tion was filled by the attor­ney on Novem­ber 30th.

On Feb­ru­ary 10th, 2023, we received notice from Indi­ana Fam­i­ly and Social Ser­vices that Joe qualified.…this was answered prayers.

And this is also the time I made the calls to get him on the list for a mem­o­ry care facil­i­ty that accept­ed medicaid.…Duck # 4 in the row.

I con­tact­ed an in home health care com­pa­ny that was rec­om­mend­ed to me and put the plan in to motion for a part time care­giv­er so I could have some time “off”.

At this point, I was only tak­ing Joe into the office 3 days a week…staying home Mon­days and Fridays.

Steve stepped up and said he’d like to stay with Joe on Mon­days and Fri­days and I was thrilled. Steve got Joe exer­cis­ing, they did errands togeth­er and enjoyed just hang­ing out read­ing and relax­ing too.

That was the begin­ning of the big­ger bless­ing that start­ed in the mid­dle of May…

The in home health care ser­vices com­pa­ny I talked to, The Mas­ter’s Touch, told us that a fam­i­ly mem­ber can become a paid care­giv­er. Steve went through the ori­en­ta­tion process and every­thing required to become Joe’s full time care­giv­er which was a bless­ing as there were no qual­i­fied care­givers avail­able to help me with Joe.

Ini­tial­ly, Joe qual­i­fied for 40 hours a week of in home care and after a cou­ple months, that was increased to 56 hours a week.

Steve joy­ful­ly showed up every­day, 7 days a week and it was a relief for me know­ing he was get­ting paid for some­thing he would have done for me with­out pay.…it tru­ly does take a village.

And the final Duck in the row…accepting and know­ing your lim­its for care­giv­ing and doing what’s best for your loved one and YOU…Duck # 5…

Until you expe­ri­ence what it’s like to lose a lit­tle bit of some­one day by day, lit­tle by little…I real­ly can’t explain what that’s like.

There were days that I thought if every­thing with Joe’s mem­o­ry loss stayed “just like this”, we could go along for a long time here at home.…but change con­tin­ued to happen.

You MUST accept that once pro­vid­ing care is beyond your skill set, it’s bet­ter for your loved one and YOU to have them with skilled care­givers that are trained for that lev­el of care. 

As I’m writ­ing this, my Mom just called to say HI and catch up on our day and she said Steve went by to vis­it Joe today. Joe was sit­ting with a cou­ple oth­er guys hav­ing lunch togeth­er and was cheer­ful and happy.

You see, it’s BETTER for Joe that he’s around more peo­ple than just Steve and me. The staff keeps them engaged, cared for and SAFE.

I know this post has been a long read, but hon­est­ly, it was a good piece for me to write from a per­son­al place.…very sim­i­lar to the cleans­ing effect writ­ing the post about the scam I expe­ri­enced last summer.…if you haven’t read that one, click here and it will take you there.

Like I said in the begin­ning, if this post helps one per­son to take action or start ask­ing ques­tions, it’s worth it.

What I’ve gone through with Joe has been unbe­liev­ably hard, but I can guar­an­tee if I had­n’t had these things in place before­hand, this expe­ri­ence would have been more than a nightmare.

Mem­o­ry loss can be a sneaky, hid­den dis­ease that can dis­guise itself deep inside the rou­tines of our lives…get your ducks in a row so if that day comes with some­one you love, you’re ready.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This