A few years into the illness, Janie could sense it worsening. Buzz, who had never yelled at her, now did so at the drop of a hat. Once, when she was heating up some water to make tea, Buzz towered over Janie screaming “No!” for no apparent reason. His ability to take social cues diminished, and he came off to people as rude. Small tasks like washing dishes and folding laundry soon became overwhelming—Buzz seemed to get lost while attempting them.
On any given day, Janie didn’t know which tasks Buzz could or couldn’t handle.
When Janie decided Buzz could no longer take care of their big green lawn, she hired a landscaper. But as soon as Buzz saw a stranger mowing outside, he threw a patio chair at the man. In the future, it was decided, Buzz would need to be away from the house when the yard was being tended.
Between medical appointments, keeping her own work on track, and dodging the curveballs Buzz’s dementia threw at her, Janie was overwhelmed. It wasn’t just the effort that wore her down. Seeing her soulmate changing, diminishing, becoming helpless, was draining. “You are constantly trying to figure out what to do,” Janie said. “That tension is exhausting emotionally.”
She realized that Danny was who she could call. “I got the feeling that he was a person who took great care and was thorough and patient,” Janie said. “I had the idea that he might be a good caregiver.”
Janie called Danny on Christmas Eve, and the next day he left the Upper Peninsula. Janie asked him to stay for a few months, but it wasn’t long before Danny again made a choice: Buzz would be his reason for living, and this time Janie would be too. “I will stay,” Danny told Janie, “until the end.”
And then there was the excrement. It wasn’t so much that Buzz couldn’t control his bowel movements but that he’d forgotten where he was supposed to have them and what they were even for. Danny once opened the fridge and found a Pyrex bowl full of feces. Buzz would leave poop on the kitchen counter or on furniture, where Danny would quickly scoop it up to stop it from soaking into the fabric.
When Buzz awoke with soiled sweatpants, Danny cleaned him up. This presented another challenge: Buzz didn’t like showers or baths, because his condition made him extremely sensitive to stimuli. Danny’s only option was to sponge-bathe him. Buzz, who was a foot taller than Danny, would stand on a towel in the kitchen as Danny reached into a bucket of soapy water and asked permission to wash each part of Buzz’s body.
Featured image taken from original article. Photo by Janie Paul showing Danny cutting Buzz’s hair.