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Donna Macdiarmid chronicles her husband's descent into dementia

Donna Macdiarmid says these days are far more peaceful than before, when her husband was angry and unpredictible.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

When Roger Macdiarmid was diagnosed in 2001 with Alzheimer's, he was already forgetting things, relying more and more on his wife, Donna, to keep life together.

As his disease progressed, her life gradually became consumed with the role of caregiver. Her journal describes that journey, especially from the darkest months when Roger became so angry and aggressive he had to be hospitalized to the relative peace of his current life in the nursing home.

The following entries begin as Roger's condition begins to decline rapidly, and Donna realizes that for the safety of both of them, she can no longer handle his care alone at home.

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Oct. 21, 2007

"I am so tired and mixed up. I hardly know what day it is. Worked outside for just a little while so sunny and nice. Took a chair out for Roger to sit in the sun but he couldn't content for long.

Nov. 28, 2007

Roger did a lot of pacing after supper. Very confused - felt this wasn't our house, wanted to go home, talked about not knowing who he was, asked about his family. Cried some.

Nov. 29, 2007

The doctor is inclined to change his meds but I am hesitant. Will wait & see. She saw a marked decline.

Dec. 3, 2007

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Storming tonight. Scary. Roger had a terrible evening - pacing, crying, wanting to go home - hitting things, etc. I finally got him quieted down around midnight. If it hadn't been for the storm I would have called 911. I can't do this anymore, but my heart aches for me. He is so tormented.

Dec. 6, 2007

Took my beloved in for a stay at the hospital. Sadly, he is in a 4 bed ward and the noise is overwhelming for him. Got him settled, fed him supper, and it took him until midnight to finally get quieted enough to sleep. I sobbed all the way home.

Dec. 11, 2007

Got to hospital in time to feed Roger his lunch. He seemed glad to see me, but was terribly angry all afternoon - accusing me of seeing a man and that is why I wasn't there.

Dec. 12, 2007

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Roger didn't appear happy to see me ... I snuck out around 7. Later. Called to see how Roger made out getting to sleep and the nurse said they were having a really rough time with him. He became physically aggressive, grabbing one nurse by the arm, elbowing another, etc. They had to put him in the restraining chair again. My heart breaks.

Dec. 15, 2007

Started wearing "pull ups" today and Roger not minding, at least not yet. We managed a hair wash and shower. He wasn't happy but we got it done.

Dec. 16, 2007

Today, in his language, Roger [said] "You're a wonderful woman."

Dec. 17, 2007

Roger had a terrible day today. Agitated, angry, says he wants to kill himself in his language. Paced and the walked the halls all day long ... (I should have kept him, home!) The social worker says I'm going through the normal stages and that I should take some time for myself. I cannot - not yet.

Jan. 3, 2008

Hard day for Roger. Called me a "f----ing Bitch" today but then said "I Love You." So I guess he didn't mean it.

Feb. 3, 2008

Didn't sleep as much today - more lucid - saying heartbreaking things like, "How many children do I have?" "All I want is a good life." "When are you coming home with me?"

Feb. 4, 2008

Roger cried when I arrived at noon...He slept for a while in afternoon and then paced - got very agitated after supper. Thinks he is in a war, people shooting at home, being hit & the pain from the bullets seems real to him.

Feb. 16, 2008

He was actually singing, whistling & showing off for the staff today.

Feb. 29, 2008

The nightmare continues. Hospital by 2 p.m. Roger not doing well - cried when I arrived. Slept a lot in the afternoon but paced & raved for 3 hours...Called the hospital at midnight - he is up again. I can't stand this pain - such pain.

March 4, 2008

Roger barely walking - all bent over and unable to straighten up even when sitting in the chair.

March 10, 2008

Got to hospital in time to feed Roger lunch. He had a terrible morning - took four nurses to get him in the chair, hitting, etc. Poor tortured man! I had my cry & carried on.

April 19, 2008

Went for groceries and then to hospital. Roger calm when I arrived but very agitated after supper - horrible. I cried so many tears behind that wheelchair. Got him to sleep & home by 10. Exhausted. How much longer can we stand this?!

April 27, 2008

...I did get a kiss today without asking.

May 26, 2008

Bad day at hospital. Roger not walking well. Got agitated for some reason (nurses had just changed him) and he hit me in the face with his fist. He looked so sorry after - so sad. Hurt my feelings more than my chin.

June 28, 2008

Went to hospital for 4 but Roger had just gone to sleep. I laid down beside him for a little while & watched him sleep.

July 5, 2008

Roger not having a very good day. Ok until supper and then after I had him outside, doing a lot of hollering - hallucinating. Called me names while I was trying to get him ready for bed. I lost it - could not keep from crying. I couldn't even stand to watch an animal go thru what he is going thru. Horrible!

Sept. 6, 2008

9 months today since Roger went in hospital. Roger slept a lot - no lucid moments today. I am so lonely - miss him and our life so much. Home by 9 or so. Cooked supper.

Sept. 14, 2008

Called me "a beautiful woman" first time in months!

Oct. 3, 2008

I think he had moments when he knew how bad things are. So damn sad it hurts.

Nov. 12, 2008

I said, "I love you, Roger. You love me too, right?" He responded very slowly, "" How wonderful was that?!"

Nov. 24, 2008

Sunny today. Got to hospital by lunch time. Roger awake a while today and smiling at me - what a blessing....made my heart sing.

Dec. 30, 2008

Roger had his best day for weeks - when I got there he was lying in bed talking and chatting away to himself. Put some words together today that I could understand. Smiled a lot - swore some too. I used to hate hearing him swear and now I look forward to those words, any words that I can understand.

Jan. 15, 2009

Roger awake and quite alert. Told me he was "scared." Where do those lucid moments come from?

Jan. 31, 2009

Roger terribly agitated today - but did eat lunch. Hollering, swearing, trying to hit me, says he want to kill me. I lost control and left in tears again.

March 3, 2009

Roger up in his chair today - told me he loved me and chattered a lot this morning.

March 19, 2009

Roger admitted to Pine Grove nursing home today.

April 8, 2009

They put him in a Lazy Boy [chair]to have supper - for a change of position. He loved it - and I was in tears (and so were the nurses.) He hasn't been in a Lazy Boy chair for a year and a half!

May 2, 2009

When I asked for a kiss goodnight, he said, "Yes, you sure can," and puckered up and gave me a kiss - nurses teared up.

May 8, 2009

I'm getting so tired! ... He was awake when I arrived, and it was wonderful to see those blue eyes again.

June 14, 2009

When to see my "darlin." No sign of recognition - fairly agitated. Went in to bed at 7. I gave him a backrub and came home to this lonely house.

December 2009

Roger looked up at me said, "I love you." I cried and cried - it had been so long.

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