Dear Annie: It’s just an idea, but maybe “Missing My Things’ ” husband has dementia, not compulsive decluttering.
A few years ago, I discovered too late that while I was out grocery shopping my 77-year-old husband found a storage bin labeled “Smith Family Mementos” in a closet, went through it and threw most of it in the garbage before I got back. I didn’t notice anything was missing until days later, long after the garbage truck had come and gone.
My husband was in the early, undiagnosed and unrecognized stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently, as he lifted each photo, each handwritten letter, each diploma and report card out of the bin, he didn’t recognize the person or remember the event associated with it, so he threw it away. Not long after, I started finding other important items in the trash, such as old military uniforms and important medical records.
Dementia doesn’t just affect memory; it also affects judgment and time perception. With each passing day, dementia patients live more and more in the present only.
Since my husband’s been diagnosed, I’ve moved proactively to clear our house of small but important items by shipping them off to relatives for safekeeping or putting them in lockable filing cabinets and lockboxes that I get from Office Depot.
I hope this suggestion keeps other families from losing their precious heirlooms and important records to the awful disease of dementia. — Learned Too Late
Dear Learned Too Late: Thank you for sharing your experience to inform readers of the warning signs of dementia. And I’m struck by your knowledge and acceptance, without blame, of your husband’s disease. Your wisdom is appreciated.
Dear Annie: Here’s an idea for people to pass the time while staying at home: Get a journal and write down memories of your childhood and your life today. Fill it with memories of your family, parents, grandparents, etc., and interesting things about them that future generations would not know without your journal. You are never too young or too old to start this. Many of us are senior citizens and a lot of families don’t talk about times gone by with the younger generations.
I don’t remember much family talk when I was younger. I was in my 50s when I realized I didn’t know anything about family beyond my grandparents. Communications had been lost with my dad’s family. My mother’s family lived in my state. I sent out letters to all my mother’s nieces and nephews requesting information about names, birthdates, marriages and children in exchange for me putting it all together and sending them copies. One of my mother’s sisters was still living and was able to provide me with the names of her grandparents and great-grandparents. I started researching on the internet in 2000 and was put together my maternal family from my great-great-grandparents forward, which I shared with everyone who wanted a copy. By putting my family trees on Ancestry.com, I was able to establish contact with an aunt and several cousins. One cousin who grew up and lived in the area where my maternal grandparents resided has shared many memories with me of my grandparents’ lives. I just wish I had looked into this earlier. Unfortunately, by the time we realize how little we know about the older generations, the people are gone. These journals would enlighten future generations to good times and hardships. — 81 and Wishing I Knew More
Dear 81: What a great idea. It gives each of us a moment to recognize all we have accomplished and survived while creating something for future generations.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.