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16, 2015

…bringing awareness

Volume 5, Issue 5

The Memory People Page
For this month’s issue of The Memory People Page,
we have an interview with one of our Mp members,
Karen Downing.
Karen walked this journey of dementia with her
husband, Bud.

changing lives…

In this interview she shares how they faced his
diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, together.

Karen, how did dementia come into your lives?
My husband, Bud, was teaching 6th grade when he began telling me things confused
him in his class. He was 60. He said he would start to teach how to work a problem but
then couldn't remember how to finish it. He had trouble remembering his class
schedule and when he was in the wrong place would just sit there in an empty room
because he couldn't figure out what to do.
I was alarmed but he assured me it was just stress and he took early retirement.
Instead of improving after his retirement, things got worse. Because I was working
full time, he wanted to help me by paying the bills.
He couldn't remember where to sign the check nor could he remember which corner of
an envelope to put the stamp on. 6 months later he reluctantly agreed to see his Dr.
6 months after that, after rounds of testing to eliminate anything else, he was
diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
How did you both handle the news?
Did either one of you, or both,
struggle with denial?
The diagnosis of Alzheimer's was a relief
for me. I'd known for two years
something was very wrong, but Bud
insisted I was just exaggerating his
problems. I felt like now that we knew
why he was acting the way he was we
could make a plan for dealing with it. It
was the unknown that was hard for me.
Bud, on the other hand, was
devastated. He insisted it wasn't that
bad and forbid me to tell anyone, even
our children.

Oct. 16, 2015

Volume 5, Issue 5

We'd always been honest with each other and I wasn't comfortable going behind
his back so I kept it to myself. I recently found a note he'd written in that time
In it, he said, "The dr. says I have Alzheimer's but I don't feel like there's much
wrong, I don't think it will get really bad for another 20 or even 40 years."
The stress for me was terrible, feeling I couldn't share with anyone. How I wish
I'd had Memory People then! In time people began to notice and ask me what
was wrong and I answered their questions honestly, getting Bud's permission to
tell our kids first.
It took several years for him to be willing to say anything but a few times he
admitted it in answer to someone's question. One time was when a neighbor
asked how old he was and Bud answered "I don't know."
The neighbor accused him of not wanting to tell and Bud replied, "I really don't
know because I have Alzheimer's". Poor neighbor was so embarrassed! But that
was a big step forward for Bud in acceptance.

Karen, how was Bud able to get his heart wrapped around what was
happening? And what was the impact on you, when he did come to
acceptance of this?
Bud's first reaction was that he must have done something terrible to disqualify
himself from ministry and that God had put him on a shelf. I reminded him that
he had told God he would allow God to use him (Bud) in whatever way God
We talked long about how Bud's desire was for his life to be used to bring others
to Christ and that if our friends and family watched us deal with the most terrible
of circumstances with still a smile on our faces, a song in our hearts and still
praising God, that might speak to them in a way we could not do if our lives never
had any problems.
That was what made the difference in him being able to accept it. This also made
him realize that if we were going to be a testimony to others through this that we
had to be very transparent in sharing everything that was happening.
He told me to share anything I thought would help anyone else. Once he realized
God could use his illness for good he found peace with it. And his peace of course
helped me.

Oct. 16, 2015

Volume 5, Issue 5

Bud Downing was set free from Alzheimer’s Disease on July 9th, 2015 ♥
One last question. If you were asked to give one piece of advice to others
who are in this journey, what would that be?
have shared
that many
have asked
‘how are
you often.
is almost
easy because
it's something
I've thought
something to be thankful for every day.
I find that a hard question to answer. When I think of the parting from the one I
be thankful
I metishim,
51 years
now, thefor.
one Don't
I loved
for time
your loved
one can't
do any and
Enjoy what
they did
At I
better orabout
for richer
or poorer,
in sickness
in health,
till death
feel like my heart has been ripped out.
And yet, love means wanting the best for the loved one, so how can I not rejoice to
think of what he is experiencing in heaven? And I do not feel as overcome with grief
as I expected I would.
I have been re-reading a book written by a dear friend at the time of the death of her
son. It lists different symptoms of grief: loss of appetite, lack of sleep, worn out with
crying, fear, depression, numbness, loss of joy. I am not experiencing any of those
But these symptoms very much describe the way both Bud and I reacted to his
diagnosis with Alzheimer's Disease. We went through a period of grieving for what
we knew we would lose, followed by coming to acceptance and finding much joy in
each day.
I went through these stages of grief again when I had to place Bud in a nursing
home. I experienced then what most widows experience for the first time at the
death of their husband; knowing we would never take a trip together again, reaching
for him in the night and finding an empty spot, waking up in the morning without him
Once again grieving was followed by adjustment to a new normal. So, I believe my
grieving now is lessened because it had already started in the past. I think this is
true for our children as well as they have lost their dad in stages.
I shed tears every day but I am not consumed by crying as I was at the previous
times of grieving. I feel sad but I am not consumed by sadness and I find many
reasons to rejoice each day.

Our last question. If you were asked to give one piece of advice to others
who are in this journey, what would that be?
That one's almost easy because it's something I've thought about often. Find
something to be thankful for, every day.

Oct. 16, 2015

Volume 5, Issue 5
Even on the worst days there is always
something to be thankful for. Don't waste
time thinking about what your loved one
can't do any more.
Enjoy what they can do. At the end of his
life all Bud could do was smile, but I
treasured that smile.
Thank you, Karen, for your candidness and
openness in sharing your story with us. ♥

The Caregiver Corner
Pick your battles. Remember, the three most important things:
Are they Safe?
Are they Pain Free?
Are they Content?
If you can say yes to these three things, you are doing the very best you can. Some
days you will and can do more, some days you will be lucky to answer yes to any of
those three questions.
Take one day at a time. Do the very best you are able to, to take care of your loved
one. And know when it is time to ask for help. Sooner or later you will need help.

The Memory People Page™ is a publication of
Memory People, Inc., an Alzheimer’s/Dementia and Memory Impairment
Support and Service Organization.
If you would like to start receiving this newsletter, to submit a story, or contact the editor,
please email Leeanne Chames at
If you or a loved one has been touched by any type of dementia or memory impairment, if you
are an advocate, or if you want to know more about dementia, please join us for 24/7
support and awareness at Memory People Online, on Facebook.

“…bringing Awareness, changing lives…”
Copyright ©2015 Memory People, Inc.

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