I took care of Bob here in Bali for the first ten years of Alzheimer’s. Our carving and jewelry business has always been in our house along with five employees working six days a week. As Bob progressed further into the disease we all started taking over more of his responsibilities in a natural way.
When it became apparent that he couldn’t work any longer I hired a man to take over his duties and Bob retired to the garden. Gardening became his passion/obsession. For a couple of years it kept him busy and was self regulating so we could continue our work.
Eventually though, the disease meddled in that too and he needed increasingly more supervision. Stretched to my limit I worked at keeping him as anxiety free as possible, while keeping our business on track until it was too much to handle.
I put an ad in the Bali Advertiser and eventually found two men willing to learn to care for Bob. Ketut had worked with a man who was completely wheelchair bound but whose mind was brilliant. Nano had never done care giving but had a better command of English. We three set to working on a care program for Bob - it felt like we were reinventing the wheel.
The Balinese are overall a caring and compassionate people. They take care of their elderly right in the multifamily compound. There are no Alzheimer’s units here. Nano and Ketut have this in their genes and most importantly they are patient and smart and always on the look out for new ‘tricks’ as they refer to anything they do to keep Bob safe and happy.
“Bob there’s a cookie for you in the kitchen,” calls out Ketut to Bob going in search of the car he can no longer drive. By the time Bob turns around to satisfy his sweet tooth he’s forgotten about the car as well as the cookie.
“Bob can you help me with my English?” asks Nano as Bob is about to hack a stand of bamboo down with a machete that was supposed to be hidden. Bob puts down the sickle and comes to help, allowing Ketut to hid the tool again.
It isn’t easy at first as Bob is often suspicious of these two men but eventually he accepts them as they spend more and more time with him, finally taking over his care completely, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We hire two more men to build the team to four. But that’s another story.
Nano and Ketut saved my sanity. Living in Bali has saved both Bob and I.