Mac and Kathryn are a couple based out of Spokane. Kathryn is living with dementia and Mac is her full-time caregiver. The following is the story of their journey together with dementia.
Mac met his wife Kathryn in Seattle on Dec. 8, 2006. Kathryn answered a Craigslist ad Mac had placed, looking for friendship. The pair quickly became friends. “I found a great friend, and soon a partner, in Kathryn,” said Mac.
Shortly after they met, Mac began struggling with depression, and there were days when he couldn’t get out of bed except to walk the dog and occasionally eat. “Kathryn saw me through that time with great love and compassion,” said Mac. “She accepted my suicidal thoughts while simultaneously giving me a reason to live. She also got me to continue searching for help even though I was so completely discouraged,” he said.
Because of her “gentle, and not so gentle” pushing, Kathryn eventually got Mac to make an appointment with a psychiatric nurse to figure out the right combination of medications to bring him out of that dark place. “So in no uncertain terms, Kathryn saved my life,” said Mac. “We were brand new partners and she stood by me for a long time. I’ll never stop being grateful to her for that.” Mac describes Kathryn as a person who is curious, sweet, loving and funny. “She makes people happy,” he said.
Kathryn had a career as a technical writer. Around 2013, she lost her job, and that’s when it started to become evident that Kathryn was changing. “I now think they might have been noticing a drop in productivity,” Mac said about Kathryn’s former employer.
When Kathryn was let go from her job, she was stunned to find herself struggling to create a resume or even search online for a new position. After a year or so of struggling to find work, she was hired on as a contractor for Microsoft; but by that time, she could not remember how to use the software anymore. She had forgotten her old skills and had difficulty learning new ones. She could not hold down any new jobs.
In 2016, the couple decided to move to Spokane to be closer to Mac’s mother. “Kathryn continued to get worse and I grew more concerned,” Mac said. After going to a neurologist, Kathryn was diagnosed with dementia with Lewy bodies in late 2016 at the age of 55.
Kathryn’s diagnosis is now being re-examined as possible Posterior cortical atrophy. The road to a proper dementia diagnosis can be tricky and sometimes isolating.
Mac’s advice to others going through similar situations with their loved ones: “Listen to those that say you need help. Listen early on and find as much help as you can. It will get more and more difficult to reach out, the longer you wait.”
Mac is now Kathryn’s full-time caregiver, and receives only six hours of respite care a month. “I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought,” Mac said. “I’ve learned that I love Kathryn more than I realized. I’ve learned that there are a lot of people out there whose jobs and calling is to help. I’ve learned that slowly losing my wife is the most painful thing I’ve experienced. I would do it all again, though.”