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The ‘hair in the head’

Jerry Rush, who has Lewy Body Dementia, hugs his wife inside his room while tearing up inside the Memory Care Unit at Brookdale Citrus Senior Living Solutions in Lecanto. “I love them all,” Jerry said about his family. “I love my wife more than anything I can say ... I don’t know where I am anymore. I’m gonna die soon.”

Amber Sigman – For the Chronicle

Tears roll down his face as he realizes these could be his final days. “Is this the end of my life?” Jerry Rush says. -

He looks out the window, then sits with his wife. Vivid memories of the war roll in. “He’s back on the ship, from World War II,” his wife Joye Rush tells a visitor. She thinks her husband is working through the emotions of war, where he was the youngest guy on the ship, just 17, a gunner at sea.

Jerry: Why can’t I go? They are trying to kill me.
Joye: Nobody is trying to kill you. The VA says you need to be here. (Something she tells her husband, because explaining the truth is hard for him)

Jerry began showing signs of dementia eight years ago, but the symptoms increased. Symptoms like shuffling of the
feet, reminiscing memories and hallucinations — like the time he thought fireworks outside were enemies from the war. Jerry has Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that shares symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, affecting cognitive ability, sleep and behaviors, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. Now he has his own way of understanding dementia, which he calls “the hair in the head.”

Joye: Do you know what’s wrong with you, honey? Jerry: Oh the stuff in my head? Yeah, they can’t get it out. ... I mean, you could rub my head and you don’t feel anything, but there’s something going on up there. ... Joye: But there’s no known cure for it, is there?

Joye, a retired director of nursing, met Jerry at a poolside party 26 years ago. She recalls a wonderful relationship, and describes him as a warm loving, gentle soul, which hasn’t changed other than the disease progressing.

Joye had promised her husband that she’d never put him away in old age, but things changed. He began flailing from dreams, accidentally hurting her in the night. Then he would get up in the night unsupervised. Soon after she had a stroke.

So she checked her husband into the memory care unit at Brookdale Citrus Senior Living Solutions in Lecanto.

“It truly has made a difference for me,” Joye said. “As a caregiver, you need to remember to take time for yourself. The stress is gone. It really has been a help having him here.”

Jerry: The best thing I’ve got in my life is my wife. Joye: You got me and I come all the time. Jerry: You know, I was never a cry boy. Just sometimes I get something ...(starts to tear up again)

His mind goes back to life on the battle ship, then he’s called to dinner. He waves goodbye, as she carries out the dogs, that he calls “the kids.” Tomorrow she will be back to see him again.
Posted on 17 Mar 2017

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