Welcome to Living With Alzheimer’s

January 1, 2020

This site consists of a journal I started on January 21, 2011. That was the date on which my wife, Kate, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is an account of our lives since that time and includes the symptoms Kate has displayed as well as how we have adapted. You will also learn about our frustrations and problems.

At the time of this site’s launch on January 21, 2018, I uploaded almost  700 journal entries. Since then, I have added 1000 more. I continue to write new posts, but  I don’t have a regular schedule. I write them as new things occur. Sometimes I may not write anything for a day or so. Other days I may make two or three entries.

What may surprise you is how much we have been able to enjoy life and each other even as we experience the toughest challenges of this disease. In that respect, we have been more fortunate than most couples who travel this road. The past year Kate has declined significantly and is now in Stage 7 of the 7-Stage Model of the Progression of Alzheimer’s, but our relationship remains strong. She expresses more irritability now, but she is also much more dependent and very appreciative of what I do for her. Yesterday, she thanked me for taking care of her, and said, “I don’t know how you do it.”  None of us knows what life will be like a year from now, but I plan for us to enjoy ourselves as much as we can for as long we can. That seems to have worked in the past.

Thanks for your visit.

Richard Creighton                                                                                                 @LivingWthAlz

“Happy Moments” at Unexpected Times

As a caregiver, I put a lot of effort into thinking about ways to entertain Kate. I am often successful. I know that she responds to music and has some favorites to which she is especially drawn. Her family is also important to her. Showing her photos and telling her or reading about them is usually of interest. Taking “tours” of the rooms in our house is also a winner. I feel fortunate to have a toolbox with a variety of things that work. Of course, there are times when I am less successful than others, but there are also times when I don’t have to work at all to have “Happy Moments.” That was true on Monday of this week.

It was about 6:45. I had a load of clothes in the washer. I was looking forward listening to my book while walking, but first, I wanted my breakfast. The eggs were on the counter, and I was about to put the oil in the frying pan when I heard Kate say, “Hey.” I started to the bedroom and found her in the hallway. She had gotten out of bed and was looking for me. Although she seemed wide awake, she wasn’t sure where she was going and wanted my help.

I took her to the bathroom. Like most days, she wanted me to give her directions on everything. Sometimes when this happens, she resists my help. Not this time. She was very accepting but in a very natural way. She didn’t seem especially insecure and expressed no special emotion.

Of all the things I have worried about helping with bathroom activities were near the top of the list. Toileting and showering involve the most personal assistance, and I have resisted diving right in. Thus, it has been a long, gradual process. Yesterday it was clear that we have found our way to a comfortable place for both of us.

Although Kate always seems to enjoy her shower, she usually resists my effort to get her to take one in the first place. She seemed so compliant that I said, “This seems like a good time for a shower. Would you like that?” She paused a moment and said, “I don’t know.” That gave me the opportunity to be more assertive. I said, “I think that would be a good idea. I’ll start the shower for you.” That is all it took.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that once in the shower, she likes me to play an active role in bathing her. That works for me as well since it is easier than giving her instructions, and we can finish more quickly. She plays the role of director, making sure that I haven’t missed any places.

Kate enjoys the drying off process even more than showering. I have learned it is better to begin in the shower. That works better than walking out into a cold bathroom. Then I take her to the bedroom and put her in a chair where we finish up. At this point, she is fully relaxed, and I often joke that she is at “Richard’s Spa.” She often directs me to places that I may have missed, especially between her toes. I rarely get the deodorant on just the way she wants it. She lets me know right away. This part went swimmingly well. She seemed to be luxuriating in being cared for.

As she does on most shower days, she wanted to get back in bed. Since it was still quite early, that was fine with me. I did wonder what she might be like a little later. Sometimes her mood can change after resting or going back to sleep. The whole process of getting her up, showered, and back in bed had been another “Happy Moment.”

As someone who likes to eat very shortly after getting up and dressed, I was ready for my breakfast. She wanted me to stay in the room with her. I asked if it would be all right if I ate my breakfast and then came back. She was fine with that. After eating, I stayed with her until she woke up about 9:00. She was fine except for wanting me to take her home. I told her I would be glad to and had her clothes all ready for her. I don’t often mention it, but we also have many humorous moments. One of those occurred after she was dressed. I got her hairbrush, and as I did, I thought of an old song our grandchildren used to like, “Where is my Hairbrush?” Kate and I always thought it was a funny song as well. I started to sing it. Kate laughed as I forgot the lyrics. Then I went to Google and played the original song. We both got a kick out of it. It’s just one little thing that helped sustain an already good day.

Her eagerness to go “home” made dressing a simple matter. We were at Panera before 9:45. She worked on her puzzles, ate her muffin, and I took her home. She rested less than an hour before I suggested we go to lunch. She was receptive. As we walked out of the house into the garage, we faced one of our few rough patches during the day. It was bizarre. She was disturbed. It was difficult to understand her. It seems she had some connection with a group of people who had killed a woman and that she hadn’t told the authorities. She felt guilty. When I asked for an explanation, she didn’t want to talk about it. Nothing more was said, and, moments later, she was fine. I’ll add this to my list of things I’ll never understand.

We had a nice lunch and went back to the house where she rested for at least two hours. Then I asked if she would like for the two of us to look at one of her family photo books. She did, and we spent almost an hour reading from a book about her mother’s family. I didn’t try to go through the photos. Instead I read the narrative portion that focuses on biographical information about her grandparents and Battle Creek where her mother was born. She loved it, and although we revisit this album frequently, I loved going through it with her. The lunch and afternoon turned out to be another “Happy Moment.”

The rest of the day also went well except for a brief period after coming home from dinner. Kate worked on her iPad for a short time and became frustrated. She reached a point at which she didn’t know what to do at all. I suggested she take a break and get ready for bed. She was happy to do that. Her confusion continued as she took her medications. I gave them to her one at a time, but she didn’t know what to do with them. She started to put the first one in her glass of water. I explained that she should put it in her mouth and then use the water to wash it down. After the first two pills, she caught on. Then I took her to the bathroom and helped her into her gown. Once she was in bed she was quite relaxed.

The day was a good one. It also captures the way we can shift back and forth between good things and trying ones. I am grateful that most of our days include a preponderance of “Happy Moments.”

Reflecting on Our “Good Days”

At this stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I think a lot about the amount of quality time we have left. I don’t mean that I bask in sorrow. I don’t, but I recognize she is in the last stage when we are likely to make more adjustments to our lives than we have done before.

At the moment, however, I am particularly struck by the “Good Days” we have. It not only surprises me; it keeps my spirits up. We had two of those days this weekend. I would like to be able to take credit for them, but I think the fundamental cause was Kate’s mood. She was in very good spirits both Saturday and Sunday.

I might also expect that her good mood was accompanied by a lack of confusion, but that isn’t so. Saturday, she appeared to be rather clear-headed except for wondering where she was. I don’t recall her asking my name. That happens off and on. Sunday morning, she was very confused. She didn’t know my name or hers and couldn’t remember them well enough to repeat them. What made me feel good was that she didn’t seem disturbed at all about not knowing. I am thankful that is typical.

In addition to her good mood, our time together seemed special. Our obligations were minimal. The only official commitment was our dinner reservation Saturday night. She was up earlier than usual both days. We didn’t have to rush. That kind of schedule is the best for her and, thus, for me as well.

We also had a couple of special moments on Saturday. Both occurred after resting in the afternoon. One of those was my reading her a portion of a book about her family’s wedding veil. I’ve read it to her multiple times in recent weeks, but she is always taken with it. She did get tired and wanted to rest before we got well into it.

The second experience was after her second rest. She commented on a few things in the family room that led me to suggest that I show her some of the other rooms. On the way to the back of the house, we passed several photos and stopped to look at them while I told her a little about each one.

The next stop was our guest bedroom. Of course, she had no recollection of it at all and liked what she saw. She got tired of standing and asked if she could sit in a rocking chair. I saw a photo album of our children during their earliest years. We spent quite a while looking at it and never got to another room.

When we finished, it was time to get ready for dinner. This was the only moment in the day that could have become a problem. I had planned a nice Valentine’s dinner at one of the restaurants we usually visit for lunch. I suggested we change clothes and had picked out exactly what I wanted her to wear, but she didn’t want to change. I told her we were going out for a nice dinner, and I was going to put on something a little nicer. She was fine with that but wasn’t going to change. I didn’t push her.

A few minutes later after I had changed, she asked what I wanted her to wear. I told her I would get something and brought her the clothes I had picked out. She had apparently forgotten the conversation we had just had a few minutes before. I helped her change, and we were off.

The dinner itself went as I had hoped. We were welcomed by the manager, our server, and another server who sometimes works as a hostess. They had selected a corner table that was perfect for the occasion. The meal itself was quite good. In addition, a couple we know from our music nights at Casa Bella were seated at the table next to us. I don’t recall our talking about Valentine’s Day at all or anything else especially romantic. We just had a good time together.

Kate was up early Sunday morning. We spent a little less than an hour at Panera before returning home where she rested an hour before leaving for lunch. The restaurant was unusually busy. Consequently, it took longer to be served, but we had a good time. I haven’t said anything in a while about her asking Sinatra’s name when she looks at his mug shot, but that hasn’t let up. She is well-aware that she repeatedly asks and wonders why she can’t seem to remember it, but she doesn’t appear to be very disturbed.

She rested after we returned home with music playing as usual. She awoke about an hour before dinner. I suggested we take a look at a few things around the house. We began with some photos in the family room. As often as she has looked at them, I am amazed and happy that she enjoys them just like it was the first time to see them.

From there we went into the living room and dining room where I showed her a number of things that came from her parents’ home. I enjoy telling her the stories behind each of the items, and she was entranced. It was another special moment.

We are both fortunate that repetition has not diminished the pleasure for either of us. She can’t remember, so it is always new. I like telling her things she can’t remember and seeing her reaction as I tell her. I read a lot about other caregivers’ experiences and know that many of them are bothered by so much repetition. I wish I knew how to help them. My experience is different. Whatever the reason, we have been able to maintain a relationship that has been important in helping both of us adapt to all the changes we have had to make. She feels dependent on me and is normally responsive to the things I want her to do. I want to deserve her trust and work hard to make her life as happy as I can. One of the ways I can do that is to answer her questions and do the things she enjoys so much. I believe each of us loves the other more now than at any other time in our marriage. I think that carries us a long way.

I continue to be mindful of the pleasure she and I can experience through her intuitive abilities. I like to think this is something from which other caregivers could benefit to make their loads lighter. At the same time, I recognize the likelihood that many of them are facing other challenges that we have not faced. Among those would be health and financial constraints. I feel for them and am grateful that at this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I see little, if any, loss of pleasure that comes from music, beauty, and associations with family. How long will this last? We will see. I am hopeful that it will continue for some time.

Diversion Seems to Work (At Least Yesterday)

Yesterday, Kate woke up and wanted to go home. We went to lunch. She forgot about home and didn’t mention it again. On a number of other occasions, I have found that going out for a meal is an effective diversion technique.

We had a sitter during the afternoon. When I got home, Kate was resting. I spoke to her, and she talked with me as though I were entering a dream with her. She thought someone had had a baby and asked me about him. At some points, I thought she was talking about having had a baby herself. Other times, it seemed like it might have been a son or daughter though she never said specifically. She was excited, and said, “We have a baby.” She asked “his” name, and I gave her the name of her father. She was thrilled. Not long after that, she asked “her” name. I gave her the name of her mother. She was equally excited. She continued talking about the baby after we were seated at the restaurant. She wanted to know when she would be able to hold it. She also wanted to know where the baby was. I found this to be a challenging conversation. Once I had started to go along with her, I found myself having to get more creative in answering her questions. I decided it might be good to redirect her attention and suggested that we go to dinner. She wanted to rest a little longer and asked if the doctor said it was all right. I told her he said it was fine, and we left for our Friday night pizza.

Her enthusiasm continued in the car and at the restaurant. It lasted so long that I thought the conversation might continue even after we got home. At one point, she asked if the children had called. I told her they hadn’t and explained they had been busy. She couldn’t believe they hadn’t even called and said, “But it’s our baby.” Fortunately, when the pizza arrived, her attention drifted to eating. I didn’t hear a word about the baby after that.

Examples of Kate’s Decline

Each morning I find myself wondering “What’s in store for today?” Even though most days go well, I am always on alert for problems. That’s how I was two days ago. I knew the sitter was to arrive at 1:00 and that I had an appointment to donate platelets shortly after that. I wanted to get her up in time for us to have lunch together. Around 9:00, I was encouraged when I heard her talking . I went back to the bedroom. She greeted me with a smile and chatted a few minutes. She said she was waiting for someone to take her home. I told her I would be happy to do that. She said that her mother would do it. Then she said it was “that guy” whose name she couldn’t recall. I asked her if she was ready to get up. She wasn’t. I told her I would be in the kitchen and to call me when she was ready. I was going to give her another hour or so before going in again, but less than thirty minutes passed before I heard her say, “I’m here.” She was ready to go home.

I took her to Panera for a muffin and then to lunch. As my previous posts about her sleeping later suggests, she gets very tired. She had taken her place on the sofa in the family room before Mary arrived. She was still there when I returned. During the past two or three weeks, with a couple of exceptions, she appears to have rested the entire time the sitters were here. Although she is comfortable with both sitters, I have the impression that she is going through a stage when she feels especially dependent on me and simply waits for me to come home. I am sure that is true with respect to using the bathroom. I’m only aware of one time she has gone to the bathroom while the sitter is here. That was recently when the sitter helped her get up and dressed after she had slept late.

I see this dependency in other small ways. She likes me to sit beside her when we sit in a booth at restaurant. The same is true at Casa Bella when we are seated at a table for six or eight. She wants to hold my hand more often when we are walking. She wants more instructions about what to do when toileting, brushing teeth, taking a shower, getting ready for bed. She hasn’t given up all signs of independence, but she is coming close to that.

She is forgetting a lot with respect to eating. She often points to the bread on the table at a restaurant and asks what it is. When I tell her, it doesn’t necessarily help. She is still a good eater, but she often fails to recognize the entree on her plate. She doesn’t recognize the salt and pepper at our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Part of the confusion is that they are in the small Corona beer bottles, but the salt and pepper are clearly visible though not to her.

She also worries more frequently. Sometimes it involves a belief that she has an obligation of some sort. She worries about whether she has forgotten to do something. She also worries about people who have financial and health problems. The other night she talked a good while about some kind of disease that is being transmitted from mothers to their babies. She said there was a preventive medication that mothers can take. She told me she was planning to have herself tested. On the way to dinner last night, she was worried she might have done something to me that she shouldn’t. I assured her she hadn’t.

I also notice she isn’t as cheerful throughout the day. I think that goes along with her being tired. She does, however, have moments off and on during the day when she is very lighthearted and takes great pleasure in teasing me.

Taken together these things and many others are signs of the progression of her Alzheimer’s. We still have “Happy Moments,” but it is clear that I am unable to control everything. Some people suggest the disease always wins. In a sense this is true; however, I consider it a victory that we have been able to live happily, even joyfully, for so long. I intend for us to do as much as we can as long as we can, but I also recognize the reality that Kate’s decline means significant changes in our lifestyle.

A Nice Day with a Sad Ending

I am often worried that I will have a problem getting Kate up on days when the sitter comes or when we have some other commitment. Yesterday was one of those. I had planned to attend a luncheon sponsored by the health foundation on whose board I had served. It had been a while since I had attended any of their events and was eager to be there. Cindy, Kate’s Monday sitter, had an opening yesterday, so it was all arranged.

To top it off, getting Kate up was no problem at all. She woke up on her own around 8:30. and wanted me to take her home. That meant getting her ready was easy. We drove over to Panera where I got her a muffin and brought her home shortly before Cindy arrived. As usual, Kate was tired and got on the sofa to rest. She was wide awake when Cindy got here. She greeted her warmly and showed no reluctance to my leaving.

I enjoyed the luncheon. I got to see a good number of people I hadn’t seen in a while and sat by someone I hadn’t known and got acquainted with her. It was a therapeutic outing for me.

Kate was still resting on the sofa when I got home. Cindy said she hadn’t moved since I left. She also went to be early.

I watched some of the coverage of the New Hampshire primary and went to bed later. I know that Kate was asleep at least off and on before then. When I got in bed, I discovered that she was very uneasy. We began what turned out to be a long conversation. She wanted me to help her and asked where she was, who she was, who I was, and who her parents were. She repeatedly asked the same questions over and over again for almost an hour. As quickly as I gave my answers, she forgot them. I spoke to her very calmly and suggested that I would be able to show her some photos that might help her understand. She didn’t want to look at anything then. Throughout our conversation she was very comfortable with me even though she didn’t recognize our relationship. I told her we had been together a long time, and she asked if I were her husband. When I told her, she didn’t express surprise. It was a simple acceptance of what I had said. At one point, she told me that these were important things that she ought to know. I agreed and told her to count on me to answer all her questions.

It was a sad situation and one I couldn’t solve. It wasn’t like some other incidents in which she was frightened or desperately worried about why she didn’t know these things, but she was concerned and felt she should know. Finally, we both thought we should get some sleep, and we did.

Another Good Day and a Reminder of the Kindness of Strangers

As I had hoped, we got our week off to a good start. I didn’t have to struggle with Kate to get her up. When I checked on her around 10:30, she was awake and quite cheerful. We had no trouble getting to lunch and back by the time the sitter arrived at 1:00. Not only that, but Kate was happy to see Cindy and didn’t express any reluctance about my leaving. She was tired and getting ready to rest. When I returned home, she was still resting. Cindy said she hadn’t moved from the sofa the entire time I was gone. She was glad to see me.

We went out for our regular Mexican meal at Chalupas where we enjoyed our meal and conversation. As she does more often these days, she wanted me to sit beside her in the booth rather than across the way I normally do. This was another occasion when we were the recipients of the kindness of strangers. We were earlier than usual, and there were only a couple of other parties there when we arrived. One of them was a young couple seated across the room from us. The man was African American and the young lady with him was Asian. They were almost twenty feet apart, and we never spoke. They left about fifteen minutes before we did. They walked past us, and the man said, “Have a good night.” When it was time for our check, our server told us it was taken care of. I was surprised and thought the restaurant was treating us. That’s when he said it was paid for by the couple who just left.

That is the third time we have had that experience in the past few months. In the other two cases, however, I knew or had a pretty good idea of who the people were. They were people who are well aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s. This time it was a couple we had never seen before, and our server said he had never seen them in the restaurant before.

I wonder what prompted them to do this. I do know that Kate is very slow, and it took a long time for me to help her take off her sweater and then to be seated. The couple may have noticed and thought Kate was handicapped in some way. Our server suggested that not many couples sit side-by-side in a booth unless they are with another couple. Maybe they were taken with an old couple who are still in love. Whatever it was, it made quite an impression on us.

The rest of our evening went well as it usually does. I am glad that we can have days like this even at this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s.

No “Sleeping-In” Yesterday

Following two consecutive days of not wanting to get up, Kate awoke early yesterday and wanted “to get out’a here.” Except for believing she was in an unfamiliar place, she was in a good mood. For me, one of the good things about her wanting to get away is that it makes it easier and faster to get her up and dressed. We were at Panera before 10:30. She worked on her iPad but focused mainly on her blueberry muffin and wanted another. I told her we would be going to lunch in thirty minutes and asked if she could wait. She was agreeable.

The afternoon was our usual one. She rested a couple of hours. Then I suggested we look at a photo album of pictures taken when our children were pre-school age. We did that for a while before our daughter called. We had a nice conversation and Kate handled it well. After the call, we returned to the photo album, but Kate wanted to rest a little longer.

When I suggested our going to dinner, she didn’t hesitate getting up. That is normal. I don’t recall her ever having trouble getting up after resting in the family room in the afternoon. I wish I could say that about the morning when she is in bed.

She was confused about where she was as well as who I was but wasn’t disturbed. She asked my name and asked if we would be coming back for the night. She also said a few other things that made it clear she thought we were in someone else’s house.

At dinner something came up that made me mention our marriage. Kate was shocked. I was surprised at her reaction because we had been talking so comfortably about our relationship. It wasn’t simply that she was shocked. She couldn’t imagine how it was possible that she could have forgotten something like that. Fortunately, I was able to divert her attention. She was fine after that, but I felt bad. I intend to be more careful about that in the future. I think I have been unconsciously trying to keep that memory alive. Now I am beginning to believe that it may be time to let it go. I’ll just assume that she doesn’t remember and not try to remind her. There are enough incidental reminders when we browse through her photo books and interact with other people.

We had one of those middle-of-the-night incidents at 1:30 this morning. I woke up as Kate sat up on the side of the bed. I got up and went around to her side to help her up. She seemed wide awake and cheerfully greeted me like someone she might have recognized but not known. It wasn’t long before she said, “Who are you?” I told her my name but said nothing of our relationship. She didn’t ask.

I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom. She didn’t. She asked about “the others.” I told her we were the only ones “here.” She seemed surprised but didn’t question me. I asked again if she would like to use the bathroom. She asked where it was. I told her I would show her. We usually hold hands, but she didn’t want to this time.

When we reached the bathroom, I stepped in and turned around to direct her to the toilet. She showed no interest in coming in. Instead, she was obsessed with what time she should “be there.” I never found out where “there” was, but it was important to her. I told her she didn’t need to be there until “1:00 tomorrow.” She was surprised and asked about today. I told her it was the middle of the night and that she would need her sleep to be ready for tomorrow. She went back to the question “What time do I have to be there?” We went through a repetition my standard answer and her standard question. A couple of times she asked what time she would have to leave, but her emphasis was on what time she had to be there. She couldn’t remember and kept asking.

Finally, she used the toilet. When she was finished, she noticed two pictures on the top of a nearby cabinet. One was a photo of my mom and me. She pointed to my mom and wanted to know who she was. When I told her who she was, she said, “I remember her. She is very nice.” Then she asked about my sister. I don’t have a sister but said she was fine. Then she said my sister was very nice and that she liked her. Before getting back to bed, she commented several other times about my mom and sister and how nice they were.

Once in bed, she was still wide awake for a short time. I tried not to encourage much talking, and she soon drifted off to sleep. She is still sleeping as I finish this entry. On the video cam I just saw her moving a few minutes ago, I will check on her and see if she is ready to get up. That would be nice. I don’t have Rotary today, and the sitter is coming at 1:00 rather than noon. If she gets up soon, we would be able to have lunch together. That would be a good way to start the week.

More on Kate’s Sleep/Rest

On Friday, the day I met with Kate’s doctor, I was once again unable to get her up before the sitter arrived. She was in a good mood. She even said she would like to go to lunch with me, but she would never get up. She said something like, “Just give me a few minutes,” but she still wouldn’t get up. She stayed in bed until I got home at 5:00. Except for a short bathroom break that morning, she had been in bed nineteen hours. She was up less than two hours for us to go out to dinner and return home. She was back in bed at 7:30 and went to sleep rather quickly which is unusual.

She continued to sleep Saturday morning until 11:00 when I tried to get her up. She was resistant, but I coaxed her. I told her I was concerned about her staying in bed so much and that she needed to keep her muscles exercised or she could find herself in a wheelchair. That did the trick. Once she was up, she seemed fine. She was in a good mood, and we had a nice lunch.

When we returned home, she rested over two hours. Then I suggested that we look at one of her photo books. We spent about thirty minutes on that before going to dinner. As she had done the previous night, she got ready for bed right after dinner. I was glad to see that she woke up on her own around 9:00 this morning. She wasn’t sure where she was but wanted to “get out of here.” I told her I would take her. We passed a little over an hour at Panera before leaving for lunch. She has been resting almost two hours since returning home.

She is definitely spending more time resting with breaks for lunch and dinner most days. So far, we have had only two days when I wasn’t able to take her to lunch. There has also been an impact on her use of the iPad. I’ve been keeping a record of her daily average time on the iPad using her screen time for the correct information. For the week ending January 5, she averaged 49 minutes a day. That dropped to 39 the next week. The figures for the succeeding weeks are 25, 26 18, and only 8 minutes a day this past week. That’s a dramatic shift from my estimate of 6-8 hours a day as late as last summer.

We are in a transition phase now, and I will take it a day at a time as I attempt to establish a new routine if that is possible.

Consult with Kate’s Doctor

Yesterday, for the first time, I had an appointment with Kate’s doctor without Kate. It was a direct result of Kate’s recent desire to remain in bed rather than get up for lunch. Coincidentally, yesterday was one of those days. This was the fourth or fifth time in the past two weeks. Like all but the first time, she was relaxed and smiling. She seemed to be in a good humor. She just wanted to stay in bed. That’s what she did. I wasn’t able to get her up until after the sitter left just before 5:00 p.m., and she didn’t want to get up then but agreed after my coaxing. She had been in bed over twenty-one hours except for a brief bathroom break around 8:00 a.m. We did get out for dinner, but she went to bed before 7:30 and went to sleep quickly.

I interpreted the first incident as a case of depression. The others didn’t seem anything like that. She was just tired. On the days when she was willing to get up (ten out of fourteen), she was very tired, unsteady on her feet, and felt very insecure. These signs made me think that it was a part of the natural progression of her Alzheimer’s. When her doctor offered to see me, I was happy to accept.

It was a good visit and reminded me of why we have valued this geriatric practice for over twenty years. It is a partnership between our medical school and our largest hospital system. My mom and dad were the first of our family to go there in 1998. Since then, Kate’s mother, Kate, and my dad’s lady friend have all had physicians in the practice. We have always been pleased. There is virtually no wait time. In addition, the doctors spend a great deal of time with the patient and the patient’s family. They are especially good with dementia patients because the doctors always recognize them as the patient. In a situation like this it would be easy for a doctor to look at and speak directly to the family.

I was only there thirty minutes, but I achieved what I needed. I had sent a note of several pages describing Kate’s symptoms over the past few weeks. She had a variety of follow-up questions. I gave her my thoughts about the likelihood that Kate’s changes were just part of the natural progression of the disease. She agreed and handed me a piece of paper with a set of symptoms characteristic of the various stages of Alzheimer’s. They were expressed more specifically than what I had seen before. We focused on those for Stage 7.

7a. Ability to speak is limited to approximately a half-dozen intelligible different words or fewer in an average day.

7b. Speech ability is limited to the use of a single intelligible word in an average day.

7c. Ambulatory ability is lost (cannot walk without assistance).

7d. Cannot sit up without assistance.

7e. Loss of ability to smile.

7f. Loss of ability to hold head up independently.

Clearly, Kate doesn’t hasn’t reached any of these stages. She is losing her ability to talk as well as her ambulatory ability. Her doctor told me that Medicare eligibility for hospice begins around 7c above. I found that sobering. My impression from personal experiences is that the mention of hospice often catches caregivers off guard. It did when my mom’s doctor suggested it was time. She died a few months later. The same was true with my dad’s lady friend. She died less than a week after the doctor recommended hospice.

I don’t mean to suggest that Kate is that near the end of her life. My mom and Dad’s lady friend were much further into their disease than Kate is now. On the other hand, it is a sign that we are much closer to the end than I have sensed. This makes me think about something that I have mentioned before. I hope that Kate does not linger for long. She and I have shared the desire to die quickly. I don’t think we are unusual in that regard. I would love for her to be spared an extended period of time when she is completely bedridden or resting in a wheelchair.

Over the past few months, Kate has occasionally worried about, or at least been puzzled by, what is happening to her – why she can’t remember important things like her name or mine, being married, having children, or being able to remember how to do so many of the activities dialing of living. I wish she weren’t so self-aware. That is painful for both of us.

Ultimately, what I am concerned about is not within my control. All I can do is make her as comfortable as I can and provide her with as much pleasure as I can. It is almost 10:00 a.m. as I close this post. She is still sleeping. I really hope we will be able to get out today, but that’s another thing I may not be able to control.

Yesterday Afternoon and Evening

I am glad to report that the afternoon and evening went quite well yesterday. Kate got up from her late-morning rest and we had a very nice lunch and made it back for her 1:30 hair appointment without having to rush. Leisurely going about our daily activities works best for both of us.

We were back home before a big rain storm hit the area. It was so bad that I called the restaurant to make sure the program was still on for the night. It was. I told the woman on the phone that we would come if the rain slackened; otherwise, we would stay at home. As it turned out, the rain was lighter and we went despite the nasty weather conditions. It turned out to be fine. The crowd was a little lighter, but the program was excellent. Kate sat beside the 95-year-old woman who used to run the restaurant before her daughter took over years ago. Another couple we had not met before sat across from us. Kate didn’t participate much, but I don’t think she felt left out. We both enjoyed the evening.

During the afternoon and after we returned home, she was talkative but seemed to have more trouble expressing herself than usual. She talked for an extended period before dinner. I don’t even remember what she talked about. That may have been because I couldn’t understand her. She used a lot of wrong words and often acknowledged it. In addition, her comments were filled gestures, “You knows,” and vague words like “things,” or simply “da, da, das.”

The other talkative period lasted approximately thirty minutes as I was trying to get ready for a shower. Everything had been going smoothly. She had been in a cheerful mood the whole day. That continued as I started helping her get ready for bed. We got to the part where it was time for her to remove her pants, and she refused. I explained that she hadn’t put on her nighttime underwear. That had no impact. I tried to gently coax her and finally said something that changed the tone of our interaction. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I apologized and suggested we step back and think about our relationship. I conveyed my love for her and mentioned that we have always respected each other and that my only desire was to help her.

She immediately changed her tone of voice and began a lengthy conversation (soliloquy). She started talking about our relationship and how much she appreciated what I do for her. Then she began to talk about how we could help a boy in need of something. I only picked up that he had a sister but little else. It was impossible for me to understand. All I can say is that she talked for thirty minutes and was strong in her belief that she and I together would be able to help him.