Welcome to Living With Alzheimer’s

March 1, 2021

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.

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. Kate has declined significantly in recent years and has been in the last stage of Alzheimer’s about two years. We both tested positive for COVID two weeks before Thanksgiving, and Kate spent eight days in the hospital. She recovered quickly from the physical effects of the virus but is still recovering from the trauma of being taken to the hospital by ambulance and the whole hospital experience. Although our lives have changed significantly, our relationship remains strong.

When she returned home from the hospital, I increased our in-home care to 7-8 hours a day seven days a week. She has made a gradual recovery but continues to be frightened anytime we have to move her in anyway while caring for her essential needs. For years, she has been frightened by many things, especially sudden noises. Her hospital experience added an additional source of fear.

I don’t know 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, and I am hopeful that it will serve us well in the future.

Thanks for your visit.

Richard Creighton                                                                                                 @LivingWthAlz

Kate’s Connection With A Caregiver

I know I sound like a broken record, but I want to add another Happy Moment to this blog. We don’t experience such moments 24/7; however, Kate has gradually improved during the past year. She continues to surprise me with her cheerfulness, smiles, and overall good humor.

I wondered how it would go when I learned that our previous M-F caregiver was going to fill in for our new caregiver one day this past week. It turned out beautifully and began the moment she arrived. When Kate saw her and heard her voice, she burst into one of her biggest smiles. It was obvious that she remembered her.

I’ve written before about this caregiver. She was especially attentive to Kate, and they bonded. Almost a year ago, I nominated her for “Employee of the Month,” an honor she received in March. That put her in contention for “Employee of the Year” among the winners of the other eleven months. She won that award as well. I was very disappointed to lose her, but she was having back problems and also wanted a change in her schedule that didn’t match our needs.

The day went very well, but the “Grand Finale” occurred after we returned to our apartment following dinner. Kate and the caregiver began what was at least a 15-minute conversation. For someone with aphasia who rarely speaks that is remarkable. She was perfectly comfortable and talked as much or more than the caregiver. It warmed my heart to be an observer.

Nothing has happened that could match that since then, but the past few days have also been good ones. Three days in a row Kate woke up with a smile, and yesterday she was also talking. This is not typical. That’s another change that has occurred more often in recent months. My explanation for the changes she has made in the past year has occurred because she feels more at ease. She receives a good bit of reinforcement from everyone, which makes her even more at ease. It also makes me very happy.


At the time I uploaded this post yesterday morning, the first sentence in my closing paragraph was true; however, I couldn’t anticipate what would happen yesterday afternoon. When I returned from lunch, I found her especially cheerful and talkative. She and I talked steadily for almost an hour before we went out for her daily ice cream and dinner. She was less talkative during these times, but the situation was less conducive to conversation. When we came back to the apartment, we continued to talk. That lasted until she was in bed for the night. I took thirty-four short videos (mostly 20-45 seconds) during our conversations. It was an amazing experience.

Unanticipated Moments: Happy and Not-So-Happy

I couldn’t get along as well as I do if I didn’t have eight hours of care for Kate seven days a week; however, in-home care also has its stressful moments. One of those occurred Saturday when I received a call from the agency that provides our caregivers. They were letting me know that our regular weekend caregiver was on vacation and that they were having difficulty finding someone to fill in.

As it turned out, they were able to find a “floater” (a staff member who works on the grounds of our community and moves from place to place wherever needed) to come in for an hour to help me get Kate dressed and up for the day. They also had someone who would help feed Kate at dinner as well as help with getting her to bed.

Every Saturday, I meet three other guys for coffee off the grounds. I was disappointed about having to cancel, but it gave me more time to be with Kate. I decided Kate and I would make the most of the day, and that turned out to be far better than I could have imagined.

On a typical day, Kate gets breakfast right after we get her dressed and out of bed even though it is lunchtime. While she is eating, I go out for lunch. This gave us an opportunity that we had never had before – having lunch together in the dining room downstairs.

The lunch could not have gone better. We sat at the table where we eat for dinner each night so it is a familar spot for Kate. The dining room is always the quietest venue on the grounds, and Saturday lunch is not busy at all. I don’t know if that matters to Kate, but it does to me.

I fed Kate as I ate my own meal. Kate was in a cheerful mood, and the staff gave us a lot of attention since they weren’t as busy as usual. It was a very special time for both of us, and we celebrated the occasion by splitting one of my favorite desserts, a strawberry cheesecake. We spent almost two hours there.

It was a beautiful afternoon with temperatures in the low-80s, a break from the mid-90s we had had recently. It seemed like a good afternoon to go outside. We sat for another hour under the portico at the main entrance to our community. It was shady with a gentle breeze, and I used my phone to play music that Kate loves. She was fully engaged the entire time. She never stopped smiling. It was a very special moment.

We finished the day with dinner in the dining room where another caregiver met us. After dinner, the three of us returned to our apartment where we got Kate ready for bed.

Kate was tired and went to sleep right after the caregiver left, but we had had a very special day together. That’s one more thing for which I can feel grateful.

Managing Stress

Because Kate and I have lived joyfully while “Living with Alzheimer’s, one might think that stress is not an issue for me. That would be wrong. The only time I have been relatively free of stress was in the first few years after her diagnosis. At that time, the key stressor was juggling my responsibilities between Kate and my dad who was in skilled nursing. Since then, stress has gradually increased.

Since Kate’s diagnosis 12 ½ years ago, I’ve learned a number of things about stress and how to deal with it. One of those is that it is impossible to avoid. It’s a natural part of caring for someone with dementia. The best I can do is to find ways to manage it.

In the early days, that was easy. Shortly after Kate’s diagnosis, we decided that we would enjoy life and each other for as long as possible. That simple decision led to our binging on the things we had enjoyed throughout our marriage – movies, theater, musical events, eating out, and travel. Pleasure was a central part of our lives and helped both of us minimize stress.

As Kate’s Alzheimer’s progressed, I needed to spend more time with her and felt less comfortable leaving her alone. At the same time, stress was increasing. That led to my engaging in-home care three years after her diagnosis. For a little more than three years, we had help four hours a day for three days a week. That gave me time to run errands and get to the YMCA for exercise.

The past two and a half years, she has required total care. That resulted in my increasing our in-home care to eight hours a day seven days a week. Despite that, my responsibilities increased significantly, and that was accompanied by more stress. Fortunately, I’ve been able to manage it pretty well,

I put a high priority on a healthy lifestyle. Except for my days in graduate school and the first few years I taught, my adult life has involved exercise. Since Kate’s diagnosis, I have needed it more. I used to work out at the YMCA three mornings a week. I stopped when I felt I could no longer leave Kate alone in the morning. That is when I took up walking every day. After our move to a life plan retirement community, I replaced walking for workouts in our wellness center downstairs. I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 five days a week and do stretching exercises for 25-30 minutes before going to the wellness center. I ride the seated elliptical for fifty minutes averaging a little over eight miles a day.

I have also taken up deep breathing. I do that periodically each day including the time I am exercising. I’ve made a number of other lifestyle changes that are helpful. One of those is to avoid rushing. I realized that I was rushing to get to the gym as well as going about my daily household chores like fixing breakfast, washing, folding, and putting away laundry. That doesn’t make much sense now that I am retired. I deliberately began to slow down as I go about my daily routine. In addition, I take breaks during the day and have reduced my emailing, activity on social media, and writing blog posts  

I pay attention to my diet. I maintain a high-protein, low-carb diet with an abundance of fish, vegetables, and recently, nuts and fruit. Sleep is also important to me. Fortunately, Kate sleeps through the night. That enables me to get between 7 and 7 ½ hours sleep.

By far the most effective way I have found to deal with stress is to be as socially active as I can. I do this in a variety of ways.

I follow a daily schedule that includes contact with other people than Kate and our caregivers. That is a lot easier now that we are in a retirement community. Three days a week, I eat lunch in a café downstairs. I don’t think I have eaten alone more than once or twice since we moved here. The other four days of the week I eat off the grounds. One of those days is with my Rotary club. The other three days, I eat alone; however, I eat in restaurants where I have eaten for several years and know some of the staff, and I frequently run into friends.

Our afternoon and evening routine includes 30-40 minutes at a café on the grounds where Kate has ice cream. It is also a time to run into other residents, and most of them stop to chat for a few minutes. In addition, we eat dinner in the dining room five nights a week and in a café downstairs the other two nights. These provide additional opportunities for Kate and me to engage in additional contact with residents and staff. That is good for both of us.

Part of my weekly routine is getting together with friends for coffee. Every Friday, I meet a friend who worked for me ten years before using his computer skills to launch out on his own. We have kept up ever since he left. I meet with another group every Saturday. All three were neighbors before our move two and a half years ago. One of them recently moved to our retirement community.

I stay in contact by phone and/or email with longtime friends and family. This includes my undergraduate sociology professor and mentor who turns 101 in September. I also stay in touch with four other college friends as well as three grammar school friends.

I maintain relationships with several organizations with which I have been involved for many years. Those include the United Way, Rotary, our church, our local symphony orchestra, and a local health foundation.

Apart from these social connections, I participate in three different caregiver support groups. One of those is a group for husbands taking care of their wives with dementia. Another is a mixed group of husbands and wives who are caring for a spouse with dementia. The third group is a group of husbands and wives caring for spouses with any illness that requires regular care. The first group meets twice a month. The other two meet once a month.

Of course, the most important stress-relieving relationship I have is with Kate. Some readers may be surprised that I can say that at this late stage of her Alzheimer’s. To be sure, we don’t relate in many of the ways we could before Alzheimer’s entered our lives, but not a day goes by without our having “Happy Moments.” They serve as the best stress reducer I can find. I savor every “Happy Moment” I have with her. I can’t eliminate stress, but I have a lot of things that help me manage it as effectively as possible. I am grateful.


I thought I had finished this post yesterday morning, but since then I have had three different experiences I would like to add. Each one involves a “Happy Moment” with Kate. The first occurred yesterday just before leaving for lunch. She was smiling, and I told her what a beautiful smile she has. Then I said, “And you are beautiful. I love you.” The expression on her face changed immediately as she almost broke into tears. I can’t say precisely what that meant, but to me, it was very touching to see her so moved.

The second one occurred after I got home. I walked over to her and kneeled beside her chair. I told her how happy I was to see her and how much I missed her while I was gone. She gave me a smile and whispered, “I love you.” That is a rare event. More typically, she expresses her feelings with her facial expressions as she did before I left.

The third occurred this morning. She was awake early and in a cheerful mood and talking. That doesn’t happen very often. She is usually very subdued and rarely speaks until the afternoon. On days like today, I sit up in bed beside her and enjoy being with her. We had a good conversation even though I couldn’t understand a word she said. The important thing was that we were connecting. It was a very special moment.

Each of these is a good example of the kinds of “Happy Moments” we experience on a daily basis. They don’t happen all day, but they occur often enough that they boost my spirits knowing that our relationship still means a lot to both of us.

Update on In-Home Care for Kate

Six years ago this coming September, I engaged in-home care for Kate. At that point, all I needed was someone to be with her while I went to the Y and ran errands. It was prior to my feeling a real need for help, but I was becoming uneasy about leaving her alone. At the time, I referred to the caregivers as sitters. All they had to do was spend time with Kate. They didn’t have to dress her, prepare meals for her, or take her places.

Looking back, I view that as the “honeymoon stage” of our in-home care. After a month or so, we settled into a routine with two different people. One came on Mondays for four hours. The other came on Wednesdays and Fridays for four hours. This went well for three years although we made a few changes in the person coming to the house on Mondays. Fortunately, we had the same person for Wednesdays and Fridays for more than three years.

Then came Covid in November 2020. Kate’s Alzheimer’s had been progressing more rapidly in the previous two years. She was in the early stages of aphasia and was developing mobility problems. Her hospitalization for eight days for Covid was traumatic for her. Since then, she has required total care.

The honeymoon with in-home care was over. Finding caregivers was also more challenging because of the pandemic. Apart from the pandemic, fewer caregivers are willing to accept people who require total care. Thus finding and keeping caregivers has been a problem since then.

It is especially difficult to find someone to work eight hours a day five days a week, but we found one person who was with us until May 2022. We were able to replace her with someone who was with us until this week when she decided to leave because of her back problems. That was a low blow to me. She was the most caring and compassionate caregiver we have had. She and Kate got along well, something I consider of paramount importance.

So, we are going through an adjustment. We have a new person who comes for eight hours a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and another who comes on Thursday and Friday. We are now in our second week with them, and I am encouraged that they will work out. They are both good but have complementary skills. The MTW person has CNA skills that are among the best of anyone we’ve had previously and she has a caring personality. She does have a minor back problem, so we have elevated the bed another six inches, and I am playing a greater role in the heavy lifting. She also appears to be someone who is easy to work with. She has lots of ideas about how care should be provided, but she is also sensitive to the routine we have established.

Our Thursday/Friday person is very cheerful with a very warm and caring personality. She and Kate connected right away. She even stopped by to chat with Kate while we were having ice cream Saturday afternoon with one of our regular weekend caregivers.

Despite my optimism, having new people for five days a week does mean another adjustment for me. That will mean more work for me to familiarize them with our needs and priorities, but we should soon establish a new routine.

Although I wish I could count on having a regular group of caregivers for a longer period of time, we are fortunate to have had three caregivers who were with us for more than a year. At the moment, only one of them is still with us. She has been coming every other weekend for a year and seven months.

Change always requires adjustments, but it often comes with benefits. That is what I am hoping for with this one. Right now, I am optimistic that Kate’s care will match or exceed what we had before.

Ups and Downs Over the Past 10 Days

In most of my posts, I report on our positive experiences. That’s because we don’t really have many negative ones to report; however, we had two unpleasant surprises recently. A week ago Thursday she woke up early and was fine. I spent some time with her listening to music and chatting with her. We were quiet for a few minutes, and then she seemed to be worried. That increased to agitation. It reminded me of delusions she periodically experienced several years ago. During those times, she was bothered or concerned but never to the degree I noticed that morning.

She felt hot and her skin was clammy, so I took her temperature. It was normal. Then I took her blood pressure. It was 194/130. Her pulse was 96. These are all far above her normal readings. I called her doctor whose office is next door to our building. He and his nurse came over right away. They checked her blood pressure, and it had gone down. She seemed more relaxed. They were with us about 15 minutes, and her blood pressure continued to go down, and she seemed fine. We concluded she must have had a delusion that frightened her.

Two days later, she had a similar experience. Her blood pressure was 193/126. About 20 minutes later, it dropped to 123/76. We haven’t had any other such experiences since then, and I hope this doesn’t become a new part of our lives.

Those two experiences were followed by at least three very good days. On each occasion, she woke up early and was awake for a good bit of the morning before the caregiver arrived. During the afternoons, she was more cheerful than normal and one of those days, she was very talkative. She spoke to people we saw while having our afternoon ice cream as well as at dinner that evening.

When she has happy days like these, I am happy too, so it was a great week for both of us. Her behavior continues a trend that has been taking place for 8-10 months. Over that time, she has felt more at ease. That matters a lot. When she is at ease, it is easier for her to smile and talk.

Yesterday was not a good day for her. She seemed to be fine in the morning, but her mood had changed by the time I returned from lunch. She smiled briefly when I returned, but she didn’t appear to be happy after that. It was only at dinner that she began to change. When she spoke to two guests, the caregiver and I were amazed because she hadn’t been very responsive all day.

As often happens, we had a good evening together. I have no idea what made such a difference during the afternoon.

I drafted most of this post over the weekend, but I am glad to report that this morning she awoke in a cheerful mood with lots of smiles. She hasn’t talked, but she has smiled and laughed at things I have said to her. We’re off to a good start. Right now, I am sitting up beside her in bed as I close this post. She is smiling and talking. I can’t understand what she is saying, but I enjoy her Happy Moments. It looks like we could be in for another good day.

Reflections on Love and Caring for Kate

I’ve been Kate’s caregiver for more than twelve years, and the more experience I get, the more strongly I believe that love has played a critical role in our relationship. Anyone can give attention to someone with dementia, but it is easier when you love someone. For that reason, I suspect that a spouse has a potential advantage over other caregivers.

Love can be a great motivator. As Bryan Adams’ song, “When You Love Someone” says,

When you love someone,

You’ll do anything.

You’ll do all the crazy things

That you can’t explain.

You’ll give up everything,

And you’ll never let them down.

You’ll be more compassionate

And more understanding.

And you’ll always be there

For the one you love.

The recipients of care also benefit from being loved. They are happier.

Ours has always been a loving relationship, but love has played a more significant part in our marriage since her diagnosis. In the beginning, it didn’t require much effort on my part. We had agreed in the first few weeks to devote ourselves to enjoying life and each other as long as possible. That was easy because we found pleasure in the same things – movies, theater, music, dining out, and travel. My responsibility was simply to arrange an active lifestyle that included all of these.

After her diagnosis, I felt an intense desire to be with her as much as possible. I immediately started having lunch with her every day. I was also transitioning into retirement, so I started taking the afternoon off. That enabled us to spend much more time together than we had had previously.

All of the activities and time together further strengthened our relationship. In some ways, it was like a long honeymoon. We were simply binging on things that had meant so much to us in the past, and we were doing it together.

Of course, Alzheimer’s has required significant changes in our lives. At first, Kate had several activities that she could do on her own. One of those was her computer. She worked many hours a day on that task. She worked mostly on a family photo album. She was never able to finish it because she lost her ability to use the computer. When she was no longer able to do that, I gave her an iPad which was her only self-initiated activity until the pandemic hit in 2020. Since then, I have had to assume greater responsibility for keeping her occupied.

Along the way, it became harder for her to remember my name or that I am her husband. Fortunately, she continued to recognize me as someone she knows, likes, and trusts. During this phase, I began to place greater emphasis on expressing my love for her. I did, and still do, that in several ways throughout the day.

I greet her enthusiastically when she wakes up in the morning. I tell her how glad I am to see her and remind her that we met in college and have been married for 60 very happy years. I talk about our children and grandchildren. I also mention how thankful I am that we both went to TCU. If we hadn’t, we would not have met.

I have a similar routine when I return home after lunch. As I open the door, I say something like, “Hello, I’m home. I’m looking for Kate. I wonder where she could be?” I continue talking as I walk to her, and I often see a smile on her face. Then I kneel beside her and tell her how much I like that smile and that I missed her.

Recently, I did something a little different. I whistled “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck” As I walked toward her, I could see the smile emerging on her face. That’s the way she expresses her love for me.

As I have noted in a previous post, our evenings are the most romantic part of our day. We are both more relaxed than at any other time. We appreciate our time alone.

Love can’t stop the progression of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, but I believe being loved, and receiving attention from our primary caregiver, as well as the staff and residents of our retirement community have played an important role in the happiness she enjoys while “Living with Alzheimer’s.” That makes me happy too.

Do We Have Any Moments When We’re Not Happy?

I talk a lot about the Happy Moments that Kate and I have but try to convey that they don’t occur all the time. It would be fair for you to ask what our lives are like the rest of the time. Do we have Bad Moments? Here’s my answer.

Our Bad Moments are rare. They include getting Kate’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, her hospitalization for Covid, the first few weeks after her return from the hospital, her stroke, and the first few weeks after that. Apart from those, I wouldn’t call any of our time together Bad Moments.

Sad moments are another thing. I can’t tell if Kate has any of them. I know that I do. Sometimes they occur when we are getting her ready in the morning and into bed at night. Although she has adapted very well, they always involve things that she doesn’t like. Nobody would like to live their lives so dependent on others. This will continue for the rest of her life, and I feel sad for her.

At this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I also experience sad moments when I think about losing her. Although we can’t do most of the things we used to do, she is happy a good bit of the time. That keeps me happy, and I’m not ready to let her go. I want to keep her as long as I possibly can.

Most of our days are filled with Neutral, Pleasant, and Happy Moments. Here is a short rundown of a typical day for us.

I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 five days a week when I go downstairs to our wellness center where I work out for fifty minutes on the seated elliptical. I go early because I can be pretty sure that she is still asleep and won’t need anything.

When I return, I change clothes and have breakfast before checking email, preparing Kate’s morning medicine and juice, and doing a variety of other daily chores. Sometimes, like today, I work on a new blog post. Periodically, I check Twitter and upload a new message related to Kate. The days vary, but I have other household responsibilities like washing and putting away dishes or laundry, watering plants, or paying bills. Other times, I order supplies like gloves, wipes, and other items used by Kate’s caregivers.

Kate usually sleeps until 10:30 or 11:00. During the past year, she has begun to wake earlier. This is usually a neutral time. She almost never speaks or smiles and normally goes back to sleep after her morning meds.

Sometimes she remains asleep until the caregiver arrives at 11:00. Other times, she vacillates between being asleep and awake. That happened this morning. I was in bed beside her when she opened her eyes, smiled, and spoke a few words. I couldn’t understand them, but just hearing her makes me happy. Shortly after that, she was resting again. This time can last as long as several hours, sometimes until I return from lunch.

Once in a while, Kate is cheerful when she wakes up. When that happens, I take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with her. After getting her meds and something to drink, I often get in bed beside her. These are usually Pleasant Moments. It is rare for us to have any conversation. Kate’s not ready for that, but I enjoy being with her. It’s a pleasant time for us. While she goes in and out of sleep, I work on my laptop. On some mornings, she is cheerful and talkative. Those are Happy Moments.

I leave for lunch while the caregiver feeds Kate. I don’t know for sure what happens while I am gone. I do know that the caregiver who is with her Monday through Friday sits beside her the entire time I’m away. I also know that Kate feels comfortable with her and occasionally talks with her.

When I return, we usually have a period of Neutral Moments. She is almost always resting
in her recliner with her eyes closed. I go directly to her and tell her how glad I am to see her. In the past, she hasn’t shown any emotion at all; however, more recently she has responded with a smile when she hears my voice. As I reported in an earlier post, recently she was quite excited when I returned home. That was obviously a Happy Moment for both of us.

Between then and the time we leave for ice cream, I spend most of my time with her but take breaks to check email, call friends on the phone, and do any other chores that need my attention. This time is usually filled with Pleasant Moments. I enjoy these moments. They are just not as upbeat as our Happy Moments.

Our ice cream and dinner times are always Pleasant Moments. Kate likes her ice cream and usually smiles off and on while we are out. Some of the residents and staff stop by our table to talk briefly. They always greet her warmly. Although she rarely speaks to them, she seems to pay attention to what is said and often smiles at specific things that they say. Sometimes she is especially cheerful and talkative. Those are definitely Happy Moments.

Our evenings are almost always filled with Happy Moments, but they are somewhat different from those occurring earlier in the day. All of our obligations of the day are over, and both of us are relaxed. We simply focus on being together. The combination of Alzheimer’s and aphasia limits Kate’s speech. Despite that, she communicates a lot with her facial expressions and her hands. It is a romantic time for both of us. I often tell her about our children and grandchildren as well as many experiences we have had during our marriage while she smiles and holds my hand and runs her hand gently across mine.

Before going to sleep, I say, “Thank you for a very nice day. Did you know that every day I spend with you is a nice day?” She sometimes smiles. Then I say, “I love you, Kate. I always have. I always will. Forever, and ever, and ever.” She almost never says, “I love you”, but once last week, she puckered her lips and blew me a kiss. That was another Happy Moment. She doesn’t need words to express her affection for me.

A Very Special Father’s Day

I would never have guessed that right after my previous post about “Very Happy Special Moments I would be treated to the best Father’s Day present I could want. Kate had a truly fantastic day. It began before 8:00 in the morning and continued until she dosed off to sleep around 8:30 last night.

She was not only cheerful but very talkative. As I often do at times like this, I got in bed with her, and we talked almost constantly over a period of three hours. Of course, her aphasia prevented my understanding what she was saying, but I played the role of facilitator saying things like “Really?” “That’s interesting.” “Tell me more about that.” “I love talking with you.”

Her only downtime was while I was at lunch. The caregiver didn’t give her the same attention, and she was quiet when I arrived. The good news is that she recovered when I knelt down beside her recliner and told her how happy I was to see her.

I should add that she was not agitated. She was simply talkative, and I enjoyed every minute with her. It had been a day filled with Happy Moments. A Father’s Day to remember.

Very Special Happy Moments

I know it can’t last forever. That’s why I continue to celebrate Happy Moments with Kate. For months, these have occurred at least sometime during every day. Some are more special than others. One of those occurred yesterday when I returned home after lunch.

I can’t predict her behavior, but for quite a while, she has greeted me with a smile at least half of the time. She is always in her recliner with her back to the door. As I open it I say, “Hello, I’m home.” Then I say, “I’m looking for Kate. Where is she?” I approach her recliner, and say, “There she is.” I kneel beside the recliner and tell her how happy I am to see her. If she is smiling, I tell her how much I like her smile and that it makes me happy.

Yesterday, she smiled and laughed just like a child might do when a parent returns. I also responded enthusiastically, and we enjoyed a few moments before I suggested we find some music that we could sing together. I turned on a “Sing Along with Seniors” YouTube video.

For the next 20-30 minutes, we sang old songs like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, “Oh, Susanna”, and “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain”. She was fully engaged, smiling, and mouthing the words. She was doing so well that I suggested to her caregiver that we go for ice cream earlier than usual. That turned out to be a good idea. She continued her cheerful mood, smiling and responding audibly to several people who spoke to her.

Moments like these make my day, and I am grateful to have so many of them. Occasionally, I’m asked what keeps me going. There are many things, but none of them compares to the Happy Moments we share at this stage of her Alzheimer’s. It will be a sad day when they are gone.

Our Anniversary Celebration

One of the things I’ve learned about “Living with Alzheimer’s” is that people’s experiences can be quite different; however, there is at least one thing that all or most dementia caregivers experience: unpredictability. One minute Kate is smiling cheerfully. The next she is withdrawn.

Because of that, I am never sure how she will react to a situation in which I would love for her to smile or just hear her say a word or two. With that in mind, I prepared something special for our 60th anniversary last week. I decided to take her out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Casa Bella. We hadn’t been there since November 2020. In fact, we hadn’t been out anywhere in more than two and a half years. Kate was beginning to lose her mobility before that, and she was in bed for so long with Covid that she completely lost it. Since then we have only been able to move her with a lift to get her in and out of her bed and into her wheelchair. Thus, going out to eat requires a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible.

Getting transportation was easy. I simply called the agency that provides in-home care for our retirement community, but I had other concerns as well. I didn’t want to put her in a crowded restaurant, so I made reservations for Tuesday night after Memorial Day when I thought it was less likely to be busy than later in the week. I called the owner of the restaurant and made reservations for 5:00 pm. That’s when they open for dinner. At the same time, I arranged a table in the room where we had often eaten in the past. I also asked our caregiver to stay an hour or two later than usual.

The only remaining concern I had was Kate’s mood. I wanted the experience to be as joyful as it had been on our previous visits there, but I knew there was no way to predict how she would feel or react. Nor was there any way I could ensure that she was in a cheerful mood. As it turned out, everything worked out beautifully.

The day began on a positive note. Kate slept late that morning. She was still asleep when the caregiver arrived at 11:00. I was happy about that because she is sometimes worn out later in the day after waking early.

When I arrived home from lunch, she was resting in her recliner as usual. She smiled when I approached her. I spoke to her for a few minutes letting her know how happy I was to see her. I turned on some “Sing-Along-for-Seniors” music on YouTube. She responded well to that. I sang, but she didn’t. Nonetheless, her smiles and facial expressions showed that she was enjoying herself.

We also had a good experience when we went out for ice cream. She smiled much of that time and responded a little to those who spoke to her – at least more than she usually does. Then we came back to the apartment where we met the driver who would take us to dinner.

We arrived as they opened right at 5:00 pm. The owners were not there, but they had prepared the staff for our arrival. They greeted us warmly and got us settled at our table. Kate and I as well as our caregiver (who had never been there before) enjoyed every minute.

Not long after we were seated, the owner arrived and came directly to our table. We had a nice visit with her. Although I can’t remember what she said, I was pleased that Kate responded audibly to something she said. A little later, her husband also dropped by to say hello. We had a good dinner, but the real enjoyment was being back in a place where we had eaten many meals over a period of fifty years. The bonus was that Kate enjoyed herself the entire time. That made for a very special sixtieth anniversary. I could not have predicted that the day would go so well. I’m already thinking about the possibility of doing this again.