Being Directionally-Challenged is Worse for a Person with AD

We are in Jamestown, NY, having flown here (Buffalo then car to Jamestown) for our annual trip to Chautauqua. We will meet one of Kate’s PEO sisters who lived in Knoxville for a number of years. I thought of a couple of things. First, I did not mention that on Thursday of this week (7/28/2011), I was at lunch with someone from our church when I received a call from Kate. She was lost. She was in the car and had intended to drive to a neighbor’s house which is just around the corner from our house, but she didn’t remember exactly where it was. She wasn’t far from home or our neighbor’s house when she called. She seemed in a panic. She was able to tell me the street she was on.  She followed my directions and got there. Later I learned that she was the first to arrive which relieved her.

Kate is directionally-challenged; so it is not surprising that she could get lost; however, since she was just going a very short distance to a location near where we have lived for 25 years, I take this as another indication of her AD.

I don’t know that I have commented on this before, but we have gone through numerous such experiences over the past couple of years. On one occasion she missed a PEO meeting she was going to because she traveled around so long she was embarrassed to show up. She just called to say that she could not make it.

I should also mention that Kate has been working on a one-page flyer to mail out to PEOs in the Knoxville area inviting them to a book chat with an author. She has had this essentially finished since Monday or Tuesday but has had to make some edits based on suggestions from a sister PEO. The point is that this is a small task, but it has taken her an inordinate amount of time because of simple mistakes. She has indicated losing a number of things that I think are text boxes. I know that the problems she has had with the family album she is working on with her brother are largely a function of problems like this. She doesn’t remember how to do things, how to correct things, and generally digs herself in deeper as she works. It is like 2 steps forward and 1 step backward which makes her very frustrated.

More Signs of Change

Just a couple of quick notes. Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed additional signs that Kate’s memory may be worsening. She continues to misplace her phone, keys, purse, etc. She also forgot to go to a dentist’s appointment this week. One day this week while we were at lunch, she asked me if she had been awake when I left that morning. I told her yes and that she was up and we had spoken, but she didn’t remember it.

I am also finding that she is more irritable and is almost terrified if you accidentally startle her. When our grandson was here, he accidentally did so. I frequently startle her if I come in the room when she doesn’t realize I am at home. I am trying to make sure she knows I am home before walking in on her.

Signs of Dependence

This is really an addendum to yesterday’s post. Last night I remembered one other thing that I take as a sign of the progression of Kate’s AD. Several times lately she has seemed uneasy when I am at Dad’s, and she encounters problems working on the computer. This is the first sign I have had that she looks to me as her security. At this point it is minimal, but I can’t help remembering how Mom never wanted Dad to leave her presence. I have heard a church friend  say the same thing about his wife. It makes me think more seriously about how I will handle work at the office as the AD gets worse.

Events That Make Me Think About the Future

Several things have happened this morning and the past several days that make me think more about Kate’s condition and progress. As usual, we went to church separately and were to meet in the sanctuary. When she didn’t show up, I thought she must have gotten detained with someone after Sunday school and ended up sitting in the back of the sanctuary. When we drove to lunch after church, she said she had had one of those experiences in which the brain just didn’t work. It turned out that she had entered the sanctuary on the left side rather than the right side where we (I) always sit. She looked along the rows in the area where she thought I would be and finally took a seat by herself. It was only later (I think after the service) that she realized she had gone to the wrong place and that I was sitting right where I always do.

The other events involve updates on several people we know who have dementia. At our recent (this past Wed) meeting of the executive committee of the music club, someone asked about one of our members who has dementia. The word was that she has good and bad days. She and her husband have moved to a continuing care facility. This has been a problem for him because his photo studio is in their house and he is still active in his photography.

In addition, in Sunday school this morning one of our members reported that her husband will be staying permanently at the nursing facility where he has been in rehab. Although he has recovered physically from recent surgery, it has been a setback mentally. He was diagnosed with dementia 7 years ago. It made me think about Kate’s progress. Seven years would put her at 77 which is much sooner than I care to think although I have feared from the first that she might move along more quickly than we have wanted to believe.

Another member of our Sunday school class was there this morning. She seemed to have progressed further in her dementia than I had noticed in the past. She gave me a gentle but big hug and told me she loved me. It breaks my heart to see her and to imagine where Kate will be in a few years.

In this morning’s paper I read an obituary of an old acquaintance who would have been my age. Donations options were given, one that included a day care facility, and I thought he might have had AD or dementia. I found out that is correct.

On occasion I mention to Kate about someone’s having AD, but most often I find myself unwilling to say anything because I don’t want to add any anxiety to that which I know she already feels.


Kate and I spent a little time in the pool Friday night and had a brief conversation about her adjustment. She indicated some frustration with her inability to handle things. I told her I thought she was handling things well. She agreed, but she said she thought part of what was happening was denial. She went on to explain that she accepted the situation intellectually but emotionally she hadn’t fully accepted it. I also commented on her sense of humor regarding her forgetfulness.

Yesterday morning she told me that she had made two other mistakes. One of these involved her giving a date of June instead of July in an email to a member of PEO. Another was to have left one of her Library Ladies off the email list for her communication regarding the lunch she is trying to arrange for them. Neither of these represents anything of consequence. In context of all the other little things that are happening, they do represent further reminders that her brain is not functioning the way it should.

During a conversation at dinner last night, we talked about aging and said something about 80. She said, “By the time you are 80, I will be –”  (here she did not say anything, she simply drooped her head the way she might do at a later stage of her AD). We made a few comments and then she started to tear up and suggested we change the topic.

Odds and Ends

Brian left last night after being here for a week. During the week that he was here, Kate exhibited periodic “fright/annoyance” at various loud noises he made. She repeatedly had to tell him to stop making certain noises. He always stopped, but would forget and make them again later.

Kate  also had her most recent appointment with Dr. Reasoner on Wednesday afternoon. This time I did not go with her since I was taking care of Brian. I felt Kate would be all right by herself. I had suggested a few weeks ago that we postpone the appointment, but she wanted to go ahead. She found talking with Dr. Reasoner to be soothing. She likes her style of being forthright but in a sensitive manner. She doesn’t sugarcoat things.

On the way to the doctor’s office, Kate got lost and called the office for directions. They were quite understanding and got her there.

As we waited for Brian’s plane to leave last night, Kate asked for my help in arranging a time for her “Library Ladies” group to have lunch. It is her time to set the date and place. She just hadn’t done so and needed my help in figuring out when people could come. Several had sent her emails with possible dates, but she couldn’t manage to go through them and see what dates were best. Only 4 people had responded; so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was too difficult for her. I gave her the best dates, and she entered it in her iPhone. When we met for lunch she said she had been unable to locate the information and couldn’t remember it and asked for my help again. We went through it one more time, and this time I think it will work.

Her willingness to ask for my help is good but also makes me sad. She recognizes that she can’t keep things straight, so she needs help. This morning she sent me an email with 2 appointments for next week. She likes for me to put them on my calendar so that I can make sure she doesn’t forget.

On the positive side, I am amazed at how well she is accepting her condition. I know she has ups and downs, but, on the whole, she is doing remarkably well. Given her chronic depression, I would have thought this would be a much lower blow than it has been.