Last night we returned from Fort Worth where we attended the 50th reunion of our 1962 graduating class at TCU. We had a wonderful time. Clearly time had not erased the connections we had with our good friends from those days. For Kate the really good thing was that this kind of situation relies on long-term memory which, for her, is still good. That meant she was able to comfortably converse with people and enjoy them.
This made me stop and think how fortunate it is that it is the short-term memory that goes first because much of our interaction with people depends more heavily on our long-term memory. Before going, Nancy Hardwick (a childhood friend of Kate’s and also a friend at TCU) had sent us an email letting us know that Charlie, her husband (who was a former roommate of mine), was having memory problems and that we should always copy her on any emails to Charlie because he doesn’t remember things too well. As it turns out, if she had not mentioned this to us, we would never have known he had a problem.
These experiences underscore what I have mentioned a number of times before – the person with AD and his/her spouse recognize the condition long before others do. Although Kate got along beautifully as far as her relationship with the people with whom she interacted, I know that she had any number of experiences of forgetfulness that are painful to her. Her memory continues to worsen, and she recognizes it.
Not to take away from the stress for her, but it is also a challenge for me. Because she is so normal in most ways, I continue to respond to her in the same way that I have always done. For example, we had talked during the weekend about going to Sadie’s Cafe for breakfast on Monday morning before leaving. On Sunday night we talked about going there the next morning and returning to the hotel to finish packing. Right after she woke up on Monday morning, I told her I thought we might get ready to go to breakfast at 8:00 and the come back to the hotel to finish packing. I assumed that she remembered our plans for Sadie’s Cafe. When she was taking more time to finish packing, I said I thought we should go and reminded her that we were coming back to finish before leaving. She had forgotten that we were coming back to the room. She thought we were leaving for the airport in Dallas.
When we went downstairs, she walked in the direction of the hotel’s restaurant as I walked toward the door to go out to the car. She looked puzzled, and I reminded her that we were going to Sadie’s. She had completely forgotten.
When something like this happens, I recognize that I should know by now that she can’t remember. What I should do is assume that she won’t remember and say something tactful that gives her the information again without saying, “Remember, we are . . .” or responding after the fact, “I told you . . .” or “Don’t you remember?” All of these things hurt her self-confidence and bother her. I need to do a better job saying the right things instead of the wrong things.
During the weekend there were quite a number of incidents that she forgot about after my telling her something we would be doing at a particular time. She frequently asks me what day it is and then asks again later. This is one of the things she has in common with Dad.
The good thing is that I am the one who will see these things and not others. Hopefully, she will be able to hide her AD from the world for a while longer.