Kate Tells Her Best Friend

I was about to write a new update when I saw that I hadn’t mentioned that last Tuesday, April 15, Kate told Ellen about her Alzheimer’s. They had had lunch the day before. I am not sure if anything special happened, but when I got home that afternoon, Kate told me that she was going to call Ellen about having lunch the next day and wanted to know if I could join them. I told her I could, and the she said she wanted to ask her over to the house following lunch. I suspected (and have also learned) that she might be telling Ellen. She only said, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.” (This very frequent pattern of saying, “Let’s not talk about it now” or “Let’s talk about it later” I take as an indication of the frustration she feels when she tries to explain herself.) The next morning she told me she was going to tell Ellen.

After coming home from lunch, the three of us chatted for a short time before Kate simply said, “I wanted you to know that I have Alzheimer’s.” Ellen did not react. I was concerned about the way she might react because it might clue Kate in that I had already told Ellen. Later Kate told me she appreciated the way Ellen had reacted. She didn’t want anything that indicated great surprise or pity.

It was interesting to me that as Kate provided a little more information. She told Ellen that she and I were adjusting well and that our lives had not changed in any way since the diagnosis. Of course, that is not true. They have changed a lot. I also felt as though the way she expressed it reinforced my sense that Kate does not recognize how far along she really is. She is still thinking about years ahead when we do things with the grandchildren etc. On the other hand, I am thinking this summer may be the last summer that we host or travel with the grandchildren. That is because it is hard for me to take care of her and the grandchildren. I hope I am wrong. It could be that because the grandchildren are growing up that they will need less attention. As they say, “time will tell.”

One other related thing from the conversation with Ellen is that Kate told her that Ken also has Alzheimer’s but that he is further along than she. I don’t know how she got this impression. It is certainly consistent with other things about which she gets confused. The reality is that they had trouble diagnosing Ken’s Alzheimer’s because it is in such an early stage.

Kate’s current behavioral symptoms cause me to wonder if she is now entering that stage where she really doesn’t recognize that she has Alzheimer’s. This is hard to express. I don’t believe that she will really reach that stage until much later. I do think, however, that there might be a gradual progression toward that end and that I am observing the beginnings of that process. One of the things that is happening is that she is periodically irritated by my helping her. She points out to me that she does not need my help on most things. I am trying to be more careful in discriminating those things for which she does and does not need assistance. One of the many challenges for the caregiver is just this. There are so many things that the patient does wrong and also for which she asks help that the caregiver tends to extend that to more things than are necessary. That, in turn, takes away from the patient’s sense of autonomy. I’m going to be working on this. The other side of the coin is that the patient easily grasps some areas where she needs help but doesn’t see others. As with most things, it is an adjustment for both patient and caregiver.