Meltdown and Recovery

This morning we leave Niagara-on-the-Lake for Chautauqua after a very pleasant 2-day stay. Everything had gone beautifully until last evening as we were preparing to go to dinner and a play. Here’s the story.

First, we had a big breakfast at our B&B finishing close to 10:00. When we came back to the room, Kate got back in the bed to rest a little while. She got up for us to meet Ellen Seacrest and her sister-in-law, Ann, for lunch at 12:15. That meant we ate lunch before our stomachs were ready for more food. After lunch, we. Went to a play at 2:00. When we got out after 4:00, we got ice cream. Then we came back to the room for Kate to rest a while before our dinner reservations at 6:30. She was stuffed and didn’t feel like eating, but we needed to eat before the play at 8:00.

As she was trying to find something to wear, I got up from my chair and my phone fell on the wooden floor. The noise frightened her, and she said something like, “Don’t do that.” I said, “I didn’t mean to do it.” Then she immediately broke down into tears and heavy breathing as if she were having what I call a panic attack. She told me she knew I would never scare her on purpose. She couldn’t stop crying and continued to breathe heavily. I tried to calm her down by putting my arms around her and holding her, but that didn’t seem to help. She went into the bathroom to put on her lipstick. I followed her and rubbed her back and started playing some soft music on my phone. As she continued to cry, she said, “my mind is going. The medicine is not working.” I held her tightly. She lay back down in to calm herself. She must have cried a total of 15 minutes. This was the biggest breakdown she has had.

For me this was a sign that she hasn’t deteriorated so much that she is unaware of her decline. I was moved by the anguish she expressed and couldn’t help thinking about how much of this she carries with her all the time without my being aware. If I can’t fully grasp the extent of her suffering, how could anyone else do so?

After she had calmed down and we prepared to leave, she commented that she was all right now, that she has just broken down. She went on to say that she thought that she normally is able to control herself better. Moments like this reinforce my efforts to avoid making her feel “not good” to quote a friend of mine. This is his advice for everyone in all situations. That is a special problem to avoid with Kate and, I believe, with other Alzheimer’s patients.