It’’s Hard to Remember

Yesterday as we drove away from the restaurant where we had lunch with TCU friend, Kate said, “”Tell me his name again?” I told her. In a few minutes she asked again. Then she practiced it again as she has done with other names.

Later, but still on the way home, she said, “”Polly Jones.” I corrected her telling her that the name of the person whom she was trying to remember, our next door neighbor. She was disappointed that she had slipped up. I told her that there was a good reason that she got mixed up, that she had originally learned it incorrectly as Polly; so it was hard to get that out of her mind.

This morning as I was preparing my breakfast, she called me. I went back to the bedroom. She asked me if I would get the Today Show on the TV. I did so. She looked very discouraged. She hasn’t said a word, but I know that she recognizes her deterioration though the TV is something she has had problems with off and on for at least a year or more.

It is very clear to me that she is getting worse. I also find myself getting more anxious.

Travel Issues

Yesterday Kate and I drove to Nashville to attend a performance of Tirandot at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. As always, I was concerned that Kate would not remember to bring things she likes or needs. Such was the case. As she was packing in a rush, she couldn’t find the shoes she wanted to wear last night. I found a pair of black boots that she said would work. It turned out, however, that they are too tight; so walking was a problem. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go, just across the street.

After the opera, she discovered she hadn’t brought anything to sleep in. She asked if I had something. I gave her the dress shirt I had worn to the opera. Interestingly, she brought several pair of hose. She wore 3 pair to the opera to protect her from the cold. We were outside for only a short time; so she was a little warmer than she likes.

We opted for the breakfast buffet this morning. This offered another example of the difficulty she has getting her eyes to focus on the various items she is looking for. For example, she stood in front of the bowls beside an assortment of fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apricots) as well as yogurt. She noticed the fruit and then walked down the buffet looking for a bowl even though they had been right in front of her. She didn’t notice the bowls, but she said she remembered having been here before even though this was our first time at this hotel. Another case of Deja Vu.

Last night at the opera, she asked me to take her gloves because she couldn’t get them in the pocket of her jacket. Now that I think of it, I must have dropped them below my seat because I don’t see them. It is obvious that I don’t do a great job of keeping up with her things. I am finding it challenging to keep up with her things as well as my own.

As soon as we came back to the room after breakfast, she got right in the bed with the covers over her. Over the past year or two this has become a pattern. In a few minutes I will get her up to meet an old TCU friend for lunch.

Good Times

The past few days have been busy ones but full of good experiences. On Friday we went to Nashville to visit the Greeleys. We both enjoy them. Scott had just arrived home from a class in which he was showing his photos from their trip to Africa last September. It was a dreary, rainy day. We had lunch that Jan had prepared; so we didn’t worry about going out until dinner. We didn’t get home until after 9:30, but the trip had been well worth it. Kate still gets along well in situations like this. She does occasionally make slips when she is talking, but I believe I am the only one who would know it. For example, she told a story of her trip to Mexico City when she was in high school. She mixed in a story from our trip to Colombia in 1976. She said she had asked the wife and mother of the family she was staying with where the maid lived and was taken to a small room off the kitchen. This is something that actually happened when we arrived at our place in Cali, Colombia.

Saturday morning we went to the regional auditions for The Metropolitan Opera. This was our first time to do this, and I wasn’t sure that Kate would want to stay for the whole thing. She enjoyed it so much that we stayed right through the announcement of the winners around 4:30. It had started at 10:00. It was a wonderful day of entertainment. These were extremely accomplished singers from 15 states and 1 from Canada. We also saw a number of people (8-10) we know. It was fun to talk with them during breaks.

Last night we attended a concert by a European opera company that has been coming to Knoxville for the past 5 years or so. They had several singers who performed highlights from operas by Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi. It was outstanding. Once again, Kate loved it. Our seats were on the second row, and there was no one sitting on the front row. We both like to be close; so this added to the pleasure of the evening.

The only down side of the day was the short time after we had come home from the auditions and before we left for dinner and the concert. We didn’t have much time, and Kate decided to change clothes. At one point when I felt she needed to know that it was time to leave, I started back to her room and started to gently ask how she was coming along. She shouted at me, “Leave me alone. Don’t say anything.” When she came out, he was wearing something old that was fine, but she could have been wearing one of her new clothes we had bought. By the way, that morning before the auditions, she had told me, “I’ll be ready when I get ready. Don’t say anything.” We had a similarly tense moment this morning getting ready for church. The moments when we are trying to get ready continue to be the most challenging one’s for both of us.

As we were going eat lunch today, she pointed to a couple walking a dog along the street. She said, “Now look at that couple.” I then said, “Have you seen them at Panera?” She gave me a dirty stare. The reason I asked is that she commonly asks me to look at someone in a restaurant like Panera Bread. Then she tells me she wants me to remember them because she has seen them before. I don’t know whether or not she has seen them before, but this kind of behavior on her part is new within the last year or so. It happens pretty frequently.

Little Things

Today Kate and I met with the visitation committee at church. As is our custom, committee members brought birthday cards for those with birthdays. When we arrived, Kate started to take a single seat to two other people. That would have meant we were not seated together. This is not a significant issue in terms of our relationship. It’s just that in the past she would have automatically sat in a place where I might sit beside her. I have noticed this in a couple of other instances when we have been out with Ellen, for example, a movie.

Kate’s birthday had been the week before and our custom is for each member of the committee to bring a birthday card for anyone who had not been recognized at the previous meeting. The woman chairing our group pointed out that Kate was to sit in a special seat reserved for her. It was the place where the birthday cards were on the placemat. She took the appropriate seat, but I don’t believe she understood that she had birthday cards in front of her. About 15-20 minutes into the meeting, I asked if she were going to open her cards. She hesitated a moment and then started opening them. Knowing that she would not be able to remember, I reminded her that the person receiving the cards usually passes them around for everyone to see. She looked confused and asked if I had a pen. Realizing that she still didn’t understand that the cards were for her, I told her they were her cards, and she didn’t need to sign the cards. This is just another reminder that she is often confused regarding what is going on around her. It is almost like she isn’t even listening. This happens even when it is just the two of us.

Lunch Experience

Kate and I just got back from lunch. Here are a couple of examples of the kinds of behavior that I see as routine. While I ordered, she went to the drink machine to get a Dr. Pepper. It is a new type of dispenser that has about 30 different drinks. You press the appropriate logos to select the drink you want. Then you go to a different screen that permits you to dispense the drink into your cup. I saw that she was puzzled and that she had Dr. Pepper but no ice. She came back to the counter to ask where she could get ice. The person went to the machine with her and showed her how. It turns out that although it is a fancy high-tech machine, the ice is dispensed just the way it is in any other drink machine. The fact that the machine looked so different I am sure caused her not to recognize how to get her ice.

When the sandwich arrived, she put a large amount of mustard on it. When she ate it, her hands got messy. She needed a napkin but didn’t see that they were on the table on my side. When she uses a napkin she does so like a child without opening it up. She used 5 napkins, and I gave her the one I had used at the end.

When we got in the car, I noticed that she had mustard on her slacks. She said she would have to get it off as soon as we got home, but she went back to her yard rather quickly; so I don’t know if she cleaned the mustard off or not. We leave in 25 minutes for a movie. These are all little things and things that any one of us might do. The difference is that they happen so regularly.

Still Outside

I have now been home just over 3 ½ hours, and Kate is still outside working. This is obviously something she enjoys immensely because she usually is interested in eating around 11:00. It is almost 2 hours past that time. I am going out to let her know it is time for lunch.

Always Something New

I just arrived back home from the Y. I usually stop by the office, but today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. Our office and many others are closed. When I arrived home, I looked for Kate in the house. I had seen the garage door to the backyard was open slightly and considered the possibility that she was working in the yard. Though the sun is shining, the temperature is in the lower 40s; so I really thought she would be inside. Once inside, I called to her and got no answer. Then I looked out back and saw that she was on the ground in the flower bed around the fence. I went out to see her. I asked if she were cold. She said she was but it was not too bad. She said she had on two sweatshirts and two pair of pants. I also called attention to the fact that she was wearing 3 baseball caps on her head. She seemed happy as a lark. I made no effort to encourage her to come inside. If she gets cold enough, I know she will come in. Although I can’t imagine deriving the same measure of pleasure from this kind of work, I accept the fact that it is important therapy for her. I reiterate something I have said before, one day I do expect that her pruning activity will be rewarded with new growth. I just fear that it will be too late for her to fully appreciate it.

Yesterday was the warmest day we have had in several weeks. The high was in the 60s. The sun was shining brightly. Kate spent more than 3.5 hours pruning. It was almost 7:00 pm when she came inside. That was almost an hour after dark.

Changes and Expressions of Appreciation

Change is gradual and impossible to detect from day to day. On the whole, however, I would say that Kate has exhibited a number of changes in behavior. I take all of them as signs of her continued decline and drift away from me. I have noted her desire for independence a number of times. This is pretty strong and I believe the result of my trying to help her so much. She has become resentful of that and tells me that I don’t think she can do anything on her own. She is not far off base on this judgment. She makes so many mistakes that I find myself trying to head them off. She even resists taking my hand as we cross streets or go down stairs. I have offered numerous times to help her clean up the clothes in the three bedrooms. She won’t hear of it. She says she is working on it. In fact, recently she has been doing so. This past week I had planned for us to go to Panera during the morning while our housekeeper cleaned. She wanted to do so, but she started cleaning her office; so I let her do that. She was getting some satisfaction from doing it, and it really needs to be done. She works very slowly; so she didn’t get far. Then she messes up faster than she is able to clean up.

She is washing clothes more regularly, something else that I believe arises from her desire to be independent. It also comes, I think, from her not be able to do so many things that she gravitates to those things she is able to do.

I have commented on her developing a sense of humor. She hits me pretty hard for being so compulsive. Sometimes the way she says things doesn’t sound humorous at all. I am wondering if she isn’t moving toward being irritable. I hope not. It is much easier to take when I think she is teasing me. This is something I may say something about, but I don’t want to make her angry or try to get her in a conversation she is not equipped to handle. This is very delicate.

As I begin to look at all the things going on, I am more convinced that 2015 is not going to be a good year for us. I have talked to more people about her AD in the past few months, and I have been writing more in this journal during January than I have done in quite a while. That may signal something about me as well as about Kate. I am going through more frustration, sadness, and possibly fear of the future. I am in the midst of planning our trip to Switzerland in May and am wondering about modifying my plans to make things even more leisurely than I had originally planned. Rushing her is the worst thing I can do.

Let me also make a note about her expressions of appreciation. At the same time her irritability seems to be increasing, she is also expressing more appreciation. She frequently says, “You take such good care of me.” I believe she is truly sensing her decline and recognizes how much she needs me even as she is fighting for her independence. At any rate, I much prefer the appreciation than the irritability.

A Moment of Realization

Although I have made it clear that Kate’s short term memory continues to decline, and I am looking at 2015 as a turning point to a more serious stage of Kate’s AD; sometimes there are moments that shake you just a little. Such a moment occurred yesterday afternoon.

Following our lunch, we were in Belk’s when I received a call from Ellen that she was locked out of her car and needed to get to a 3:00 pm appointment. I told her we would be there to pick her up and take her home to get a key. (First, I should say that Kate and I had gone to see Selma the day before. Because it covered events that were especially relevant for our generation, it had an impact on both of us. On the drive home, we talked about the movie and our memory of racism as we were growing up. Once home, Kate went to her computer and did some checking on the actual events as she often does after we have seen a movie.)

As we were driving to pick up Ellen, the radio was tuned to NPR. They did a segment in which they mentioned Selma. Then Kate said, “When are we going to see it?” I hesitated a moment, and she repeated her question. I told her we had seen it “yesterday.” She then hesitated a moment as though the significance of her memory lapse has startled her as well. Then she said, “Well, I remember my birthday luncheon” that had been the day before.

It is not unusual for Kate to forget things so quickly. This happens all the time, even during the same day or even after a few moments. The difference in this particular lapse was that the movie had had such an impact, we had talked about it, and she had explored the events on her computer after getting home. I took that as a signal that the AD is entering a more serious stage.

I want to add that after I had told her we had seen the movie, she thought about it a moment and then remembered that we had seen the movie. She specifically pointed out a number of things she had remembered correctly.

This morning before going to the kitchen to fix my breakfast, I reminded her that today would be a busy day for us. She asked what we were doing. I told her we would go to lunch and then to a memorial service for one of her PEO sisters at 1:00 and then go directly to a 90th birthday party for another mutual friend. Then tonight we are going to see Broadway Bound. Before going for my walk, I told her that our friends, the Robinsons, were not going to be able to attend the Live at The Met performance of The Merry Widow after all because the tickets were sold out. We had originally planned to go ourselves, but we have the memorial service and birthday party. While on my walk, I got a call from Kate saying that Ellen had called and invited us to go see The Merry Widow with her this afternoon. I told her we were going to the memorial service and to the birthday party. She simply didn’t remember. This kind of thing is happening all the time.

Kate’s Birthday

At the moment we are both sitting in front of the fireplace on a cold, overcast day. It is a bit dreary but we have no rain. Kate  is having a good birthday. She got a call from Sharon, her cousin in Dallas. Ellen hosted a surprise birthday lunch at one of her favorite lunch places. She was totally surprised. I hadn’t mentioned anything about the lunch, and she never asked. One of the things I have noticed is that Alzheimer’s  has led to her not thinking about such things. It is easy to surprise her. She doesn’t read any clues that something is up. In this case, the only thing I said was thirty minutes before leaving. I told her we were going to meet Ellen for lunch.  She didn’t ask or say anything. She just went along the same way she would have on a typical day.

She has heard from a number of her Facebook friends. Several of those were responding to a video I had posted on my Facebook page as well as hers. I had selected pictures of her at different ages and places from 1941 to 2014. This was a short video (about 13 photos), but it gave a nice portrait of our lives together, especially places we have traveled.

This leads me to point out something else that is indicative of her Alzheimer’s. She hasn’t thanked me, hasn’t asked how I made the video, or even how I found two of the pictures which I had gotten out of an album her father had made before she was five or six. In the old days, she would have acted very differently.

The big hit was the luncheon. She was taken by surprise and mentioned it several times after we got home. I am so glad Ellen did this.

Tonight we go our for dinner. Since we eat out every night anyway, that will seem like an ordinary dinner.

I am trying to imagine what she will be like next year at this time. It hurts to think about it.