Coming off the holidays, I have had a more relaxed scheduled. Perhaps that is what led me to take a number of steps to communicate with some people that I don’t regularly communicate with.
On Wednesday or Thursday, I sent a letter to Ken and Virginia via email updating them on our situation here. I have felt a need or responsibility to communicate with them much more than I have in the past. It has been over a year since we told each other about Kate’s and Ken’s illnesses. Since there are so few people who know, I have felt that I should reach out to them and make sure they know that I care about their situation as well as our own. I posted this exchange below. I trust it will lead to further exchanges in the future.
I also called Betty,my dad’s brother’s wife, to make sure that she knows. After a fairly lengthy conversation, I told her that I wanted to update her on things in Knoxville and thought that she might very well know what I am about to tell her. It turns out that she had believed that Kate was in the early stages of dementia. I thought that she might have suspected because of her times with Kate during the past few birthday celebrations for Dad. I was correct. She related a number of things she had observed, mostly during the days leading up to Dad’s 100th birthday.
Yesterday I called my former dentist. I have known for quite some time that his wife has dementia. His son, my current dentist, had suggested that I call his dad. I am not quite sure that I called to get tips or simply to connect with somebody going through what I am experiencing. Whatever the reason, I did find that his wife is much further along than Kate. That means he is feeling the need for support more than I am at the present time. He told me a little about his wife and his struggles. I told him a little about ours. At the end, we agreed to get together periodically. He seemed interested, if not eager, to do so. I told him I would take the initiative and call him to arrange something.
Finally, I had an hour-long conversation with our son, Kevin, yesterday morning. This one was initiated by him. He has been interested in staying in touch and doing whatever he able to do since I told him of Kate’s Alzheimer’s almost a year ago. During our conversation he mentioned once again the possibility of his making a trip to Knoxville, perhaps along with our daughter, Jesse, just to stay in touch with Kate. He really wants to do whatever he can to help her. I told him there is really very little he can do except to stay in touch with her. She loves to hear from her children and grandchildren. We specifically talked about a visit in March.
I have enjoyed the communications with these people and should make an effort to do more of it in the future. I do recognize that I am like my father in that I am energized by interaction with other people. As Kate continues to decline, I will probably need more of this to keep my spirits up. In my conversation with my former dentist, he said that he missed being able to have a conversation with his wife. He also noted that his social contact had diminished as his wife had declined. He noted that even her best friend only stopped by about twice a month. I have seen this with Dad. More importantly, I have noticed how this has happened in my contact with other people who are now in nursing homes or confined to their own homes. This means I will have to work hard to keep from becoming isolated. I hope that I will be as successful at this as my dad was.
In all my communications I have tried to convey that up to this point, Kate’s and my relationship has been strengthened and that we are enjoying ourselves despite the adjustments we are both making. Right now, for example, we are sitting in front of the fireplace. It is a cold morning, and I know how much a fire means to her; so I built one. This is not a great sacrifice on my part. I also enjoy it. During the past 3 winters, I have made it a practice to have more fires than we had prior to her diagnosis. It seems to comfort her. When she is comforted, I feel better as well. As they say, it is a “win-win situation.
I have been journaling while Kate works on her pictures. She also enjoys looking at them. Sometimes I think she gets more out of just remembering the past than preparing a photo book. As I have noted before, I do not expect that she will ever finish another one, but I don’t think that is what matters. It is wonderful that she has a project to work on in the same way that her work in the yard is good for her.
While I am writing, I should mention that this Thursday I took her to her monthly PEO meeting. She was to call me when I was to pick her up. I got the call around 11:30 while I was talking to Betty. When I got there, I noticed that all the cars were still parked on the street in front of the house. I went to the door and rang the bell. The woman who was hosting that day answered the door and said they were still meeting. I told her Kate had called me. She said she knew but that she thought Kate had forgotten that they hadn’t yet had their program; so I waited in the living room until they were through (about 20-25 minutes). This just an example of the many points of confusion that occur each day.
On the way home from PEO Kate told me that she had volunteered to have the meeting at our house in April 2016 and was going to give the program. She plans to do a program on the wild things we do in our youth. She is going to tell about our trips with our children to Spain and France and to Colombia. The first thing I thought of was what she would be like when the time comes. It wasn’t easy for her to host and do the December program, but by April 2016, I can’t imagine that she will be able to do it. Now I will consider whether to alert the program chair so that they can be prepared with a backup.
Short-term memory continues to be a big issue. Two weeks ago, perhaps less, we went to see Into the Woods. She saw a trailer for the movie this week and said, “that’s one that we’‘ll have to see.” She had completely forgotten that we had seen it.
As I have been writing, she asked me if I knew anything about The Judge. I told her that I did and gave her a little information. She had no recollection that she had asked me about this earlier this week. I didn’‘t tell her we have seen a trailer for this movie at the theater at least two times.