It has been a while since I have mentioned it, but Kate continues to have Deja vu experiences. For example, yesterday or the day before, we were driving on our way to church. We saw two women walking on the sidewalk. She pointed out that she has seen them before walking along about “this time.” Of course, it is really doubtful because she doesn’t have a car, especially this time of morning. A little later she saw someone else and said she had seen him before. At Panera in the past few days, she has pointed out people she has seen before. This even happens in places where we have not been before. I never challenge her or tell her she couldn’t have seen them before. There would be no purpose in doing so, and it might hurt her. It is amazing how natural it is to want to correct someone. It requires self-control. Once in a while, I find myself failing in this respect.
These kinds of experiences make it clear to me that Alzheimer’s not only affects the memory but also other aspects of the brain. Another example of that occurred yesterday. When I arrived home, I discovered that she had brought in the garbage bin from the street after the garbage had been picked up. She had left it out instead of returning it to the garage where we keep it. When I looked in it, I saw that she had put yard trash in it, something she would not have ordinarily done before Alzheimer’s.
While at the office yesterday morning, I called our former dentist, Hank Noble, to see if we could get together again. It has been several months since we last did so. We talked about 20-30 minutes and set a day next week to meet for coffee at Eggs Up. I had a feeling that I had gotten the very first time we talked. He is suffering much more than I am. He says he is getting along well but then what he says lets you know he is troubled. He told me that he was having difficulty making himself do little things like write checks to pay bills. Another friend told him that he was depressed. Hank said, “I don’t feel like I am depressed, but I guess that is what it is.” Another indication of his depression is that he said he needs to begin thinking about possible arrangements with some kind of facility for his wife. He said that he hasn’t been able to make himself think about it as though if he doesn’t think about it, it will go away.
He asked how we were doing. When I told him about our having had good trips to Switzerland and New York and that we had gone paragliding in Switzerland, he was amazed. He expressed a touch of envy that we were getting along so well. I will have to be very careful in our future conversations not to make him feel badly about this. I did tell him that our time is coming, that we had been very fortunate, and that both Kate and I often talk about how grateful we are for our circumstances. He reiterated how fortunate he and his wife are that that have the financial resources to provide the care that his wife needs. He has had 24/7 care for 8-12 months or so. His wife can’t walk on her own and cannot feed herself. He indicated how hard it was for him to look across the room at his wife with her head slumped toward her breast much like we envision those in nursing homes. He says he sometimes just has to get up and leave the room. He misses conversation with her. He had told me that the previous time we spoke.
I plan to stay in touch with him even though I don’t feel he is in a position to provide me a great deal of support. I feel I will be able to help him more than the reverse. There is another way to look at it, however. I draw strength from people whenever I am around them (most people at least). It isn’t necessary for him to express any special concern or support for me to benefit or be strengthened. Just having another person to talk with will help me down the line. I am thinking about the time when Kate has progressed much further than she has now. At some point, his wife will pass away. At that point, he may not feel the need to get together.
Since our return from New York, I have been unusually tired. This is something I have rarely felt before. On several occasions upon waking, I felt as though I would like to remain in bed. I must also say that I have not been sleeping as well since our return. Surely this is part of the reason. I have also wondered if I am not having a general let down after planning and anticipating our two big trips (Switzerland and NYC) that occurred so close together. All along I have looked upon both of them as the last such trips of this nature that we are likely to make. Since returning home, I have done some reflecting on this and am leaving open the possibility of at least one other trip overseas. I still think the likelihood is slim. I am certainly not going to do anything sooner than the next 6-8 months. By that time, Kate’s condition may have deteriorated to the point that it is very clear that we can’t do it. On the other hand, it may be possible to either attempt a cruise in which we don’t do the excursions but simply enjoy life on board and on shore around the port area. Another possibility would be to go to a place like Santa Fe and stay there for a week or so. Right now I am not going to plan anything. I intend to assess how well we get along at Chautauqua. I suspect I will have sufficient doubts about going back in 2016 that I won’t make plans a year in advance.
Looking back at the trip to Switzerland as well as the trip to New York, I would have to say that both went quite well for Kate. Although I felt that greater demands were placed on me during both trips, they were terrific for Kate in that she was kept busy doing things that interested her. She handled everything well except the usual difficulty in meeting time deadlines. Even here, the problem is really one for me and not for her. She doesn’t worry about being on time for anything. She only gets up tight when I am encouraging her, sometimes having to push her, to get ready.
As I think about it, I feel she is getting along better right now and that I am also less frustrated. I am not sure whether this is the result of an improvement on her part or that I have become more accustomed to her decline in short-term memory. At any rate, I feel that things are moving along rather smoothly.
I continue to notice that Kate gets irritated with me and not always because I am rushing her to get ready. She continues to want to be more independent. She seems to be working hard to demonstrate her capabilities to me. She believes that I don’t think she can do anything, and that annoys her. It is then expressed in things she says to me. One of the little things that happens is that she does not want to take my hand when I extend it to cross a street, go up steps, etc. This has become a sign that she is needy, and she doesn’t like it.
Looking ahead, I am unsure about whether we will be able to attend Chautauqua after this year. I have already thought that if we do, it might be easier if we stayed at the Athenaeum Hotel because it offers three meals a day. That would make things easier for us.
I started the movie, Dreamer, about 35 minutes ago. We were watching, and I thought enjoying it when she said, “I’ll be right back.” I took the opportunity to get ready to take a shower. I looked outside, and she had gone out there. She went out to look for the night guard she lost.
We have been back from NYC for 3 days, and I have not written a word about our trip and how it went. The first thing to say is that it was a very good trip. With respect to my plans, I would say that everything worked out perfectly. We did an amazing variety of things and gave the grandchildren a good taste of the city. Kate got along well. It was good that we had Jesse and Ken with us to help with the three boys. I could never have managed Kate and the grandchildren by myself.
Debbie and Bruce Morton (a TCU roommate) visited us yesterday after spending two days with friends in Nashville. Kate’s memory of them was sketchy. We hadn’t seen them in a while and was a little uneasy about the visit. When they left, she talked about how much she had enjoyed the visit. She got along quite well. I noticed a few little things that the Mortons would not have noticed. David told me he and Vicki were surprised at how well she is doing. These are two common things about visiting with friends. Kate is often a little hesitant about getting together with people she doesn’t remember. The other thing is that everyone always is struck by how well Kate seems to handle herself. They often say, “If I hadn’t known, I would not have suspected she has Alzheimer’s.”
Yesterday two things happen that are further signs of Kate’s recent decline in both short-term and long-term memory. The first occurred when I attended a communications committee meeting of the United Way. On the way over, the thought hit me that Ross Kilgore, CEO of UW, might indicate knowledge about Kate. When I saw him, that is exactly what happened. He asked me how she was “doing.” It was clear this wasn’t the usual inquiry. ” I responded that she was getting along well. I told him that we had been very fortunate and were grateful that we had been able to enjoy such a long period of time without any major disruption in our lives. I also told him that 2015 was the beginning of a new and more difficult phase. He expressed concern and told me that his mother had had AD. He also mentioned anpther couple who are going through the same thing. I told him I had spoken with the husband just the day before. The significance of this exchange with Ross is that the word is beginning to get around. In most respects this is a relief. I don’t have to be as careful in guarding Kate’s secret as I have done in the past. I also don’t worry that someone is going to say something to Kate.
The second, and bigger, blow occurred last night at Casa Bella. We were there for their opera night. Our regular order is to split a single order of the veal piccata and then share one slice of amaretto cheesecake. Last night, however, I decided to order the piccata for Kate and try something else for myself. I expected her to say something about this change since we have eaten the same thing for so many years. She never said a word. From our conversation afterwards, I know that she didn’t notice that is what I had done.
The even bigger occurrence was that when the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, she asked him what they had. She has loved their cheesecake for years. It is one of her very favorite desserts. Even when she is trying to watch her eating, she and I split the cheesecake. Interestingly, the waiter mentioned the their bread pudding but not the cheesecake. Before Kate could order, I said, “We usually get the cheesecake.” This memory failure is significant because it is a clear indication that something of great importance to her over the years is now drifting away.
Although I have said since late fall that 2015 was going to be a different year, it is painful and anxiety inducing to experience the reality of this decline. I am now more clearly facing a major change in the nature of our relationship because so much of what is involved in a marriage involves the sharing of common memories. I don’t mean to suggest that they are all gone. We are quite a way from that I hope. Nonetheless, she is declining more rapidly than in the past.