Everyday Confusion

We are sitting here in front of the fire. I have the Cowboys-Packers playoff game on. About 10 minutes ago, I showed Kate a video that a friend  had posted on Facebook. It shows a cruise ship in rough seas. The first part of the video was taken from a helicopter or plane of the ship bobbing up and down as well as left and right. The second part of the video was shot from a camera in a dining or lounge. The latter video shows people, tables, chairs, and other non-fixed equipment sliding from one side of the room to the other and back again. It is staggering to watch. It would certainly reinforce any fears of cruising that anyone might have. Kate started to put the iPad down after the first part, and I told her to keep watching. She never said a word. When the video was over, I asked if she understood what was happening. She said no. I then explained. Then she understood. I then said, “I should have given you the explanation before just asking you to watch it.” She gave me a glaring look and nod of agreement. This is a common occurrence when I am telling her something. The difference is that in most instances where I have not given a proper setup it is usually harder to understand than this video. This is a very clear video of exactly what it is. The fact that she did not understand explains why she does not react or understand so many other things in conversation or on TV or in movies. She is further along that even I fully realize.

This brings to mind another clothing issue that came up before our going to lunch. When I arrived home from Sunday school (she didn’t want to go to church again today), she had not dressed to go out. She told me she was trying to find something to wear. Thinking about the 5 pair of slacks we had just bought on Thursday and the turtleneck sweaters she has still not worn, I asked if she would like me to help. She told me no and to “leave me alone.” I said “you really don’t want my help. You want to do it yourself.” She replied with an emphatic, “Yes.” When she came out to the family room for us to leave, she was wearing old clothes. There was nothing wrong with what she was wearing, but I fear that she has no idea where the 5 pair of slacks are located.

Everyday Examples

Last night we went to a symphony concert. I made dinner reservations. She decided to take a nap before going out. Knowing that getting ready, especially getting ready on time can be stressful for both of us, I told her we would leave in an hour and twenty minutes. When we had about 35 minutes before leaving, I told her it was time to get ready. She got up willingly and right away, something she hasn’t always done in the past. I mentioned that because of the cold, she might want to wear one of her new turtleneck sweaters, none of which she has yet worn. Two of them were purchased in early fall, the third we bought this past week. She was immediately offended by my suggestion. She reacted abruptly and asked me to “just leave me alone.” I did so. When we were 5 minutes away from departure time, she came into the family room fully dressed and asked me, “Is this too casual for tonight?” It was too casual and is something she wears quite regularly. The cut itself, not long sleeve and a large opening at the neck, was not right for a cold night. I suggested she try one of the turtlenecks. She then went into a panic from which she did not fully recover until we were on the way to the concert after dinner.

At the restaurant, we bumped into the pastor at our local Unitarian church as we walked in. He was with a friend, and we chatted with them a few minutes before sitting down at our table. You would have never thought there was anything wrong. Once we were seated, however, her posture and the expression on her face clearly indicated she was trying to calm herself down from her panic. She didn’t talk except in response to my questions, and I tried not to talk too much because she was not in a talking mood. (I might add that I have created a playlist of soft relaxing music on my iPhone. I played this from home to the restaurant and from the restaurant to the concert and then back home. It is a mixture of classical (mostly) and popular music. I put this together just for these situations and use it fairly frequently; so frequently that I periodically move the order of the pieces so that it does not seem so repetitious as well as making sure songs nearer the end of the playlist actually get played.)

When I drove into the line for valet parking, she said she wanted to get out and go inside because it was so cold. We usually get out of the car together. This time I said, “OK. I’ll meet you inside” and paid the valet. Then I went inside to meet her. I went in the main entrance where we usually enter. I didn’t see her. I saw quite a few other people that I know and asked if they had seen Kate. No one had. Then I started walking around the lobby area and even went upstairs where we would enter to reach our seats. I still didn’t find her. When the lobby cleared out, it was easier to see who was left. It was clear she wasn’t on the side where we usually enter. I walked to a desk on the other side where I saw someone I know and asked if she had seen Kate. She had not. Then I looked a little beyond her and saw Kate waiting on the other side of the lobby. I don’t know exactly why she was in that spot, but I do know she does not remember locations very well. I suspect she got out of the car and went into the hall through another entrance. This would have required a further walk since I was letting her out near the main entrance, but she could easily have forgotten about that entrance. Interestingly, she was not in a panic although she was a little irritated that I had taken so long. I didn’t even ask how she happened to be there. I have learned that she does not like to discuss such things. I believe it is because it is hard for her to remember how something like this occurred. She can’t explain it. Anyway all turned out well. The concert was not an exciting one for her. It was clear by looking at her that she was ready to go home before the first note was played, but she never said a thing.

Big Week for Communications

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.