Yesterday we visited Ellen, Kate’s best friend who now lives in Nashville. We have been visiting her every 4-5 weeks since she had a stroke two years ago this coming August. In February, she suffered a couple of seizures that have been a setback after she had been making a good recovery.
On Tuesday evening, I received a text from Jennifer, her daughter, letting me know that Ellen had declined noticeably since our previous visit a month ago. That visit was the first one we had made since her seizures and since she had been placed in memory care. At that time, we were not able to detect any memory issues, but it was clear that her speech had deteriorated since our previous visit. That makes conversation difficult. Prior to that we were getting about 60-75% of what she said.
During yesterdays visit, we were only able to understand about 20% of what she was saying, if that. We did best when asking her yes or no questions. Ellen’s decline comes at a time when Kate is also declining. I can’t help wondering how long we will continue these visits. My intention is to do so absolutely as long as possible. That would mean as long as it seems pleasurable to both of them.
Interestingly, Kate didn’t seem to notice the problem with Ellen’s speech to the extent that I did. That suggests to me that she doesn’t understand much anyway; so the fact that she can’t pick up all the words is hardly noticed. All-in-all it was a good visit. We enjoyed seeing her, and it appeared that she enjoyed seeing us.
Before returning home, we stopped to see Ann and Jeff Davis whom we first met at Wisconsin where Jeff and I were in grad school. Later Jeff and I were colleagues at UT. Our daughters are the same age, and Ann became Kate’s best friend before they moved away to Dayton, OH. They moved to Nashville about twenty years ago. We have not kept up with them until very recent years. I told them of Kate’s diagnosis about two year ago. Since that time we have made a deliberate effort to see them more regularly.
Yesterday’s visit with them was a good one. We went to dinner and the drove back home. We were in the restaurant almost three hours. At first, I was a little concerned because Ann seemed to be looking at me more than Kate. That has been an issue in other relationships we have. Some of that is rooted in the fact that I talk more than Kate. I believe Kate’s Alzheimer’s has also made it more challenging for Kate to assert herself in conversations. I imagine that this sometimes occurs because she is not following the conversation. Other times, it may be that she isn’t able to interject her comments quickly enough to be recognized. She is slow about everything; so I don’t find it surprising that she might have a longer latency period before being able to get her words out. Kate still has great admiration for Ann. I look forward to maintaining this relationship as long as possible.