Over the past year, I had thought that Kate had reached the point at which she didn’t recognize the impact of Alzheimer’s on her. I have begun to question my conclusion over the past few days. Several times I have been telling her something when she stopped me and said something like, “Stop. I’m not going to remember anything anyway.” I don’t really know that she sees this as a direct result of Alzheimer’s, but, at the very least, it is a recognition that she can’t remember. This is another reminder that a person with Alzheimer’s does recognize things he or she can’t do.
Kate and I are at Panera where we came after seeing the movie, Dunkirk. On the way here, she had expressed an interest in knowing more about the real events on which the movie was based. That led me to Google. As I was reporting what I had learned, she held her hand up and very nicely told me to stop, that her brain couldn’t absorb any more. She said she was interested in knowing more, but it was too difficult for her to grasp so much at one time.
I told her that a recent Time magazine that we have at home has a feature on the events surrounding this evacuation. That made her happy, but I would be very surprised if she actually reads it. I can’t recall the last time I saw her reading anything. I do see her pick up something like a bulletin at church and look at it as though she is going to read it, but she puts it down rather quickly.
Yesterday we had lunch with the Davises in Nashville. I am glad to report that everything went well. We spent about thirty minutes at their home in conversation before going to a restaurant. We got off to a good start when Ann and Kate paired off in their family room and had a conversation just between the two of them while Jeff and I had our own conversation. Ann was good about asking Kate questions that she was able to address even if the information she gave was not right. I couldn’t hear everything because of my own conversation with Jeff, but I did hear Kate say that we are moving to Texas. It is interesting how many things she can’t remember, but she doesn’t seem to forget about that. The good thing is that she doesn’t act as though it is something imminent.
In the car to the restaurant, Kate said something about our housekeeper. Then Ann asked her name. Kate couldn’t remember it. I whispered it in her ear. During the car ride and at the restaurant, it seemed like the conversation was mostly among three of us. Kate didn’t say much. I worried that this might bother her. As we left to see her friend, Ellen, she commented on the way Ann and Jeff are able to put people at ease. They are down-to-earth, not pretentious. This is especially important for Kate to sense because she sees both of them as very bright people and is a little intimidated by them. I hope this keeps up for a while longer.
Our visit to Ellen went well. Ellen had improved somewhat since our last visit just over a month ago. We still had trouble understanding much of what she said. By now I am wondering how much better she is likely to get. It has been two years since her stroke, and she has had 2-3 seizures since February. I plan to continue our visits as long as she and Kate are able.
Last night when Kate came inside from pulling leaves, her top was soaked from perspiration. When I commented on how hot she was, she said she was going right in to take a shower. Then in a whisper she asked a question that she occasionally asks, “Are we staying here (pointing to our bedroom) tonight?” I told her we were. Then I went back to the bedroom where I was watching TV. In a few minutes she came in the bedroom wearing different clothes from those she had been wearing. She had not had a shower. She asked me, “What should I do now?” I told her it would be a good time for her to take a shower and put on her night clothes for bed. She accepted that and only asked which bathroom should she use for her shower. After her shower, she returned to the bedroom in a robe but no gown. I asked if she would like me to get a gown for her. She said, “Yes, but first get me another towel.” I got both a towel and a gown. When she was fully dry, she put on the gown and got into bed with her iPad. She was in a very good humor. I continued watching an ETV program on the migration of Zebras in Botswana.
For several months, I have observed that Kate has not enjoyed movies the way she used to. That has led me to try safer movies, those that I thought had the best chance of pleasing her. A good example of this was taking her to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She didn’t enjoy it.
Today we went to see Maudie. This is a movie without sex and violence or foul language. It is a love story about a woman with a physical handicap. To me, the personality of the woman suggested that she may have had mental challenges as well. She leaves her family to make her own life and takes a position as a live-in housekeeper for a man with his own personality problems and is a seller of fish and a variety of other things. They eventually fall in love and get married. Maud becomes an artist who is discovered by a journalist who brings her a bit of fame. Even after watching it, I felt that it contains many elements that would make it appealing to Kate.
As I always do, I wondered how Kate was reacting to the movie throughout. It is a slow-moving film. I knew that could be a problem, but I also thought it might make it easier to understand the plot. It was clear that did not happen. On the way home, she said she could not follow the film.
This was an emotional experience for me in two ways. First, the movie brings out a lot of emotions. I am sure there were others besides me who at the end had tears in their eyes. Second, I was so saddened to hear that she had not enjoyed a movie I had like so well and hoped she would enjoy that I simply choked up and had a hard time telling her that I liked it and why
For a while, I have been saying that it looks like we are coming to the end of movie watching, something that has been a significant part of our lives for a good part of our marriage, especially since we’ve become empty nesters. Today’s experience just reinforces my belief/fear. I am not giving up on movies entirely just yet, but I will continue to be very selective in the ones we see.
Although Kate’s good humor has continued through this morning, that doesn’t mean that the usual signs of Alzheimer’s are not present. Some of these signs cause me to feel sad as they are further indicators of her decline. Over the past few days, I have mentioned a couple of times that we are going to have lunch with our good and long-time friends, the Davises who live in Nashville. Each time I have mentioned it, Kate has quickly said, “What am I going to talk about?” The first time this occurred I told her she could talk about her children and grandchildren and our recent trip to Chautauqua. Even as I said it, I knew that she could not remember enough about Chautauqua to be able to say much. She told me she would need my help. This happened last night at dinner. She said that before the visit she wanted me to go through the things we had done at Chautauqua. She also mentioned wanting me to carry the load on the discussion. I assured her that I would. The subject came up again this morning, and it appears that she is quite concerned about not being able to participate in the conversation. I do know that her memory is so poor that this is something she won’t worry about except when I mention the visit. I don’t intend to bring it up again until time to go on Friday
This morning another moment of sadness occurred as she was preparing to go outside. She couldn’t find her clippers; so I gave her a new pair that I had bought and put away for just such an occurrence. I noticed that the lock on this pair is different from the others and said, “Let me show you how to unlock them.” She felt insulted, took the clippers, and headed for the door. I went to the back of the house to put away a couple of things she had left in our bedroom last night. In a moment, I heard her call to me. I knew what she wanted. When I reached her, she was heading my way and held out the clippers for me. I unlocked them and showed her how it was done. I suspect that she hadn’t remembered that she hadn’t let me show her a few minutes earlier; however, I felt sad for her that she had been so confident that she could do it herself and then had to come back to me right away to help.
This is one of those days that demonstrates that someone with Alzheimer’s can have good days. That is exactly what Kate has experienced today. Her mood all day long has been quite good. If it were not for the fact that she still couldn’t remember anything, I would have said she is as normal as she was years ago.
While the whole day was good, it was really late this afternoon and this evening that were the best. I had arranged a phone call with Tina, her cousin in Alaska. Prior to the phone call Kate was pulling leaves outside. When I went out to get her she came right away and was cheerful. In fairness to her, she has been coming in rather quickly most of the time when I call her now. That makes me feel a lot better.
We had a nice phone call with Tina although Kate had gotten hot and sticky and wanted to take a shower; so I finished up the conversation for her. This is the kind of thing she would never have done pre-Alzheimer’s. Yesterday Kevin called. She was on the phone a little while. Then she got in bed to rest.
After Kate had showered she was ready to go eat. There was a threat of rain. When we left it was not raining. Less than a half-mile from the restaurant the bottom dropped out. We sat in front of the restaurant about ten minutes waiting for it to let up. Finally, I remembered that we had some Stouffer’s lasagna in our freezer. I mentioned it to Kate, and we decided to come home. While I heated the lasagna in the microwave, Kate got out plates and napkins and silverware. This was the first time I can recall her taking anything like this kind of initiative in years.
After eating the lasagna, I mentioned that I might have some yogurt for dessert. She got it out for me, took the top off, and put a spoon in it and placed in front of my seat at the island. Again, I haven’t seen anything like this in years.
It was about 7:45 when we finished our yogurt. At 8:00, there was an ETV program on wildlife in Alaska coming on. We watched the entire show together. I mean we both watched without doing anything else. That is the first time I recall doing anything like that in years as well. During the program, Kate was quite talkative, making references to things that were shown on TV. Then when it was over at 9:00, she said good night. It had been a very good day.
One other thing I should mention. We talked about how nice it was to have the lasagna at home. She said, “We should do this more often.” I was wondering when we might transition to eating at home again. Maybe it will be sooner than I had expected.
We are sitting here in the family room doing our separate things. She is working on her iPad. I am working on photos from Chautauqua before creating a slide show of our recent stay there. She just mentioned that we had done so many good things in our marriage. Then she said, “I know I’ve said this before, but I’m so glad we did what we did for my mother.” (She is referring to our bringing her mother to live with us in our home where she had 24/7 care for almost five and a half years.) This is a recurring theme I have heard for a long time. She also frequently says what a special person her mother was and how much she did for other people. There have also been times when she has imagined that someone has said something bad about her mother. In one instance, she said she was glad that I had stood up for her mother when some boys were saying things about her.
Her mother really was a special person. I think it is now that she is fully recognizing that.
I haven’t mentioned anything about Kate’s deja vu experiences in quite a while, but that does not mean they have gone away. I continue to see the same pattern as always. She will see people in a restaurant, on the street, or just about any other place and say something like, “There he goes again” or “See that woman (couple, family). She’s always there.” She also remembers places we’ve never been before. For example, two weeks ago we stayed in a Courtyard in Buffalo on the way to Chautauqua. She said she remembered some of the surrounding buildings and the room we stayed in although this was our first time there. Two days ago we visited someone we have known here at Panera. He and his wife moved into an assisted living facility while we were in Chautauqua. As we walked down the hall to their apartment, she said she remembered the hallway and the pictures on the wall. On the way back from Nashville a few weeks ago, a couple on a motorcycle passed us. She said she remembered them.
Frequently, Kate does things that I think are both cute and at the same time cause me to feel a little sad. For example, in the past few months she has occasionally taken the cable out of the plug that goes in the wall to take with her to Panera. It is unusual in that she doesn’t often do that much planning. Apart from that, of course, is that the cable will do no good without the plug.
More typically, she just comes into the kitchen and announces that she is ready. I know what she means. She is ready to go to Panera. I don’t really know exactly what motivates her to get ready for Panera. At first, I assumed that she thought we had talked about going there. Now I am beginning to think it relates to the fact that we go back and forth from home to Panera and back again so often. A related factor is that this often occurs right after she has come in from the yard, showered, and dressed. It seems a little like a stimulus/response pattern that has developed. This happened just before we came here about thirty minutes ago. It always occurs when I have gotten into something; so I stop and pack up our things to take to Panera. That is really no problem; it just means that I am regularly shifting gears after getting settled.
The sad part is knowing that her behavior is a direct result of Alzheimer’s, and that it just gets worse all the time. Even as I say this, I feel the need to add that she is usually in a good humor as she is right now. She is happily working on her iPad. Strangely enough, she hasn’t had a problem losing the puzzle because she hit the wrong button. That has been an issue for a while now.
We arrived at Panera about twenty minutes ago. As I was waiting in line to pay for two drinks, Kate went to the drink dispenser to get a Dr. Pepper in the cup she had brought with her. She sat down at the table where I had put my cup and her iPad Before I had time to order, she went back to the dispenser with her cup. In a couple of minutes, she returned to our section but didn’t know where to go. I pointed to the table where she had been and where our things were. Then I noticed she was not only carrying her cup, she had picked up another cup with a top on it, and it was half full. Then she took off the top and poured the contents into her cup. Spontaneously, I asked where the got the cup, “from another table?” She said, “Of course, not.” I didn’t say any more. I knew that she couldn’t tell me, but the only way she could get a cup was to get one from the person at the counter where I was waiting. All I can think of is that she picked up someone else’s drink.
Shortly after I got to the table, she looked at me and said with a happy face, “Are we really going to Chautauqua?” I told her we weren’t but that we had just been there and had a great time. I also said, “It would be nice to go back, wouldn’t it?” She agreed.