A Good Day Even if We Didn’t Do Anything Special

Kate and I have a lot of good days. Yesterday was one of them. Often they are good because of things we have done together, things like attending musical or theatrical performances or spending time with friends or family. Yesterday, we didn’t do anything special; we just did our usual things.

Kate started the day in a very good humor. When she came into the kitchen she showed no sign of being tired. She was just ready for a nice day. She was wearing a very nice jacket that didn’t match her everyday clothes. I started to suggest that she wear another sweater or jacket, but I decided against it.

As we drove to Panera, she teased me about something. Sometimes it doesn’t sound like teasing. In this case, it was just very natural playfulness. While at Panera, she brought up the names of two people whose names she often forgets. One is my brother, Larry. The other is our good friend, Tom Robinson. She asked me the names of their wives, and said, “I don’t know why I can never remember them?” I hear this periodically. That is one of the reasons I believe she no longer connects her symptoms with her Alzheimers, and I see no reason to point it out.

I had arranged for the sitter to come an hour earlier so that I could attend a United Way lunch meeting. We didn’t get to Panera until thirty minutes before the sitter was to arrive at home. I called and asked that she meet us at Panera. It wasn’t until about ten minutes before the sitter arrived that I told Kate I was going to be leaving. I explained that the sitter was coming to be with her. She took that very naturally without any appearance of disappointment or dissatisfaction. Of course, that made me feel good about leaving. When the sitter walked up to our table, Kate greeted her warmly. I left them to decide how long they stayed and what they would do after that.

When I arrived back home, Kate was resting on the sofa while the sitter was watching television. I chatted with the two of them for a few minutes. When the sitter got up to leave, I thanked her. Kate thanked her as well.

I asked Kate if she would like to go to Barnes & Nobel. I knew she would say yes. She didn’t disappoint me. As we prepared to leave, I saw that she was wearing a pair of brown shoes and carrying the black shoes she had been wearing. I asked if she were going to wear the black ones. She asked what I thought. I told her I thought the black would look better. She accepted that without any hint that she resented my telling her. She changed, and we left. We stopped by the bank for me to make a deposit. I left Kate in the car. The people in line ahead of me had some special situations that required a good bit of time. I apologized to Kate for taking so long. She said it didn’t seem that long.

After leaving Barnes & Noble, we went to Chalupas for dinner. We’ve had a good bit of rain yesterday, and I wondered if it might rain again today. I tried to check the weather report on my phone, but it took too long for the app to open. I decided to check Facebook just to see if it might have been a problem with the cellular connection. When I did, I saw that one of Kate’s cousins had posted something about an arithmetic book that their second grade teacher had written and is now available on Amazon. Before I could read the name of the teacher, Kate said it. Her eyes brightened and she said she wanted to get the book. I told her we would. Then she started talking about her teacher and that she had remembered the teacher’s taking an interest in her. She has been losing many of her long-term memories, so I enjoyed seeing this memory come back to her and that she felt so good.

Just before we left Chalupas, she pointed to her glass and asked, “Ours or theirs?” I told her the glasses belonged to the restaurant. On two or three other occasions she has started to leave with one. The first time the owner followed us outside and diplomatically asked if she would like a cup to take away cup. The other time or two I caught her before we got out the door.

In the car on the way home she started talking about our marriage and how many things we shared in common. Then she said she was tired and thought she would crash when she got home. She asked if that would be all right. I told her that would be fine, that she could do whatever she liked. She could just relax. She said, “That’s what I like about you. You are so understanding.” And she wasn’t being sarcastic. (I realize that when I report things like this, it can seem very self-serving. My intent is to convey her own perceptions and that she is still able to respond to the way she is treated. When she says these things, to me it is like saying, “I’m still here. Please don’t forget that.”

After we got home, she walked through the family room. Just before she going through the door to the back of the house where the bedrooms are located, she asked, “Which way do I go?” I walked toward her. Before I could answer, she said, “I usually go this way.” She was pointing to our bedroom. I said, “That’s it.”

A few minutes later she went to her room, got her robe and asked (using hand signals) if she should put it on. I told her she could. She took her nightly meds that I had put on her bedside table. Then she asked again in hand signals if she should put on her robe. Again, I told her that would be fine. In another minute, she called to me for help. I noticed that she was struggling with her robe. She asked if she had it inside out. As I went over to help, she said she had figured it out. It turns out that she had put her right arm in the left sleeve of the robe. She worked on her iPad for 10-15 minutes, and then called it a night.

We hadn’t done anything special, but it was a good day for both of us. She was in a good humor every minute of the day. I hope my account of our communication properly conveys the change that has been in process over a long period of time. She seems to be looking to me more as a partner in her journey. She displays an element of trust that reinforces my efforts as her caregiver. I know that not all caregivers are as fortunate. So as I’ve said before, if Kate’s had a good day, it’s been a good day for me. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Recognizing People with Dementia (PWD) as More than Patients

The first book I read following Kate’s diagnosis was Jan’s Story by Barry Petersen. I remember thinking it should have been entitled Barry’s Story because it didn’t really tell the story of Alzheimer’s from Jan’s point of view but from his. Since that time (7 years and 3 months), I have had a good bit of personal experience and have read about the experiences of other caregivers and a few people with dementia. That has led me to see that caregivers receive a disproportionate share of the attention. As a caregiver myself, I certainly believe we need and deserve attention. I just don’t want us to forget or neglect the people with dementia.

My first personal glimpse of this came when I tried to locate a local support group for people with dementia. I couldn’t find one. I contacted national and local offices of the Alzheimer’s Association as well as my contacts in the field of elder care and social work. I discovered many opportunities for groups for caregivers, but nothing available locally for Kate. This did not present a major problem for us since she preferred to be private about her diagnosis. A couple of years ago, however, I asked if she might be interested in finding a group. She said she would. That is when my search failed to come up with anything.

Since then, I have read books by people with dementia and found that they, too, believe they don’t receive their fair share of attention. I’m currently reading a book entitled The Lewy Body Soldier by Norman McNamara. He is particularly outspoken about the need to include people with dementia in all planning for programs and facilities for people with memory problems. Kate Shaffer and Rick Phelps are two other people with dementia that have been strong advocates for people with dementia.

I believe there are reasonable explanations for this disproportionate attention on caregivers. I think it all begins with an image of a PWD. The tendency is to think of someone who is in the later stages of the disease. Most of us don’t think about the long period of time before that when one can function pretty well. I believe Kate is now in Stage 6 of the 7 Stage model of the progression of Alzheimer’s. Yet, she functions very well in our social interactions. Most people would never guess that she has Alzheimer’s. It makes me think about the large number of people around us that have dementia and who could contribute in many ways to help us better understand this disease.

As I think about it, I believe that even caregivers often misunderstand the abilities of those for whom they are caring. I know that happens to me. It is evidenced in the struggles that Kate and I have over her independence. I want to help her, but I have a tendency to help where help isn’t needed or wanted. She lets me know. As I pointed out in a recent post, this is a challenging situation. It requires keen observation and ability to adapt as the disease progresses.

Beyond this misunderstanding of the abilities of PWD, it is much easier for people to see and understand their own problems. I can easily see my own problems in adapting to Kate’s behavior, but I have little knowledge of her problems. She has never talked much about hers. I can only infer from what I see. I know she must struggle in ways that I do not recognize. I wish I did. Thankfully, she is not shy in letting me know when I say or do the wrong thing, and it is normally done with an element of love and respect.

Of course, caregivers have considerably more opportunities to make their own needs known. There are many support groups in local communities where they can share their experiences and frustrations. There are also many online communities like those sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association or a number of groups on Facebook. In addition, there are many books addressing the needs of caregivers and tons of advice for making their role manageable.

I believe there are two guiding principles that could be a starting point for those of us who want to enlarge the focus on PWD and make them a greater part in providing better care. One is to recognize that PWD have a broad range of abilities well into the later stages of the disease and to capitalize on this knowledge. There is much that a person can do and contribute long after the diagnosis. Second, is to recognize there is great diversity among PWD. One approach to working with PWD is unlikely. I have tried to keep Kate and me as socially active as possible. We spend the better part of every day away from home. In some ways, I wish that weren’t so. On the other hand, I believe the kind of social interactions we have at Panera, Barnes & Noble, the restaurants we frequent, the live performances we attend, and our various day trips to visit out-of-town friends have gone a long way to maintain Kate’s ability to get along as well as she has. These things appear to have worked for us. Caregivers and loved ones have to make their own decisions concerning what is best for them. And as I have said before, many people have more complicated and challenging situations than Kate and I. Some are working full time jobs while playing the role of caregiver. Many have a variety of other health issues to deal with. In addition, some face more challenging symptoms like anger and aggression. All that any of us can do is give our best under the conditions we face. I wish everyone the very best as you negotiate this path.

Surprise, Kate worked outside with her shrubs yesterday.

It has now been several months, since Kate has shown any interest in working outside in the yard. That is a dramatic change from the past when she worked through even the coldest months. I’ll never know what accounts for that. My guess is that the shrubs were so denuded that there were no longer any leaves for her to “pull.”

Yesterday that changed. When I came home after going to the Y and running errands, I found Kate pulling the new growth on shrubs along our driveway. I had two immediate reactions. The overwhelming one was a burst of happiness. It’s been a while since I have written about her work in the yard, so let me summarize why I felt this way. Since her diagnosis, more than seven years ago, Kate has had three primary activities other than those I provide for her.

One was working on family photo albums. She was introduced to this by her brother, Ken, who has completed numerous albums. He and Kate worked on one together, an album about their mother’s family. It represents a beautiful family history. She wanted to create her own albums for us and our children and grandchildren. She got her start after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Even though she worked on one for several years, she never got beyond selecting photos and editing them. Two years ago, she just stopped working on her computer altogether. She didn’t even continue with email. I think it got too challenging for her.

That left her with only two other activities. The major one was working in the yard. That meant pruning and “pulling leaves.” She had learned about the value of pruning long ago. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, I think she did it for herself more than here shrubs. It was a kind of therapy. It required little effort. When she had pruned back about as much as she could, she started pulling off the leaves. There were days when she would spend as much as 6 hours outside. It was great because she enjoyed it, and it was something she could do on her own without anyone’s telling that she was doing anything wrong.

This past fall she stopped working in the yard. I suspected that the colder weather played a part. In addition, we both had colds and the flu during the first of this year. When the weather began to improve, she didn’t get back to her yard work. I began to think it was a thing of the past, so I was much relieved to see her working yesterday.

I said, however, I had two immediate reactions. The first was elation. The second was apprehension related to the condition of the shrubs. I knew there was a chance that some of the shrubs could be permanently damaged by what she had done before, but I felt it was worth it for Kate. As spring has approached, I have been eager to see how many, if any, of the shrubs would come back. As I expected, it appears that some of them are dead. Others appear to have dead branches, but there is new growth coming from the base of the trunks as well as the roots around the base. In addition, there are some that look like they are going to be just fine.

So why the apprehension? That arises from the fact that the ones that look fine have new leaves that are sprouting. Those, of course, would be the only ones with leaves she can pull. It is still too early for them to have an abundance of new leaves. Many of them have only a handful. This means that the very ones that seem to be living may not ultimately make it. My hope is that enough of them survive to keep her busy until next winter.

Yard work is important to her and, thus, to me as well. If she loses that, she will have only one activity of her own, working jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. Right now she spends 5-6 hours a day, and sometimes more, doing that. It has become harder for her in the past year, but I see no sign that she is about to drop it. I never imagined how important an iPad be could. She doesn’t use it for anything other than jigsaw puzzles. I am thankful she has it.

No Serious Consequences, Just One of those Little Things

Last week while we were in Memphis, Jesse took us to a restaurant located in an old gas station. As we were leaving, Kate wanted to stop at the restroom. The rest of us waited in the reception area. It is not unusual for her to take a long time, so I didn’t worry when she didn’t come out in, what for most people, would be a reasonable time. In a few minutes, another customer approached the door. Discovering it was locked, she wited for her to come out. She got tired and went in the men’s room. Finally, I decided to check on her. I knocked on the door and asked if everything was all right. It was difficult to hear her through the door. She began to jiggle the door knob. I heard her say it wouldn’t open. I saw that it was the type of knob on many home bathroom doors. It had a pinhole in the center of the knob to allow a sharp object to go through and unlock it. I went to an employee who gave me a spindle that I thought would work. I was on the way back to the women’s room when I saw Jesse and Kate. It turns out that Jesse had been able to communicate to Kate and explain how to unlock the door.

We have a similar lock on a laundry room door that leads to our garage. Kate often locks it when we come home at night. In addition, she obviously locked the door when she went in. For this reason, I was a little surprised that she couldn’t figure out how to unlock it, but this is a good example of the kinds of inconsistencies that occur with great regularity. It is also a good example of my own misjudgment in not trying to explain to her how she could unlock it. My first thought was what can I do to get the door open. I believe I was influenced by my past experience in which explaining things can be very difficult. Jesse came at this with a fresh eye. She did the straightforward thing. She asked Kate if she could see the “thing” in the center of the knob. Kate said she could. Jesse asked her to turn it. She did. It was that simple.

It is always interesting to me how at ease Kate is under somewhat trying circumstances like this. I have lost her a number of times over the past few years. She has never panicked but responded very calmly to the situation. In this particular case, one might have thought she would bang on the door or call for help. She did neither. I’m just glad that the restrooms were right off the reception area where we were waiting. If we had remained at our table, we might have let more time pass. Then she might not have been as calm.

Another Marker. Something New on Forgetting.

Not long ago I wrote a post entitled “What does it mean to know someone?” I was trying to differentiate forgetting people’s names from remembering them (something about them, one’s connection to them, etc.). Those of us without dementia are familiar with this. Everyone has had the experience of forgetting the name of someone we “know.” When a person with dementia (PWD) does the same thing, there is a tendency to believe that means the PWD has totally forgotten the person. Often, however, it is just the name that has slipped, perhaps temporarily, from memory. Thus the PWD is able to interact quite naturally with that person in social encounters without the person’s even realizing her name was forgotten. Again, this is a common experience among those of us without dementia.

I have mentioned this with respect to Kate’s not remembering our children’s names. Much of the time she can’t remember their names, but she really remembers she has children and proudly talks about them. For that reason, I was surprised by something she said at lunch today. She looked at me across the table and asked, “Do we have children?” She said that in the same manner that a stranger might have asked us if we have children. Then without giving any sense of surprise on my part, I answered her very much the way I would have answered that stranger. I said, “Yes, we have two children, a daughter and a son.” From there, I gave her their names, where they live, and their spouses as well as their children. I even told her a few things about each of our grandchildren. I stopped because I could sense that I was providing more information than she could digest.

Her failure to remember that we have children represents yet another marker in her journey. I know that this is likely to have been an isolated moment in which she forgot, but it is a sign of the progressive nature of this disease. As always, I reflect and wonder about the future. When she will completely forget that we have children? I’m afraid that day is coming altogether too soon.

The Struggle for Independence

Kate has never liked being dependent on others, not even before Alzheimer’s. Of course, none of us is ever completely independent. All of us depend on others in one way or another. We generally pick and choose those things we will do for ourselves and those we would prefer for others to take car of for us.

The first big blow to her independence came when she stopped driving. That was four years ago this past December after an accident in which she totaled her car. You might think that she would be used to being without a car by now. Not so. She still occasionally says, “How would you feel if you had to depend on me to take you everywhere?” That happened just today.

I am reminded that her initial desire to keep her diagnosis private was largely motivated by her not wanting to be treated as a patient. She wanted to be treated like anyone else. In a way, that was an expression of her desire not to be dependent on others.

There are areas where she has worked hard to assert her independence. Among those, the one that is most noteworthy involves her clothes. Within two or three years of her diagnosis she was not selecting clothes that she would have worn before her Alzheimer’s. At that point, I was new to dealing with such things and would let her know that what she was wearing was either soiled or inappropriate for a particular occasion. She often resisted my suggestions. I have learned to be more accepting, but I still intervene depending on just how soiled or inappropriate her attire. Over time we have both done some accommodating, but she has done more. That means she has become more dependent on me.

This dependence has evolved and has often been her own choice and not mine. There are now times she specifically asks me to get her something to wear. This seems to occur when she has looked for something but hasn’t found anything she thought was right. It is almost as if she has been overwhelmed by the choices. There are a lot of clothes in her closet. Although I have gotten rid of many things that no longer fit, I have also added many new clothes. Whatever the cause, it is clear that she sometimes wants my help.

The same thing is true about dressing. I would never have thought about helping her dress until she has struggled with getting them on. I generally ask if she needs help. Often she says she doesn’t. Other times she says she does.
One other area in which she asserts her independence involves my taking her hand when we go up or down stairs or curbs. Sometimes she wants my hand. Many times she does not, and she often refuses sternly. I always do what she wants, but I try to watch her closely in these situations to see if she needs help.

I see other signs that she may be working hard to maintain a sense of independence. For example, she is more careful now than three or four years ago when it comes to maintaining a measure of order with her clothes. She no longer lets her clothes accumulate on the furniture and floor of the bedrooms. In addition, she is trying to make up our bed each morning. It’s not done quite the way she would have done it before her Alzheimer’s, but it is immeasurably better than in the past few years.

As time has passed, she has become increasingly unsure of what she should do and depends on me to guide her. This almost never involves what she should wear. It does involve things like “Should I get ready for bed?” “Should I go to bed now?” or “Should I take my cup into the restaurant?” It also includes some things for which I would never think she needs my guidance or permission. These include things like “May I use my iPad?” and “May I take my shoes off?” All of these questions are usually asked via hand signals rather than spoken words. The latter two questions occurred just a few minutes ago.

Forty-five Minutes Later

I took a break to take a shower. Before I did, Kate said she was going to bed. Then she said, “What should I wear?” I said, “Would you like me to get you something?” She said yes. In this particular case, I know she is tired and believes it is simply easier for me to get something for her than to do it herself. In other words, this is a time when she would rather be dependent. She is working hard to retain independence related to things which she believes she can do and wants to do. This is not really any different than what each one of us does. We pick and choose, but we don’t want to feel dependent.

That raises a related question. How we feel about these changes? I must confess that I really don’t know how she feels. Since she doesn’t like to discuss her Alzheimer’s and its consequences, I can only infer from what I observe. That said, I believe the change to greater dependency is more difficult for her than for me. I say that for two reasons. First, she reacts so strongly when I attempt to help her with something that she feels she can and wants to do for herself. Second, I imagine that if I were the one giving up my independence in the same way, I would hate it.

As for me, her becoming more dependent actually makes it easier for me to take care of her. There is less hassle when I am in control. On the other hand, I don’t like seeing her becoming more dependent. It makes me sad each time I recognize that she has crossed another marker on her journey. I would much rather deal with the stresses of caregiving than experience the sadness that accompanies Alzheimer’s. Losing one’s spouse is really losing a part of oneself. Next month we will celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary. We were so innocent as we faced the future together. Like other couples we were wildly enthusiastic about the future; however, we couldn’t begin to imagine the abundance of joy and good fortune that lay ahead. I am satisfied that we have invested wisely in the time we have had together and confident that, together, we will weather the storm that awaits us.

Our Trip to Memphis

Kate and I returned from Memphis on Sunday. With each trip we take, I watch to see how she is adapting. I know that at some point, we will have to discontinue travel. I am glad to report that everything went well. Of course, we had the same kind of experiences we have at home, but they did not minimize the pleasure we had. For example, several times she asked, “Where are we?” She also asked me to tell her Jesse’s name as well as those of her two boys. I am optimistic about our upcoming trip to Texas a little over three weeks from now.

Breaking up our trip with an overnight stop in the Nashville area turned out to be a good idea. Kate normally spends so much time working jigsaw puzzles on her iPad that I sometimes worry about her being bored while we are in transit. She finds it difficult to work them in the car because of the frequent bumps in the road. The surprising thing is that she seems to get alone fine without her iPad.

The trip back home was a different story. We encountered bad weather off and on most of the way. The eastbound lane of I-40 was closed about twenty miles east of Nashville. The last mile before we had to exit took us an hour. The detour took another 30-45 minutes, so we were about two hours later getting home than I had expected. We were both glad to get home, but Kate took it all in stride. I am encouraged about additional trips like this one.

When you run into a problem, you use whatever skills you have to solve it.

Kate and I stopped for lunch before our visit with Ellen. Shortly before we left the restaurant, she went to the restroom. Knowing she wouldn’t remember where we were sitting, I kept watching for her to come out. As I might have expected, she took a wrong turn to get back to our table. I saw her approach the entrance to the kitchen and thought she was going to ask for help. I got up from our table and walked toward her. She was talking with one of the employees. Before I reached them, they had turned and started walking back to the restroom. Kate saw me and said she would be right back.

I returned to the table and waited. All the while, I was wondering what had happened in the ladies room. I thought perhaps something wasn’t working or that Kate might have broken something. In a few minutes, Kate and the employee walked over to me. Kate said, “She is going to tell you something that I want to remember.” The employee told me that Kate had seen a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Kate just beamed and said, “Isn’t that a great quote. Now make sure you remember that.” Kate thanked the employee and asked her to say it one more time.

As we walked out I saw the employee and went over to thank her myself and let her know about Kate. She was a very compassionate woman and had already guessed. Kate walked over and gave her a hug. It was one of those moments that hit me once in a while. Tears instantly welled up in my eyes, and we said goodbye.

As we continued our drive to Ellen’s, I thought more about Kate’s predicament. She saw the quote and must have read it several times. She wanted to remember it, but finally had to recognize that she couldn’t. She knew she couldn’t take me into the ladies room to read it and remember it. What does one do when caught like this? If its really important, you have to ask for help. She did just that, and she hit the jackpot. She found a caring person who was not just willing to help but to do so in such a sensitive manner.

I am also reminded of John Zeisel’s book, I’m Still Here. He makes the point that although the person with dementia may lose some abilities, they retain others for a long time. Kate is well into her journey. It’s over seven years since the diagnosis. By my own judgment, she is well into Stage 6 of the seven-stage model. Nonetheless, she retains amazing skills in casual social interactions. She has amazing insights about me and many social situations. In addition, she works hard to solve problems that would not have been problems before Alzheimer’s, like putting clothes on. It’s a challenge to distinguish the front and back of most of the tops she wears. Often when I start to help her, she stops me. She wants to do it herself. The saddest thing of all is when she has to give in and ask me for help. I’m beginning to think more about Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote about women and tea bags. Kate is in “hot water,” and she’s showing just how strong she is.

Off on a Short Trip

We left this morning for a visit with our daughter and her family for a few days. I am glad that it comes right now as she is having more difficulty remembering their names. I know it won’t last, but I want her to remember them as long as possible.

I am making this a leisurely trip. We stopped after lunch for a visit with Kate’s good friend, Ellen, in Nashville. Today was her last day at the rehab center. Tomorrow she moves into a new assisted living facility. It was a very good visit. She has improved physically since our last visit a month ago. Her speech is still a problem. I don’t know how much of that is a direct result of her stroke and how much it is now the vascular dementia that is creating the problem. At any rate, it is quite difficult to understand her. Given our long-standing relationship, we will continue to visit her on a monthly basis for as long as we are able to do so. Ellen’s condition and Kate’s are the determining factors in that.

After leaving Ellen, we drove to a B&B outside of town where we are spending the night. We are the only guests tonight and have enjoyed our time with the inn keepers. We asked them to recommend a place for dinner and ending up asking them to join us.

The travel itself went well. I am glad that I have broken up the trip. Since we don’t talk much while we are driving and Kate doesn’t like to work on her iPad because of the occasional bumps in the road, I worry that she must be very bored. She doesn’t say or do anything that suggests that. I just know that under the same conditions, I would be bored.

Forgetting Names of Family

I’ve heard the expression “bitter sweet” most of my life, but it has become considerably more meaningful since Kate’s diagnosis. I could apply it to many of the things we experience every day. Take today, for example. On the way to lunch, I mentioned that tomorrow is our grandson Taylor’s birthday. She said, “And who are his parents?” I told her Rachel and Kevin. Then she asked, “And, they are?” I told her that Kevin is our son and Rachel is his wife. Then she asked me to tell her their last name.

At lunch I told her we are going to be with our Memphis grandsons on Thursday. She asked their names. She followed that with “Who are their parents?” I told her Jesse and Greg. A few minutes passed, and she asked, “What is your name?” I told her Richard. She asked, “What else?” I told her. Then she wanted to know if I had another name. I gave her my middle name. She said, “That’s a nice name.”

I should add that she has been in a cheerful mood since getting up this morning. She has teased me a bit and was a bit playful. For example, in the car she asked if she could do something, and I told her that would be fine. She responded with, “Thank you, Master.” I said, “You must think I try to control your life.” I said, “I don’t think I control your life.” She smiled and said, “You don’t, but you try.” She said this without any sense of irritation. She was saying what she believes, but doing so in a very kind way.

Kate has been very childlike in her questions about names. I suspect she has had more trouble with family names for longer than I have been aware. She was just guarded about acknowledging it. Now she asks me the names of people and places all the time and does so without any effort to disguise her memory problems. When she asks me to help her with names, I feel she has opened herself to me in a tender way. At these moments, I feel very close to her. There is a sweetness about this experience that is hard to describe.

At the same time, there is also something very sad watching her lose the connections between names and the people she loves so dearly. It is a bitter sweet experience.