There are many things that Kate has forgotten. Most of those involve her rational thought processes. I’ve often mentioned that the names of people and places probably top the list. This doesn’t mean that they are permanently forgotten. That depends on how well she has known the people or places before and how often she is still in contact with them. Names of people she hasn’t see in a while are gone though she often recognizes the names when I bring them up. She doesn’t always remember our children’s names or that we even have children. As I have said before, she sometimes forgets my name and her own. The same goes for all of the restaurants we visit on a weekly basis. We have eaten at Casa Bella for at least 45 years, but she usually fails to remember the restaurant’s name. She no longer remembers that we live in Knoxville. The same is true for her hometown of Fort Worth.
As I said in a post a few months ago, forgetting a person’s name doesn’t mean that one has forgotten the person. People with dementia continue to hold many of the feelings they have for people. Our emotions, which arise from our senses, continue to guide us in situations where we can’t remember the associated names. This involves intuitive abilities. I recall my mother’s telling me she didn’t have a family. I asked about her son. She told me she didn’t have a son, she responded to me in just the same way she always had. I can hear her now when she said, “You’re such a nice boy. You always were.” You may be thinking, “This doesn’t make sense.” I would say there is much that doesn’t make sense from a rational standpoint.
Despite the weakness in her rational thinking, Kate still thinks at least some of it matters. For example, several months ago when I mentioned the film Darkest Hour., she wanted me to tell her about it. When I said it was a WWII movie in which Churchill played a major role, she wanted to see it. She loved the movie, but I know she couldn’t have understood much of it. I am equally sure that she was able to experience feelings about it. She knew it was about the war. She still has strong feelings about historical events and people even though she would never remember the names or events without any prompting.
Last night while I was watching the PBS Newshour, she worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. Late in the show they had a segment on sex trafficking. As they talked with parents about their daughters who were victims of this crime, she audibly reacted with disgust. She wasn’t even watching the TV. She was sitting across the room eyes focused on her puzzle. Her ears picked up the audio, and she understood enough to react to it.
Another way in which she seeks to stay in touch with rational thought occurs on a daily basis. She asks me to tell her the names of people and places. She feels it is important to remember. She rehearses them, but they are quickly gone. When I have the news on in the car, she frequently asks me to explain what they are talking about. This is a big challenge because most of my explanations are delivered in more than a sentence. Before I get to the point at the end, she forgets what it was that came before. Thus she doesn’t understand what I am saying. Then that I do what I should have done to begin with. I try to express in a single, simple sentence what the issue is. That takes care of it. My point is that she still has an interest in things that are happening in the world and around her. She tries her best to understand and remember. I feel that that she can’t ever achieve her objective. Fortunately, she doesn’t appear to experience much frustration over it.
She is trying very hard to be more organized. Most of this involves getting out the clothes she is going to wear. Often this occurs before she gets ready for bed as she did last night. She walked into the bedroom with pants, two tops, and a pair of shoes. I noticed that she didn’t have a night gown and asked if she would like me to get one. She did. When I brought it to her, she put it in her arms along with the pants, tops, and shoes. Then she asked in a whisper, “Are we staying here tonight?” She has asked this question quite a few times before. It illustrates a breakdown in her rational thought. At the same time, she is working to be more in control of her life which requires her rational abilities. It is common for her to take the clothes to the bathroom where she takes her shower and forget she has done so. Then she goes to her closet and gets something else.
A related example is her desire to create photobooks of our family like the ones her brother Ken has done. She hasn’t done any actual work on a book in more than two years. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for her to tell people she is working on them. Frequently when I mention something that we have experienced during our marriage, she will say, “Remember that. It goes in the album.” It is something she remembers and has a strong desire to do. It also requires a lot of rational thought to accomplish that task. She will never make her album, but I think she gets some satisfaction by thinking of it as an ongoing project of hers.
As I hope you can tell, there is still much about Kate that is like it was in the past. She wants to live as she did before, an impossible challenge.