Little Things

As much as I have learned as a caregiver, I never fully recognize all the challenges that face someone with dementia. Two examples come to mind. One just happened. We are still at Panera, and Kate wanted to go to the restroom. She said, “Does this place have a restroom?” I told her it did. She said, “I’ll be right back.” From past experience, I knew that she would not remember where to go, so I said, “Let me show you where it is.” She said, “That would be nice.” I walked her to an area where you can see the “Restrooms” sign about 20 feet ahead. The sign had an arrow pointing to the left. I’ve learned that she has a hard time reading signs, so I thought about telling her to turn left. I immediately recognized that she would see the doors to both the women’s and men’s rooms. Again, she can easily miss the signs, so I walked to the door to the ladies’ room. Thinking she would no longer need my help, I started to walk away when I noticed that she started to push the door on the side where it is hinged rather than the other side with a brass plate. She was puzzled until I opened the door slightly, and she walked in. This is one more step in the learning process. I probably won’t assume she knows which side of the door to push in the future, but there is always something else I will assume she knows. I am always learning. These experiences make me more understanding of people who make suggestions that I will immediately know won’t work. To complicate matters further, if Kate does something at one time, that doesn’t mean that she will have trouble the next.

Yesterday, I was struck by something else one might not think of as a problem. Kate must spend at least 6-8 hours a day working jigsaw puzzles. I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but she often works the same puzzles over and over. She frequently works a puzzle again right after finishing it. I am not sure why, but I do know that she likes the colors of some puzzles more than others. She also likes puzzles with cats. She probably has 150 puzzles on her iPad, but she still works several of them over and over again. I make this point because one might assume that this repetition makes it easier for her to complete those puzzles, but I see no indication that is true. At Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon, she ran into a problem and asked for my help. She had completed all but one piece of a 16-piece puzzle, but she couldn’t figure out where that piece went. I pointed to the empty space and then to the piece that went there. She didn’t initially understand, but she finally moved the piece into its proper place. Coincidentally, as I was writing the last couple of sentences, she had the same problem with two pieces left.  I am just glad that she doesn’t seem to experience much frustration when she has to ask for my help.

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