What makes a day “good”?

Yesterday, I saw a tweet by someone who produces podcasts on dementia. She mentioned that she had interviewed someone with dementia in one of her early programs, and she was still doing “pretty well” a year later. That made me think about the way Kate is doing and my reports of “good” days. It’s hard for someone to understand what that can mean. Was her memory better? Was there less confusion?

If we went from couple to couple, we would probably find differences in what they call a good day. I also think there is some change over time. If yesterday’s experiences had occurred in the early years after Kate’s diagnosis, I would have considered it a bad day. It was another day when she didn’t know who I was when she got up. That never occurred until the past six to eight months. I have come to accept that now. The same thing would have had a dramatic impact on me in the early years.

More than anything else, I consider it a good day when Kate is happy. Yesterday she was very happy. She joked with me a good bit. I regret that I can’t remember all the funny things she said. She was upbeat all day. Nothing seemed to bother her. She wanted to sleep longer when I woke her, but she got up without objecting. We had a little time between lunch and her massage. I showed her the three-ring binder of information about her and her family and about our lives together. She loved looking through it. She wanted to nap about twenty minutes before leaving for her massage. She got right up when I told her it was time to go. After the massage and a hair appointment, we had a short period of time before dinner. She said she was tired and wanted to rest. I asked how she would feel if we went to dinner right then. She said she that would be good, and we were off again. That meant that she didn’t get to rest as much as she would have liked. I thought that was good, especially when she went to bed about forty-five minutes earlier than usual. That should make it easier for her to get up this morning.

I should also say something about her massage since she didn’t have a good experience last time. I think she had forgotten what a massage was like and was surprised and confused by what the therapist was doing to her body. Before yesterday’s massage, I suggested that the therapist approach her as though this were the first one Kate had ever had. I don’t know that that made a difference, but Kate was fine when we left. I suspect that she was in such an upbeat mood that she was able to deal with massage more easily.

You might think by what I have said that she is typically depressed or in a bad mood. That is not so at all. On occasion, she has both experiences, but they are infrequent and short-lived. The difference yesterday was that she was so unflappable and upbeat. I find it uplifting for me when she is that way. So a good day doesn’t mean she doesn’t exhibit the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Her memory and confusion are not any better, but she goes about her day as though everything is all right. I try to do the same. I think we’re both pretty successful. We focus on what she can do, not what she can’t and feel grateful.

Like other caregivers, my primary goals are (1) to keep her feeling safe and secure and (2) to keep her happy. Yesterday those goals were met. It was another good day.

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