Back to Panera

Increasingly, I find that I am no good at predicting what each morning will be like. Thankfully, we haven’t had any bad mornings. I’m mostly thinking about what time we will start the day. Overall, Kate gets up later than she did a year ago; however, she periodically surprises me like she did this morning. She was up at 7:30 to go to the bathroom. That’s not unusual although she usually does that a little earlier. This morning’s surprise was that she got up again at 8:30 and was ready to start the day.

Like the two previous mornings, she seemed alert, not groggy the way she often is. I asked if she wanted to shower. She did. I was glad as she hadn’t showered in two days. I thought I would have to coax her, but we avoided that. I left her after she was in the shower and went back to the kitchen. My next surprise was that she didn’t take as long to shower as usual. She often showers for fifteen minutes or so.

I went back to show her the clothes I had put out for her. It seems that no matter where I put them she doesn’t see them and has to asked me for them. That was the case this morning. I was fully prepared for her to get back in bed, but she didn’t. She was ready to dress.

As I helped her dress, she said, “What’s your name?” That was the first sign of any memory loss or confusion. Otherwise, she seemed perfectly normal except for needing my help finding the bathroom and getting her clothes. It made me think again about how easy it is for someone with dementia to get by in brief social encounters without anyone’s suspecting the diagnosis. As usual, she asked my name in much the same way that she might have asked, “What’s on TV?” She is perfectly natural and doesn’t appear to be bothered in any way by not remembering.

After I told her my name, she tried to repeat it but couldn’t. She tried to say “Creighton.” I repeated it for her, and she tried again. She got it on the third or fourth try and repeated it several times in succession. Then I said, “Do you know who I am?” She hesitated and tried to think but didn’t say anything. I told her, and she smiled. I said, “Don’t you believe me?” She said, “I believe you.” She seemed comfortable with that, but didn’t express any special enthusiasm.

We got ready more quickly than usual and arrived at Panera by 9:30. We haven’t done that many times in the past 8-10 months. She is working happily on her puzzles as I write this post. That reminds me of another surprise. This involves her puzzles. Last night she asked me for help. When I looked at the puzzle, I noticed that she had completed all the edge pieces and was starting to place the others. That struck me because I have suggested for weeks that she start by finding the edge pieces and putting them in place. They are easier to identify. Once placed it is easier to place the others. That is especially true when you are working with 16-piece puzzles.

A little later, I was also surprised when she needed help finding the last remaining piece. This time it was because she couldn’t find the piece itself. She was able to see the “hole” in the center of the puzzle where the piece should go. I frequently show her the piece and the empty space, but she has never been able to see it. That has been a big “puzzle” for me. I can only chalk it up to her Alzheimer’s.  Both of these surprises tell that she is able to learn some things that I thought she couldn’t. Her rational ability has not totally vanished.

Unfortunately, it’s a quiet morning at Panera. We haven’t see anyone we know except the staff, but Kate enjoyed her muffin and is now enjoying her puzzles. It’s also a nice break from our regular routine. It looks like another good day.

A Big Success with the Sitter

A year and a half ago, I engaged sitters for Kate. On the whole, it has gone quite well. Kate accepted having them from the start; however, she has never been enthusiastic about them. More recently, as she has become more dependent on me, she has sometimes wanted to go with me when I leave or for me to go with her and the sitter if they are going to lunch. Each time I have managed to let her know that I needed to go to Rotary, the Y, or a meeting, and she didn’t protest.

Despite Kate’s acceptance, I’ve never felt fully comfortable leaving her. I’ve done it because I feel that it is important for me to have time away to do other things. It also sets the stage for increasing the sitters’ time in the future. Two experiences in the past five days have made me feel better about leaving her.

The first occurred last Friday. As I walked into the family room where Kate and the sitter were seated, I heard the sitter tell Kate that she would see her “next week.” Kate apparently misunderstood and thought she might not be coming back. Kate looked frightened and said, “You’re not coming back?” Mary repeated that she would be back next week. Kate said, “Good, because I need you.” I was happy to see that she not only felt comfortable with the sitter, but there seemed to be an emotional bond.

On Monday, we had a different sitter, Cindy. When I got home, they were engaged in a conversation, and Kate was playing a very active role in it. Cindy told me that Kate had not taken a nap and that they had been talking all afternoon. That was another victory. We had two good experiences with two different sitters.

I found both of these experiences encouraging, but the biggest victory came yesterday with Mary, our Wednesday/Friday sitter. Normally, I would leave for the Y as soon as s arrives. We had just returned home from lunch, and I wasn’t going to the Y but a dental appointment at 2:00. I didn’t need to rush, so I talked with Kate and Mary about ten minutes. I think that worked better than my leaving as quickly as I usually do. When I told Kate goodbye, she didn’t show any sign of disappointment that I was leaving or that she couldn’t come with me. The big surprise came when I arrived home. I found the two of them were still seated in the same chairs they were in when I left. I asked if they had gone out. Mary said they stayed at home and never left the family room. They talked and listened to the music playing on my audio system when I left. She added that they both rested in their chairs a short time. After Mary left, Kate said, “She is really nice.” It wasn’t just the words. It was the emotion she expressed as she said them. She had a really good time with Mary, and I felt better about having sitters than at any time since we began a year and a half ago. That was a victory.

A Day of Uplifting Social Experiences

At 9:40 yesterday morning, I saw on the video cam that Kate was up and walking back to bed. I went to her and discovered that she had gone to the bathroom next to our bedroom. I said, “I see you’re up.” She said, “For the moment.” She pulled back the covers and got back into bed. She said, “Is that all right?” I said, “That’s fine.”

An hour later at 10:45, I brought her clothes to her, and we had the following conversation.

Richard:        “Today is a special day. It’s your daddy’s birthday.”

Kate:              (She smiled.) “What’s his name?”

Richard:        “Carl Franklin. He was a good man and he loved his little girl.”

Kate:              “Who are you?” (In a very natural, conversational tone)

Richard:        “Before I tell you, do you recognize me?”

Kate:             “Sure. You have a nice voice. I know other people tell you that.”

Richard:        “I’m Richard Creighton, and I’m your husband.”

Kate:              “How did we meet?”

Richard:        “We met at a friend’s house on a Sunday evening in September, 1960.”

Apart from her memory loss, she was very relaxed and seemed just fine. She expressed no uneasiness about not knowing my name or my being her husband.

When she was ready, we went to lunch. On the way, she asked me where we were four or five times and several times on the way home. We had a very pleasant lunch at Carla’s. We hadn’t seen the hostess in a couple of weeks. I asked where she had been. She told us that she and her siblings had moved their mother from Guam where the family had grown up. During our meal, an acquaintance took a table next to ours. She was meeting friends who had not yet arrived. She sat down at our table and we chatted until her friends arrived. We don’t know her that well. She is French but spent most of her youth in Egypt where her father was a dentist. It was nice getting to know her a little better.

Although we eat lunch there almost every Tuesday, Kate commented on the restaurant as though she had never been there before. They serve gelato that we both love, but she never remembers that. It seems like her sense of taste is not nearly as strong as her other senses. <g>

When we returned home, Kate asked me what she “could do now.” I told her we could go into the family room where she could work on her iPad. She said that would be fine. She wanted to know where she should sit. I pointed to a chair and told her she usually sat there so that she could look outside to the back yard. I put her iPad on the chair. She walked over, picked it up and said, “What’s this?” I told her that was her iPad. I took it from her and said, “Let me show you what you can do with it.” I opened the cover and touched the icon for her puzzle app. As it started to load, I said, “Now watch what happens.” I showed her a selection of puzzles of flowers and said, “When you touch one of them, it will break into pieces that you can put together.” She looked amazed and said, “That’s neat.” It was as if she had never seen it before. It is hard to believe this is possible when she spends as much as 6 hours a day working such puzzles.

While she was working on her iPad, I tuned into a station featuring the music of Frank Sinatra and other singers of his period. The first song was “New York, New York.” I can’t remember the last time we heard that song, but she recognized it before she heard the first words. A little later, we heard Rosemary Clooney singing “Mambo Italiano.” She chuckled in recognition as it played. I said, “This is ‘Old-fashioned’ music. She said, “I love it.” As much as I’ve observed the power of music for her, I was still taken aback by how quickly she recognized these old songs when shortly before she hadn’t even remembered what her iPad can do.

After a while, I suggested we go to Barnes & Noble. She liked the idea. I was happy about that. I felt it would be good for both of us to get out of the house. That worked out well. We had conversations with two different people. One is a member of our church who meets with a group of other men each Tuesday afternoon. The other is a young woman who tutors students there almost every weekday. We often chat with her in between or before her students arrive.

Kate began to have problems working her puzzles, and I suggested it was a good time to break for dinner. We went to Bonefish Grill where we know the hostess and several servers who speak to us even when they are not serving us. It is the only restaurant we frequent where we don’t have just one server that we request each time. That has made for an added bit of social activity when we dine there – even when we don’t see other people we know. Before taking our seats, Kate wanted to go to the restroom. I walked her to the door and walked back to my seat where I could see her when she came out. The servers look out for her as well. Last night our server was walking back to the kitchen when Kate came out of the restroom. She walked Kate back to our table. Eating out turned out to be another social experience for us.

As we were winding down the day at home, our son Kevin called. It was nice way to end our day.  It was a good day. That doesn’t mean there was any improvement in Kate’s condition, but I felt we had a day of more uplifting experiences than some recent days. That keeps us going.

A Rocky Start with a Nice Finish

Yesterday morning I had two surprises. I was happy about the first one. Not so for the second. First, the good news. I saw on the video cam that Kate was up, and it was about 8:00. I always like it when she gets up without my having to wake her. That is especially true on a day that we have a sitter. That insures that I don’t have to rush her before the sitter arrives. It’s even better on Monday because the sitter comes at noon instead of 1:00.

When I got to the bedroom, she had just come out of the bathroom. She seemed alert and showed no signs of confusion. I asked if she was going to take a shower. She said she was. I knew that she would want to rest a while after her shower, but I also knew that we had plenty of time and still might be able to get to Panera for her muffin, something that is a rarity these days. As expected, she got her shower and went back to bed.

A few minutes after 10:00 I decided to get her up. That’s when I received the second surprise of the morning. She wasn’t asleep, but her eyes were closed. I asked if she would like me to take her to get a muffin. She gave me a strange look. She wasn’t the same alert Kate I had greeted earlier. She was clearly confused. When I said that I had her clothes out and would help her get dressed, she looked at me sternly and said, “Who are you?” I gave her my name and told her I was her husband. She was surprised. That is not unusual; however, she was obviously uncomfortable and pulled the covers up to her neck. I said, “You do recognize me, don’t you?” She didn’t and didn’t want me to help her dress. This was totally unlike any of our previous experiences. There wasn’t any way that I was going to explain this.

I didn’t push her. I told her I thought I could help her and got her “Big Sister” album. I showed her the photo of her and her brother on the cover. She didn’t show any sign of recognition until I pointed to her picture and said, “Who do you think this little girl is?” She hesitated and then said, “Me.” I turned to the first page and showed her a photo of her with her mother and daddy. Then I turned to a section that has a few of our wedding pictures. She didn’t remember anything.

I decided she just needed a little more time. I told her I wanted to take her to get a muffin. She asked about her clothes. I showed them to her and suggested she get dressed. By this time, she was beginning to feel more comfortable with me, but she still did not believe I was her husband. She did, however, let me help her dress.

When she was dressed, she noticed a wedding picture of our daughter, Jesse, on the dresser and said, “Who is she?” I explained that she was our daughter. She walked over to it and asked if she could take it with us. I told her she could. She asked where she could keep it. I told her this was our room and that she could keep it right there on the dresser if she liked. She still wanted to take it with her.

In the car on the way to Panera, I said, “You seem like you’re feeling less confused now.” She acknowledged that she was and said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Richard Lee Creighton.” Then she asked me her name. I said, “Katherine Franklin Creighton.” She frowned when she heard “Creighton.” I didn’t say anything.

When we got closer to Panera, she asked my name again. I told her and added that I was her husband. She wasn’t buying that. After we had been seated a while, she asked my name. I told her and said that I was her husband. She didn’t believe me. Again, I didn’t push.

We had been at Panera about forty minutes when I thought we needed to get home for the sitter. On the way I reached out my hand and touched her leg and said, “I love you.” She put her fingers to her lips and blew me a kiss and said, “I love you too.” I took that as a sign that she had finally recognized who I was.

The sitter arrived a few minutes after we were home, and Kate seemed perfectly normal. I said I was going to Rotary, and she said, “What are we going to do?” I told her that she and Cindy could go to lunch at either Applebee’s or Panera. She said, “Why don’t you go with us?” I explained that I needed to attend my meeting. She didn’t seem to mind that, but I was glad to see that she would have felt even better if I had stayed.

When I returned home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kate and Cindy were having a conversation in the family room. Kate seemed to be taking the lead. Cindy said they had gone to Applebee’s for lunch and come back to the house. She said Kate had not worked on her iPad at all and that they had been talking the whole time. That was another surprise and a welcome one. I was happy for two reasons. First, that she hadn’t had a nap. Second, because she was able to engage in conversation for such a long period of time and that she was doing a lot of the talking. I want Kate to develop a strong relationship with her. This was a dramatic contrast with her confusion this morning. I felt much better.

The rest of the day went very well. We spent about an hour and a half at Barnes & Noble and then went out for a Mexican meal at Chalupas. She spent the rest of the evening working on her iPad while I watched the news. Then I turned on a series of YouTube videos for her. Several times she needed help with her puzzles, but she seemed to get along well after that. When I told her it was bedtime, she was very cooperative. She slept through the night and is still sleeping as I finish this post at 7:30.

An Unusual Morning

It’s hard to know what to expect each morning. I do know that Kate sleeps later now than she did a year ago, but sometimes she surprises me by getting up early. I also know that she has always been “slow” in the morning. Over the past few years, she has also been a bit groggy when she wakes up. Sometimes she shows no signs of grogginess. That was true yesterday.

Just before 9:00, I saw that she had rolled over in bed and thought she was about to get up. I walked into the bedroom. She was lying in bed with her eyes open running her fingers through her hair. She gave be a smile as I approached the bed where I sat down beside her. We chatted a few minutes. She was in a good mood and seemed very clear-headed but wanted to rest a little longer.

Close to 10:00, I noticed that she was up and looking at the clothes I had put out for her. I went to see if I could help her. She didn’t seem as alert as she was earlier. She was trying to gather her clothes together to take them into the bathroom before showering. I offered to help, but she didn’t want help. She asserted her independence, and I let her.

I went back to the kitchen where I could watch on the video cam. She went into the bathroom and didn’t come out for almost thirty minutes. I thought she must have showered. I went back to her. She hadn’t showered and wanted to go back to bed.

An hour later, I tried to get her up. She wanted to stay in bed. I told her I would come back in thirty minutes, and we could go to lunch. When I returned, she still didn’t want to get up. She told me to go to lunch without her. I said I would feel uncomfortable leaving her. In a soft and gentle voice I said, “I’m ready for lunch and would love to take you. Why don’t you get up and come with me?” She agreed but didn’t want to take a shower. I decided not to push it. I started to help her get dressed, but she wanted to do it herself. I stayed in the room. She asked for my help once or twice.

Once she was up she seemed fine. We didn’t talk much on the way to lunch. I played some music that she likes. The lunch went well. She brought up her mother and commented that she looks like her. I reminded her we have her father’s family movies from the mid-1930s to about 1945 and asked if she would like to look at them when we got home. She liked the idea.

On the way home, she said she wanted to rest. She did just that when we got back. After an hour or so, I asked if she was ready to see the movies. She was, and we spent almost two full hours watching them. She needed help identifying people throughout the entire time. That related both to the quality of the films and her Alzheimer’s. The films were originally shot in 16mm, many in color. They had deteriorated a good bit before they were transferred to VHS tape and more recently to DVD. Her problem was more than that, however. The movement from one person to another made it difficult for her to know what to focus on. When I directed her attention to her mother or the few in which her father appeared, she could never see them. I would stop, rewind, and then stop again when her mother came into view. I am happy to say that she loved every minute of it. I thought that she might get tired. That never happened. She was captivated seeing her grandmothers, aunts and uncles, and cousins as well as her parents. She was especially excited seeing her mother along with the other graduates coming out of the auditorium and shaking hands with the college president after the ceremony. It is also fun to see Kate from birth to about four or five. We have lots of stills, but the movies are really special.

After the movies, we went to dinner at a Thai restaurant. It was unusually busy. Kate was amazingly patient and never expressed the first complaint about the delay in our food. That surprised me because she usually thinks it takes a while for the food to arrive at any restaurant. In fact, she often asks, “Does this place have food?” only minutes after we have arrived or ordered.

It was after 8:00 when we got home, so we didn’t have a lot of time before going to bed. Kate worked on her iPad. She continues to have more problems working her puzzles. That started last night when she had to ask my help just to open (lift the cover) the iPad.

On balance, we had a nice day, but the entire past week she has shown further signs of decline that I would rather not see. Continue reading “An Unusual Morning”

Examples of Kate’s Intuitive Abilities

Kate continues to amaze me with her intuitive abilities. For example, today as we walked from the car to the restaurant for lunch, she said something to which I responded differently than she expected. She was surprised, and I said, “You mean you think I’m predictable?” She laughed and said, “Are you kidding?” I don’t know that predictable is quite the right word, but I do have rather predictable patterns. She regularly makes comments about my personal quirks/behavior, and she is always right even when she can’t remember my name or who I am.

Another incident happened after we returned home. It was preceded by my playing an album of choral music that she likes. Sometimes she likes to sing along with the music though neither of us can remember all the words. One of the songs on the album is “Comin’ through the Rye.” She wanted to sing it, but we couldn’t make out enough of the words. At home, she wanted us to sing it. I told her I would have to look up the lyrics. When I did, I found the original Robert Burns poem on which the song is based. Of course, it had the Scottish expressions. That didn’t work. She asked me to sing something else. Without thinking, I started singing “Amazing Grace.” We sang a few bars before she said, “That doesn’t sound very appropriate.” I felt the same way. It just popped in my head, but it didn’t seem like the most appropriate song for us to sing at that moment. Now, I’m glad I did because it shows how sharp she can be when it comes to her intuitive abilities.

Delusions and Hallucinations

A friend of mine recently asked if Kate ever had any hallucinations. I told him she has, but they had not been frequent. I also mentioned that they had not been disturbing ones. When I answered, I wasn’t thinking about the technical definition of hallucinations. I was really thinking about delusions. They are often confused. According to the National Institute of Health “Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not really there.” “Delusions are false beliefs that the person thinks are real.”

The closest thing to a hallucination Kate has experienced is deja vu. For years this was a very common experience. Over the past year or so it has almost disappeared. This happened most commonly in restaurants. She often pointed to other customers and would say something like “See that couple over there. They always sit in that same place.” That might have been so in a restaurant we frequented on a regular basis, but she had these experiences in places where we had never been before. It also happened in hotels where we hadn’t stayed before.

Although rare, she has also had experiences that I would definitely call delusions. These have usually been a belief that someone was coming to our house for a visit or that we were leaving the house on a trip. On arriving or leaving our home, she has often thought our house was a hotel, a B&B, or a former home in Texas.

When she got up a few weeks ago, she appeared anxious and asked me if she had to to go to a meeting. I told her she didn’t have any obligations that morning, and she was greatly relieved. That was all there was to it. Something happened yesterday that was quite different.

When I got home to relieve the sitter, I walked into the family room. As I did, Mary told Kate she would see her next week. Kate looked frightened and said, “You’re not coming back?” Mary repeated that she would be back next week. Kate said, “Good, because I need you.” I was surprised at the emotion she expressed. She may have thought Mary was leaving her alone right then.

I walked over to Kate. She was very relieved and said, “I’m so glad to see you.” I sat down beside her and put my arm around her. She repeated, “I’m so glad to see you.” Then she added, “I didn’t know where you were. I thought maybe I had done something wrong.” I said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. I just went to the Y and picked up some prescriptions at the pharmacy. Then I had coffee with Mark Harrington. And now I’m going to take you out for pizza.” She was still emotional and said, “That sounds nice. When do you want to go?” I told her to let me put away the prescriptions, and we could leave. When I had done that, I went back to her. She was lying on the sofa. I asked if she would like to get a pizza. She said she wanted to rest a few minutes before leaving. I kneeled down beside her and told her I was glad to see her. She continued to be emotional and teary. I told her I loved her. With a sad expression on her face she said, “I don’t even know your name.” I said, “I’m Richard.” Her eyes lit up with delight, and she started crying. Through the tears she said, “I knew that. I just couldn’t think of it.”

That didn’t end the emotions she was feeling. She continued to say she thought she had done “something awful.” It went on for at least thirty minutes until after we were seated for pizza at our nearby pizza place. I was surprised that her memory allowed her to remember for so long, but feelings last much longer. As she talked, I tried to concentrate on comforting her and didn’t push her to explain. Normally, she can’t explain the way she feels and doesn’t want to try. Not this time. She wanted to explain what she was feeling. She said she didn’t know what it was, but it was terrible.

After we were seated at the restaurant, she gradually began to calm down. Several times I said, “You seem more relaxed now.” She said, “I’m getting there.” I said, “It takes time when you’ve had an experience like this.” She agreed. Before our pizza arrived, it was over. I’m glad we escaped anything more serious than this but wonder what else we may encounter in the days ahead.

A Day of Ups and Downs

Kate’s confusion in the morning continued yesterday. The good news is that she wasn’t at all irritable. She just didn’t know who she is, who I am, or where she was. She was sleeping very soundly when I went to get her up. I really hated to wake her, but I knew we needed to get to lunch and back before her massage at 2:00. I wanted to allow plenty of time to avoid rushing her.

As I expected, she didn’t want to get up, but she did so very cooperatively. She was confused. She looked out the bedroom window as she does each morning and didn’t recognize where she was. Then she said, “Who are you?” I told her I was her husband. She was puzzled. I didn’t try to explain. I simply suggested that she take a shower and that we could look at some pictures I thought would help her. Again, she was cooperative.

She wanted to rest a while after her shower. That is not unusual at all. We had time, and I told her to go right ahead. After thirty minutes, I went back and helped her dress. When she was ready, I took her to the family room and showed her the “Big Sister” album. She immediately took to the cover photo of her and her brother. I asked if she knew who they were. She pointed to her picture and said, “Me.” She also recognized her brother. I find it amazing how a photo can begin to bring back memories. It is something that her intuitive abilities enable her to do. We opened the cover and looked at the first few pictures. She connected with them very quickly. Her sense of confusion was lifted.

I suggested we go to lunch and come back to spend more time with the album. She asked if she could take the album with us. I told her she could. When we got to the restaurant, she asked if she could take it inside. As I was about to suggest that she leave it in the car, she said, “Maybe I should leave it here.” I told her that sounded good to me.

It’s been over a month since Kate’s cataract surgery. It has definitely improved her vision – at least in some ways. I notice that she tries to read more than she did before. By “read” I mean to read a headline in a magazine or signs she sees wherever we go. Occasionally she makes an effort to read an article in a magazine, but the font is almost always too small for her. The major problem is not her eyes. It’s her Alzheimer’s. That was evident at lunch when I asked if she was going to eat her sandwich. She said, “Where is it?” This, too, is not unusual. She frequently fails to notice food that is on her plate. Once I pointed it out to her, she took a bite and put it down. A few minutes later when she hadn’t taken another bite, I asked if she wanted the rest of her sandwich. She asked me where it was. I believe part of the problem has nothing to do with her sight. I say that because she seems to locate most of the fries. I notice something similar when she has salmon and sweet potato fries at the Bluefish Grill.

It was noisier than usual at lunch. We were seated near a group of twelve on one side and eight on the other. Noise always bothers Kate. She was especially sensitive to that yesterday. She was in a generally good humor but annoyed by the chatter coming from both directions.

When we got home, we had about forty minutes before we needed to leave for her massage. She wanted to know what she could do. I suggested we sit on the sofa in the family room and go through the “Big Sister” album. She enjoyed that a lot but needed help identifying everyone. I think most of the problem is that people don’t look the same in photos taken at different times. Her Alzheimer’s also plays a part. For example, in a picture of four people standing side by side, I could help her identify the person on the extreme left. Then I would tell her the name of the person standing next to him. She has a tendency to skip that person and see the person to the right of him. That occurred several times even when I had my finger on the photo of the person. It’s not something I can understand. I just know it happens.

It wasn’t long before it was time for Kate’s massage. I left her there while I waited at Whole Foods which is a couple of doors down from the spa. When I went back to get her, she was sitting in a chair in the waiting room. She said, “Boy, am I glad to see you. Let’s get out of here.” It is always hard for her to explain how and why she feels a certain way, but I gathered that she was very confused about the whole process. She didn’t know what was going on when the therapist put her hands on her. I hadn’t thought about this before, and she has never acted this way before. She probably didn’t remember what it is like to have a massage. In addition, the therapist was someone she had not seen in quite a while. I am sure everything seemed strange to her even though I have been taking her twice a month for about three years. She has never expressed any enthusiasm about her massages, but I thought they must be enjoyable. Now, I am reconsidering. I think I’ll try one more time. If she isn’t happy with that, I’ll stop taking her.

The rest of the day went well. When we got home, we picked up her photo album again and looked at it until it was time for us to leave for jazz night at Casa Bella. We have heard the singer and the woman on the keyboard many times over the years. They are well-known locally and around the state. It was a very good evening. Kate had trouble hearing and understanding a lot of the conversation, but we were sitting with the same couple we’ve been with since the music nights began. They operated the restaurant for many years until they turned it over to their daughter and her husband. Shortly after we were seated, Kate said, “What’s the name of this place?” I told her and then said, “And this is the daughter of the woman who started the restaurant.” Kate had, of course, forgotten that as well. It was not an uncomfortable slip since the couple are aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s and have been very supportive of her.

We got home a little later than usual, and Kate went to bed right away. It was a day of ups and downs, but it’s always good to end on a high note. We did.

Back to Our Routine

We said goodbye to Kevin and his family night before last, and they left yesterday morning. We were back to a regular routine. That doesn’t mean that everything went the way I would have liked. Once again, Kate had a slow start. It was another morning when she didn’t recognize me as her husband. It seems this is becoming a pattern. When this happens, I don’t try to convince her, I redirect the conversation to something else. This morning I did something I don’t usually do. I said, “Could I ask you a question?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “If you don’t think I am your husband, who do you think I am?” She said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Do you think of me as someone you can trust?” She looked at me, hesitated a moment, and then said, “Yes.” I told her I was glad to hear that and wanted her to count on me for anything she needs.

On the way to lunch, I mentioned that we had met at TCU and that was where we had our first date. That led to a few other recollections of our past together. By the time we got to the restaurant for lunch, she seemed to be herself. I don’t mean that she knew my name or hers, but she seemed comfortable with me and our surroundings including our server.

As soon as we returned home, she wanted to rest. It wasn’t long before our sitter arrived. I gave her an update on the past few days. Then she went back to the bedroom to say hello to Kate. I followed in a few minutes and told her I was going to the Y and would see her later. She was very comfortable with Mary and fine with my leaving. I left with a good feeling.

When I got home, they were watching the last part of Les Miserables. They were both enjoying it. Mary left, and Kate and I watched the last thirty minutes together. She was as engaged as she has ever been. I was happy to see that since the last time I had put it on, she wasn’t as excited. That was the only time she has failed to respond with enthusiasm.

After dinner, I watched the news and then switched to several music videos that I knew Kate would like. She worked on her iPad and didn’t want to stop when I said it was time for us to get ready for bed. She said she wanted to finish the puzzle she was working on before putting on her night gown. I know from experience she can’t remember to stop when she finishes a puzzle. It was thirty minutes later before I told her it was time to get to bed. She didn’t want to stop. I told her I wanted to get to bed myself, but I didn’t want to do that if she wasn’t in bed. She reluctantly agreed to stop.

Once she was ready, she asked if she could work on her puzzles in bed. I told her that would be fine. That turned out to be a mistake. As I tried to get to sleep, she kept talking to me. She would tell me how well she was doing and wanted to show me the completed puzzles. As usual, she also wanted my help completing several of them. Despite the cataract surgery, her Alzheimer’s still affects her vision. Off and on she thinks she has finished a puzzle when one or two pieces are not exactly in place. When that happens, the app won’t indicate that the puzzle is solved. That means she can’t start another one. This continued for about thirty minutes before she called it a night. This was a time that I suspected the amount of sleep she had the night before and her afternoon nap made it hard to go to sleep. I have expected this to happen before, but it hasn’t. I hope this doesn’t signal a new routine.

A Slow Start, But a Good Finish

Yesterday Kevin and Rachel celebrated their 25th anniversary. It was a special opportunity to be with them and the grandchildren. I only wish Kate could have understood and been able to enjoy it. She got off to a rocky start. It was one of those few days that she didn’t know who I was when went in to wake her. I told her we were going to have lunch with Kevin. Knowing she can’t remember who he is, I was careful to tell her that he is our son. I don’t believe that fully registered with her. As she sat on the side of the bed before standing up, she gave me a puzzled look and said, “Who are you?” I told her, but she still looked confused.

She asked me what she was supposed to “do now.” I told her it was time for a shower and walked her into bathroom. She showered and dressed more quickly than usual. I sent a text to Kevin letting him know she was up. His family was as well, and they came over for a short visit at the house before we all went to lunch.

Kate was not in a good mood when she woke up and wasn’t interested in being with company. That and the fact that she had had trouble the day before led me to take the lead in our conversation. TCU is very important to her. I drew attention to the number of us who had graduated from TCU or were current students. Of the remaining two grandchildren, our granddaughter will be a freshman in the fall. I also mentioned that it was a special day, Kevin and Rachel’s 25th anniversary. My efforts fell flat. Kate was not ready to engage in conversation. I believe it was a combination of her mood as well as some insecurity. We had lunch together at a nearby deli. Kate was mostly quiet. I felt she was uncomfortable. After lunch, Kate and I came back to the house while Kevin’s family did some sightseeing.

We were home about forty minutes before we left for Kate’s dental appointment. She frowned when I told her where we were going. I was surprised. She has always liked her dentist. She was quiet all the way. We waited a few minutes in the lobby before the hygienist came to take her to the back for her cleaning. Even though Kate has known her for years, she didn’t display any emotion of recognition or pleasure at seeing her.

In a little while, the hygienist returned to speak to me. She said Kate resisted the X-Ray procedure. When she got to the polishing part, Kate seemed frightened. The hygienist didn’t go any further. I explained that she had not been in a good mood since getting up. Ironically, I had been considering taking her back for a cleaning every month or two. That doesn’t seem like a good thing. Besides that, she said Kate seemed to be doing a good job brushing. I told her I was a little surprised but that she brushes her teeth a lot during the day as well as when she gets up at night. She left and brought Kate back to the reception area where I took care of the bill.

As we drove away from the dentist’s office, she said, “Are you hungry?” By this time it was less than three hours since we had eaten lunch, but it is not uncommon for her to think she is hungry even sooner than that after a meal. I understand from what I have learned from others that this is quite common for people with dementia (PWD). I told her I wasn’t hungry, but I thought it was a good time for a treat and mentioned going to Marble Slab. She liked the idea.

After tasting the first bite, she raved about how good it was. I agreed. She continued to express her pleasure until she had finished. She was a changed person. All signs of moodiness had vanished in an instant. She talked about having another serving, and I felt the same way but didn’t give in. I knew that we would soon be having a big dinner.

Coincidentally, I had read a relevant section of Dementia With Dignity by Judy Cornish earlier that morning. It is a companion piece to her Dementia Handbook in which she outlines the importance of focusing on the intuitive abilities of people with dementia (PWD). Her latest book gives more details on how to apply her theoretical framework presented in her earlier work.

The part I read emphasizes the importance of managing the moods of those with dementia. She notes that PWD regularly fail at tasks and conversation and are unable to “understand where they are, why they are there, and who they are with.”  She goes on to say that these experiences often lead to negative feelings. Her point is that caregivers can play a major role in redirecting their moods. I hadn’t been successful with that when we were with Kevin’s family earlier in the day, but taking her out for ice cream did the trick.

That was good preparation for dinner. We came back to the house where she wanted to rest. Not long after that, Kevin sent a text asking if we were home. He and the children came over for an hour or so. We played Mille Bornes while Kate continued to rest. They left around 5:00 to get ready for our 6:00 dinner.

The dinner went very well even though it was a challenge for Kate to keep up with the conversation. She had to ask us to repeat ourselves a number of times. After I offered a toast to Kevin and Rachel, she leaned over to me and whispered, “Whose anniversary is it?” Despite these things, I was encouraged she was trying to understand and didn’t appear to be withdrawn.

So the day ended on a high note. I am glad about that but also disappointed that Kate was unable to fully enjoy what was a very special visit with Kevin’s family.