Reflecting on Ken and Virginia’s Visit

Visits with friends and family have always been important to Kate and me. That’s true for most people; however, they have played a more significant role for us since Kate’s diagnosis. I’ve been especially mindful of that during Ken and Virginia’s visit with us the past few days. I hated to see them go. The fact that Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost five and a half years ago has heavily influenced our relationship. It’s not that we talk a lot about dementia itself. We don’t do that at all in Kate’s presence since she no longer remembers that she has the disease. I don’t see any reason to tell her. We do, however, have such conversations before she gets up and when she rests.

What is more important is that they have such a clear understanding of what this journey is like. They may have picked up a few things from reading this blog, but most of that comes from their own personal experiences. That makes a difference in our interaction when we are together. When they are here, I have a feeling the three of us are partners as caregivers for Kate. They understand how to relate to her in a way that is difficult for just anyone else to do. I feel a load is taken from me. I still get her up and see that she is dressed and ready for the day, but when we are together, she interacts with the rest of us. The fact that we share a common set of experiences as part of the same family is also important. That expands the range of topics we can talk about in ways that couldn’t happen with even our closest friends.

Ken himself has taken steps to remain close to his sister. One of the best things he has done is to have given her the “Big Sister Album.” With 140 pages of photos covering their lives from Kate’s birth to January 2018, it has provided countless moments of pleasure for Kate since he gave it to her a year ago. We keep in on a coffee table in our family room. The cover photo of her and Ken when they were about four and two catches her eye almost every day.

Because it contains so many memories of their lives including their extended families, Virginia and I have enjoyed letting them take some time just to themselves to go through it. They looked at it for almost an hour yesterday afternoon. After dinner last night, they went through it again. This time Virginia sat across from them. When they had finished, Kate put it down. Then Ken said something about the cover picture. She didn’t know what he was talking about and showed her. She didn’t remember who the children were. Ken told her. She seemed confused about Ken in the photo and Ken sitting beside her. It didn’t appear that she remembered that they are the same person. As they moved to other photos, she did refer to Ken by name. I was never quite sure what she understood and didn’t.

As Kate continues to decline, there is another aspect to visits like this. Will this be their last visit together? None of us expects this to be the last, but we don’t know. Ken and Virginia are planning to return in the fall. How will Kate be getting along then? She won’t be the same . How will that affect our time together? Like so much of this journey, we just don’t know. All four of us are living in the moment. One step at a time. That has served us well thus far. I trust that it will in the future. In the meantime, I will savor the memories of a very pleasant visit. I wish Kate could do the same, but she enjoyed the moments.

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