As a rule, Kate is happy, but there is clearly some variation that occurs from morning to night. Predicting how she feels in the morning is difficult. She has never been a morning person though she got up early for years without complaining when she was working professionally and playing her role as a mother. Over the course of her Alzheimer’s she has found it harder to get up. Not only that, but she is much less clear-headed now. That varies from one day to the next. Sometimes she seems quite alert. Other times she is quite groggy.
The good news is that she almost always becomes more alert and cheerful as the day progresses. There are exceptions. I reported on one of those two days ago when she didn’t talk much. She didn’t seem unhappy. She was just less energetic. Day before yesterday she was unusually upbeat. Yesterday she was somewhere in between, but happy, and more upbeat from lunch until bedtime.
I have tried to understand why her mood in the afternoon and the evening are the most predictable. I think the answer may lie in the weakness of her rational abilities and strength of her intuitive ones.
Her rational thought processes are weakest upon waking. That actually makes sense to me. I think that is true for many who don’t have dementia. We generally recover quickly as we look around us, especially if we have contact with a spouse or other family member. It doesn’t work as easily for people with dementia. During the day, Kate often doesn’t recognize that she is in our house or who I am, but she is groggiest in the morning. It’s hard for her to put things together.
She is usually able to reach a comfort level in a relatively short period of time. A few times it has taken as much as an hour or two. Here is what I think is going on. The longer she is up, the more contact she has with the things in her environment. That gives her a greater sense of familiarity with me and with our home. It’s not that she necessarily remembers her name and mine or our relationship, but she feels comfortable.
That contrasts with the way she feels upon waking. Then everything seems strange. Fortunately, there have only been one or two times when she didn’t seem comfortable with me. That enables me to help her find things in the environment (for example, looking out the window to our patio and back yard) or telling her things (like her mother and father’s names) that give her a sense of “place.” As we go about our normal routine, she encounters a variety of experiences. Throughout the day, she has more experiences that increase her comfort level.
For several years, I have thought the time after dinner is the best time of the day. A large part of that is because Kate is more at ease, but I think there is more to it than that. By that time of day, she is tired. She really wants to relax. The same is true for me. I have spent the entire day focusing on ways to make her day interesting as well as tending to the many other responsibilities of being her care partner. That includes taking care of the house and all that goes along with it.
When we return home from dinner, she likes to sit in her chair in the family room and work her jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. I like to relax by watching the news. About 8:00, we adjourn to our bedroom where I put on a DVD or YouTube videos of musical performances. We both enjoy the music while she continues with her puzzles, and I often take care of email correspondence, check in on Twitter, or work on my blog. At that time, we are both free of any great demands. Neither of us talks much during that time, but we are both happy doing “nothing” together.
Being alert and happy in in the afternoon and evening does not mean any improvement in Kate’s symptoms associated with her Alzheimer’s. She can be happy and confused at the same time. In fact, it is rare for her to be confused and unhappy. I have reported on each of the times this has occurred. It doesn’t seem like that has happened more than five or six times.
As I have said before, the way I feel is heavily influenced by her mood. I think that has always been the case, but it has become especially pronounced since her diagnosis. I think that relates to the loss of her rational abilities. I have learned to accept the fact that her memory is almost gone. As a result, our relationship is heavily dependent on sharing her intuitive abilities. When she enjoys music, children, social experiences, and nature, especially “all the green” of trees and shrubbery, I enjoy both the experiences she is having and, perhaps more importantly, seeing her enjoy herself. I understand those pleasures can continue close to the end of this journey. If that is so, many happy moments are in our future. If not, I’ll treasure the ones that came before.