On Saturday, Kate and I visited Angie and Tom Robinson in Nashville. That followed my previous post about Kate’s difficulty with conversation. I think that put all of us on alert. Before we left, I had a brief phone conversation with them. I didn’t have any good suggestions except to keep in mind that she can talk about her feelings about things without remembering the actual facts. I also told them I didn’t have any special concerns and thought the visit would go well. That belief was based on the fact that we have a long history together. Our friendship goes back to undergraduate school. Even if she couldn’t remember their names or any of the facts about them, I thought her intuitive abilities would help her feel at ease. Having felt that way, I also told them I would step in if I felt there was a way that I could facilitate the conversation. As it turned out, the visit went well. The best indicator of that was Kate’s remark right after we got in the car. She said, “They’re a nice couple.” If she had felt otherwise, she would have said so.
We had a good time, but this visit was distinctly different from others. To me, it seemed like Kate exhibited more of her symptoms than before. When she said goodbye to Angie, she said, “It was nice to meet you.” Tom later told me in an email that she had told him “It was good to see you and, Oh, . . .” and then pointed to Angie. It was obvious Kate couldn’t remember Angie’s name. They also got to hear her snap at me one time. There were a number of other times that she hadn’t been able to follow or understand something that was said and had to ask us to repeat or explain.
One especially interesting thing happened. Kate picked up a book by Bishop Spong that was on the table in front of her. We have heard him speak at Chautauqua on at least four different occasions, but I doubt that she remembered him. I think she was caught by the book’s title, Unbelievable. She leafed through it and found a number of topics that intrigued her. Once she wanted me to read a portion of a chapter. I read a line or so. It was obvious that this was going to be too much for her (and for the rest of us as well). In a follow-up email, Tom took note of her interest. It’s the kind of thing one might assume is unlikely for a person with dementia. As I have noted in other posts, this represents an interesting intersection of rational and intuitive abilities. She no longer possesses the rational ability to understand many things, but she retains an intuitive feeling that intellectual things are important and/or interesting. She wants to know far more than she is able to grasp. That’s a sad thing, but she doesn’t seem to be disturbed. Once she realizes she can’t understand something, she lets it go. I am always glad to see that she retains her interest in intellectual and social issues.
One final note about our time with the Robinsons is that they did notice her physical deterioration. She has considerably more trouble getting up from a seated position as well as walking, especially when it comes to going up and down curbs or anything that she thinks is a high elevation. I have been increasing concerned about this myself. I attribute it to the fact that she is far more sedentary now than in the past. She doesn’t exercise at all, and we don’t go out as much as we did before. When we are at home, she spends all of her time resting, sitting while working on her iPad, or looking at family photo albums. At the rate she is going, she will soon be using a walker. I would like to postpone that and a wheelchair as long as possible. There is always something new that requires attention.