I don’t think I am alone among caregivers when I wonder exactly what Kate knows. By now I realize that she knows very little when it comes to her rational thought/abilities. Many times I have mentioned how often she can’t remember my name or our relationship. I take comfort in the fact that her intuitive thought/abilities are still working well. Through them she almost always recognizes me as someone very familiar and trusting.
For over a year, I have also realized that she no longer remembers that she has Alzheimer’s. At first, I wondered if I should tell her and, on one occasion, I did remind her. She hadn’t remembered, but she quickly forgot, and I haven’t said anything since. I haven’t see anything to be gained by it.
She has always recognized that she has problems and needs my help. It was only a year ago in July that she began to experience anxiety or panic over moments when she didn’t seem to know anything – where she was, who she is, who she was with. Within the past few weeks, I have sensed that she might believe that her problems were of a more serious nature, not just a periodic lapse of memory. Over the past week or two, she has said and done things that lead me to think that she knows she is declining and is afraid of what lies ahead.
Sometime in the past day and again today at lunch I felt strongly that she recognizes that through her intuitive thought. She was awake when I went to get her up for lunch. She didn’t seem frightened, but she was uneasy and insecure. She was especially eager for me to help her with everything. That follows signs of increasing insecurity and appreciation for my helping her during recent weeks.
At lunch, I said something about her mother and father. She wanted to know their names and something about them. When I said that her father was one of eight children, she said, “I know why.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Because in those days, they needed more children.” I was surprised that she came up with this and said, “You know, you are smart.” She beamed and said, “I think so too.” It was as though she was relieved to have me say that. Off and on she has said she is smart, but that has been more frequent recently. I have felt she was trying to convince herself that is true. It would be easy to think she is not given how poor her memory is and how little she is able to do.
During our conversation, she stopped and said, “I want to tell you something.” She looked very serious. I leaned closer to her. She said, “I know that you will always take care of me.” I said, “I will. You can count on that.” Her eyes filled with tears, and she said, “Thank you. I know you will.” I felt we were thinking similar thoughts about the future. There is no way I can be sure, but the look on her face made me think that.
I told her I loved her, and she said the same about me. We began to talk about our marriage, and I mentioned our children. She said, “Who are they?” I told her and she asked if I had a picture. I pulled out my phone and showed her pictures of Jesse and Kevin. She said, “Do you think they love us?” I said, “I know they do?” She choked back her tears.
In a few minutes, we got up to leave. She started whimpering and was loud enough that I saw people at two different tables look up. On the way to the exit she continued to cry softly. We stopped right there in the dining room and hugged for a moment and then went on.
I don’t know precisely what she is thinking, but she seems very concerned and doesn’t see a happy ending. I am glad she still knows that I will be with her all the way.