Day before yesterday, Kate was awake around 3:30. The same thing happened this morning shortly after 4:00. Both days we had the kind of conversation that I have reported on before. She went through the usual questions. “Where am I?” “What’s my name?” “Who are you?” She did not seem anxious at all. In fact, this morning our conversation began when I heard her laugh. I asked what was funny. She said, “The two of us are just lying here.” I’m not certain why that was funny. She didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. I find that asking “why” questions is always unproductive. She can never come up with an explanation though she sometimes says, “I don’t know.”
Both conversations were very repetitive. By that, I mean that she asked the same questions very closely together over and over though not in rapid-fire succession. They were very relaxed the way you expect for a conversation in the middle of the night. Here’s an example.
Kate: “Where am I?”
Richard: “You’re right here in our home. This is where we live.”
Kate: “Oh, good. <pause> Where am I?”
Richard: “This is our home. We live here. We’ve lived here for twenty-two years.”
Kate: “Oh. <pause> Where am I?”
During the conversation, I also mentioned that we live in Knoxville and that we have lived here forty-eight years. Several times she also asked her name as well as mine, but her focus seemed to be on her immediate surroundings.
We talked about forty-five minutes night before last, not as long last night. Each conversation ended when she gradually stopped talking and went back to sleep.
The repetitiveness of her questions is an indication of just how short her short-term memory is at this stage. I have also noticed it in other situations. Sometimes her memory works as though it is controlled by a switch that turns off right after you tell her something. Other times it is like the switch is turned on and off again quickly. For example, yesterday we looked at a few family photos on our entertainment center. She pointed to one of her mother and said, “That’s my mother.” She looked at the next photo of her grandfather and asked who he was. I told her. Then she looked back at the picture of her mother and asked, “Who is she?” We had just seen the picture of her and her brother on the cover of her “Big Sister.” She recognized herself immediately. A few minutes later. we looked at the same picture on the entertainment center, and she didn’t recognize herself. Similarly, she will know my name one minute and not the next. It’s just another mystery of the way the brain works – or doesn’t.