Long before Kate’s diagnosis, one of the first signs I noticed was that she often failed to prepare for dinner. We had eaten dinner out a good bit since she retired, but we still ate at home for most of our evening meals. Gradually, I noticed that she wasn’t shopping for groceries or thinking about dinner at all. I responded by suggesting that we eat out whenever she hadn’t prepared our dinner. Then I began to cook a few meals. I didn’t want to do that all the time, so I started alternating between a few home-prepared meals with meals I brought in from restaurants.
Kate appeared not to notice the shift in responsibility for meals from her to me, and rarely offered to help. As I recall, that suited me because it was hard for her to do things the way I thought they should be done. Difficulty following procedures is another of the symptoms that accompanies Alzheimer’s.
She has rarely offered to help with any of the household chores; however, several times in the past few months, she has done so. At this point, I felt it was good for her to feel useful. Each time I accepted her help.
Last night as we returned home from dinner, I stopped in the driveway and told her I was going to get the mail. She said, “I’ll get that for you. Just go on, and I’ll meet you in the house.” I gladly accepted but was concerned about her walking from the mailbox back to the house. I moved the car forward but stopped before entering the garage. That enabled me to watch what she was doing.
When she got out of the car, she stopped to look at the plants along the driveway. I watched to see if she would remember to get the mail. She didn’t. She walked up the driveway to the back of the house. She stopped at several shrubs and pulled off a few small limbs. This was a reminder of the days when she spent as much as 6-8 hours a day doing just that. It’s been about three years since she stopped because she had stripped the shrubs of all their leaves as well as the branches. They had either died or were in such bad shape that I had to remove eighteen of them. Last year I engaged someone to get the landscaping back in shape. The yard is now getting back to where it was before.
I wasn’t worried that this might be the beginning of repeat of that experience. Instead, I was especially appreciative of Kate’s desire to help at this particular point. After all, her memory doesn’t permit her to follow through with almost anything she starts. It reminds me of an old song, “Little Things Mean a Lot” and the saying that “It’s the thought that counts.”