A Repeat of the Previous Two Days, But . . .
I look at yesterday as another good day, but I have to qualify my judgment. It was good in terms of Kate’s and my relationship. It was not good in terms of the increasing signs of her decline. The past three days have involved a variety of symptoms that signal that she is changing. Let me give you a sense of what the day was like.
Because she had lost sleep night before last, I let her sleep a little longer yesterday. When I went to wake her, I found that she was already awake but didn’t want to get up. My sense was that she responded like a person who was depressed. It wasn’t that she felt a need for sleep but that she just didn’t want to face the day. That is something I have observed on a number of other mornings in recent weeks.
She didn’t remember who I was, but she was cooperative when I invited her to lunch and told her I would help her get ready. Like the day before, she didn’t show any “spark” or sign of enthusiasm until she walked into the family room and saw her flowers. We enjoyed music on the way to lunch. When we arrived at the restaurant, she seemed fine in terms of her mood. She displayed no sign of depression and had a good time at lunch.
She wanted to rest as soon as we got back to the house. As she did the day before, she went to sleep. That has not been typical for her. Not only that, but when she awoke after at least an hour, she didn’t want to look through her photo books or anything else. She just wanted to continue resting. Like the day before, she was very relaxed and peaceful. She was content with no sign of worry. She was “at home.” We spoke for a few minutes. Then she rested but didn’t appear to sleep. Later I told her I wanted to show her something. I didn’t tell her what, but she agreed to look. It was a slide show of photos taken during a trip we took to Bruges and Amsterdam. I was particularly interested in her seeing these photos because there were so many taken at Keukenhof Gardens. I knew that she would enjoy the beauty of the floral displays, and she was. The problem was that she was still tired and wanted to stop after a short period of time. She didn’t go to sleep but rested another forty-five minutes before I got her up for dinner.
At dinner, she displayed more confusion. It began with what is becoming commonplace. She had trouble determining where she was to sit even though I was standing by the seat and pointing to it while I said, “You can sit right here.” When our server brought the bread, she didn’t know what it was or how to eat it. I buttered several slices and put them on her bread plate. Instead of picking up a piece of bread and taking a bite, she used her fork to pick it up. It was awkward for her as she tried to put it in her mouth. I suggested she try picking up a piece with her hand, and she did better. When the meal came, she didn’t know what the rice was, but she liked it as always.
After getting home, I asked if she would like to work puzzles on her iPad while I watched the news. That sounded good to her. It wasn’t long before she was stumped. I tried to help, but that came down to my actually putting the pieces in place for her. She tried another one but was frustrated and wanted to get ready for bed.
I turned on the debate as I prepared to take my shower. Then I asked Kate if she would like me to turn it off. She said she would like to listen a while. She didn’t watch, but she was still listening when I got out. I know she doesn’t know any of the candidates and she couldn’t understand what they were saying. I think she just found it a satisfying distraction. When I went to bed, she was almost asleep. She was very relaxed and seemed to know me.
As I reflect on the past few days, I have thought about two other friends who had spouses with dementia. I had been with them and their spouses less than six months before they died, only a few weeks for one of them. In each case, I was very surprised when they passed away. I had no idea when I saw them that they were so close to the end. Wayne Abernathy called me on Saturday. We had a long conversation during which he talked a lot about the last few months of his wife’s life. He saw it as a time when his wife simply slowed down. As he talked about his experience, it made me wonder if Kate might be at the beginning of this same stage.
I also thought of our friend Nancy Hardwick who lives in Dallas. Her husband died a few weeks after we had dinner with them in 2017. He, too, slowed down after we left. He began to sleep more and said to her, “You know I’m dying.” He was gone in less than three weeks.
I don’t pretend to know what lies ahead. I know that Kate’s mother lived with us almost five and a half years with minimal ability to speak or get around on her own. I don’t want Kate to do the same. I am coming to that place I have heard other caregivers talk about. There is a point at which you believe it is better for the one you love to die than to live. I’m not there yet. For the first time, however, I am beginning to think seriously about her passing and hoping the end will come in a way that is similar to that of Wayne and Nancy’s spouses.