Dependence and Anxiety

Kate’s dependence on me continues to increase. That is particularly true in the morning when she wakes up. The way I explain it is that all of the circuits in her brain shut down as she sleeps. When she awakes, they start to connect again. Her memory fails, and she can’t make sense of where she is. Some mornings it is much worse than others. That can lead to anxiety as it did yesterday and today.

Day before yesterday, as she has done frequently in recent days, she got up to use the bathroom around 6:30. She needed my help getting to the bathroom and back, but that was no different from other mornings. Around 10:30, I noticed on the video cam that it looked like she was about to get up. When I got to the bedroom, she was still lying down. She looked frightened. I asked if I could help her. She said, “I don’t know.” That is a frequent answer when the only thing she knows is that she doesn’t know “anything – where she is, who she is, etc. In moments like these I assume that she doesn’t remember my name or our relationship. I focus on trying to comfort her and relieve her anxiety. I sat down on the bed beside her and said, “I am here to help you with whatever you need.” She said, “What do I do?” I explained that she it was about the time she usually got up to dress and that we could go to lunch together.

I got her up, and we went to the bathroom to brush her teeth. As we walked, she shook with fright. I assured her she was going to be all right and that I would be with her. She held my hand very tightly. When we got to the sink, I started to put toothpaste on her toothbrush. She snapped at me saying, “I can still do some things by myself.” She quickly apologized for talking to me that way. Then she said something I can’t remember, but I took the meaning to be “I just want to be myself again.”

That and a similar comment she made while dressing confirmed the suspicions I have had for some time. Her self-awareness is still strong. She knows she has a serious problem and at times like that it is painfully frightening. What she doesn’t know is that she has Alzheimer’s, and that she is not going to improve.

I told her I would be able to help her. Then I relied on diversion once again. It has worked well in the past. It worked again this time. I repeated my usual routine. I showed her photos of her mother and grandmother in our hallway. Then we walked to the family room and let her respond to the flowers, photos, and all the greenery behind our house. She recovered and was fine the rest of the day.

Yesterday I forgot to turn on the iPad I use to monitor the video cam until I was about to serve up my breakfast. When I did, I saw that the door to the bathroom was closed. I got to the bedroom as she was just coming out. She was not as disturbed as she was the day before, but she was certainly uneasy. I helped her back to bed, and she thanked me. Then she said, “I feel better knowing you are here.” I said, “Would you like me to bring my things back here and stay with you?” She did, and I stayed until it was time to get her up for lunch. She slept about an hour and a half. Then I saw her running her fingers through her hair. I had music playing softly. She was very peaceful.

These two experiences are unusual, but her dependence on me steadily increases. It’s expressed in little things like wanting to hold my hand while we are walking. I’ve grown accustomed to hearing her say, “Take my hand.” or “Hand.” She also says things that more directly communicate that dependence. Yesterday, for example, she said, “I don’t feel scared when I am with you.”

I will report on the rest of the day in my next post.

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