Beginning Our 10th Year Post-Diagnosis

 

Tuesday, the first day of our 10th year Living with Alzheimer’s” started early and with some confusion; however, the day was punctuated with “Happy Moments” as well. About 5:30, I heard Kate chuckle. I chuckled back, and she responded with more chuckles. Then she started pointing to the ceiling moving her arm from one side of the room to the other. As she did this, she commented on “things” (that were not really there) that she liked. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was asleep or awake. When I said something to her, she responded. After a few minutes, I decided she was awake. She then immediately closed her eyes and went to sleep. This was strikingly sudden. It makes me think she really had been dreaming all along.

At 5:50, I told her I was going to get up. She told me not to leave her. She didn’t seem afraid, but she did say, “I don’t know how to say it, but I feel (paused while thinking of the right word) safe with you.” I stayed with her another thirty minutes before telling her I was going to get up and asked if she would be all right. She said she was fine. After I was dressed, she was still awake. I mentioned I was going to the kitchen and to call me if she needed anything. She said that would be all right, but she wanted me to come back and sit in a chair beside the bed.

As I was preparing to put my breakfast dishes in the washer, I heard her call. She wanted to go home. I told her I would take her. I got her to the bathroom and dressed quite easily. During that time, she said she wanted to “get out of here.” She also mentioned girls that were either here or would be coming. This also came up in the afternoon.

We went to Panera arriving about 8:15. That is very early for us. She worked a little on iPad puzzles but stopped to eat her muffin. She was tired and wanted to go home before 9:00. She rested for a couple of hours before we went to lunch. She was very talkative. Most of her conversation dealt with our marriage and also her feelings about our being a good match. At one point, she said, “You know we are so different.” She wanted to continue, but she didn’t know how to express her thoughts. I said, “But we’re so much alike on the things that matter.” She said, “Exactly.” It was a cold day, and we took a few minutes to get our coats on before leaving. Kate also had gloves. She asked if I could take a picture and wanted to make sure I got the gloves in the photo. It’s unusual for her to request a photo of herself. She also asked me to take one at another restaurant a few weeks ago. She wanted a picture of the two of us, and I took a selfie before we got in the car.

When we got home, she rested for an hour. I asked if she would like me to read something to her. She did, and I picked up the photo book of her mother’s family and read several things about her grandfather. She loved hearing about him and was most impressed. I’ve read this to her before, but this was the strongest reaction she has had yet.

Then I read a section that dealt with Battle Creek where her mother lived until marrying Kate’s father and moving to Texas. It focused on the work of the Kelloggs in the development of cereal at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (“The San”) where her grandfather was a doctor. She kept talking about “him.” I didn’t know whether she was talking about her grandfather, John Harvey Kellogg (CEO of The San), or W. K. Kellogg (who left the San and established the cereal company). She thought I had known “him.” I told her that her grandfather had died before I was born and that I was a child when the Kellogg brothers died. That didn’t penetrate at all. She kept saying, “And you knew him.” She seemed impressed. I am sure she felt I knew him because I was reading about all three of these men. To her, it probably sounded like I was telling her a story from my first-hand experience.

She finally tired and wanted to rest again. It was only a short time before she started talking and continued for an hour. I made some facilitating comments, but she didn’t appear to need them. She talked about something that is a variation of a topic she has talked about a number of times before. It always involves her, or our, helping people. A large portion of the previous conversations have involved educating women in impoverished parts of the world. This time she talked about a program in which we were already involved. It was designed to provide a broad range of education and job training for immigrants to the United States. She mentioned a selection process to determine those who would benefit most. The training itself was rather comprehensive and dealt with information about US culture, training for job interviews, and assistance in locating job opportunities that would match the skills and interests of the students. I was amazed at the details she brought up and the reasons each of these things was necessary.

The next surprise of the day came as we were about to leave for dinner. Without any prior signs or indications, Kate became very worried about not having delivered something to a man whose name she didn’t know. From what she said, she thought she was to deliver refreshments for a reception of some kind. She couldn’t tell me any specifics, but she became distraught over her failure to do what she had promised. As we drove to the restaurant, she wondered if I might be able to call him and work out a way to get it to him. After parking the car, I pretended to call him and that he had told me that the reception was actually the next day and that she had no reason to worry or apologize. This effort was unsuccessful.

As we walked up to the restaurant, the hostess opened the door and greeted us. Kate tried to act as though nothing was wrong, but it didn’t work. It did begin a process of diversion that got her mind off of what she believed was a failure to deliver on a promise. This process involved our conversation with our server, chatting briefly with a couple we know who sat at the table next to ours, and eating. Long before we finished our meal, she seemed to have forgotten the entire thing.

I had one more surprise at 12:30 yesterday morning when I heard her call me by name. I looked up from the bed to see her standing in the doorway to our bedroom. I quickly got up and went to her. She was very upset. She had gotten up to go to the bathroom, something that is exceedingly rare. To the best of my knowledge, she has never gotten out of bed without my noticing. I got her back to bed and then went to turn off the lights in the hallway. That’s when I discovered she had been walking around the house. Lights were on in two other bedrooms, family room, living room, dining room, and kitchen. She apparently came out of the bathroom and couldn’t remember how to get back to our bedroom and spent an unknown amount of time going through the house trying to find me. The good news is that she was able to calm down once she had located me. Another crisis was over. Our tenth year “Living with Alzheimer’s” is off to quite a start.

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