Is It Really Possible to Have a Good Day During the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s?

I am frequently concerned that I paint too rosy a picture of what living with Alzheimer’s is like for us. We, especially Kate, experience challenges, frustration, and stress. I don’t know how we could live with Alzheimer’s any other way; however, I believe it is important to communicate the good things that we can still enjoy. Yes, we can even have a “Good Day” at this stage of the disease. I always feel the need to reiterate that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kate’s memory is better or that she isn’t confused. I mean that we have enjoyed, not just a moment, but the day.

Yesterday was one of those. Several things may have accounted for that. She awoke in a good mood. In addition, we were not rushed at all. Her insecurity is also increasing. She seemed more dependent than usual. Finally, we talked a lot about our relationship and our love for each other.

She was also up early again, and we went to Panera and returned home for her to rest an hour before leaving for lunch. It was a very leisurely morning. We went to the Sunset Café for lunch. It’s a cut above most of the other restaurants we visit and they always save a corner table in the bar for us. It’s a quiet place and seems a little more private because the bar is quite small, only three other tables, and not very active at lunch. The setting makes it easy to engage in conversation. Kate and I took advantage of that. We have been eating there for several years and have gotten to know the hostesses, several servers, and shift managers, all of whom stop by our table to say hello. It provides the kind of social occasion Kate can easily handle.

When we returned home, she wanted to rest and did so for almost three hours before we got ready for dinner at Casa Bella. They were having a repeat of the Broadway program we heard last week, so I thought it might be nice to eat  in the front section of the restaurant away from the music. This is where we had eaten most often before they started their music nights. We have shared happy and sad moments there over the years. Last night was one of the happy ones.

We talked almost entirely about our relationship, our families, and how much we have to be grateful for. We also dealt with how we would feel if we lost the other through death. We do this periodically. Both of us feel we would like to die first so as not to live without the other. I feel good when we are able to talk about these things because I often think about her death and know that the odds of my living without her are significantly higher than the other way around. Of course, she doesn’t know that which magnifies her fear of my dying first and leaving her alone. She is very insecure now. She recognizes how difficult it is for her to do anything on her own.

Some might take this kind of conversation to be sad. It is, but there is another side to it. When we talk like this, we also feel very close. Each of us recognizes the depth of our love for the other in a way that doesn’t occur in the course of our daily routine. Of course, we approach this topic from different perspectives. I have a better idea of what is ahead for her. On the other hand, she is keenly aware that something is wrong with her as well as her dependency on me. I believe that when we have discussions like this we are uniting in a way that strengthens each of us. Her trust in me serves to reinforce my desire to care for her, and she is comforted by my assurances that I will be with her all the way.

It could have been an ordinary day. We didn’t do anything extraordinary. But it was a day in which we focused heavily on what we mean to each other. That made it special. It was a “Good Day.”

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