Not Everything Has Changed for Us

NOTE: The following post was uploaded shortly before all restaurants in our area were closed. We will be eating at home with takeout from a few restaurants and meals prepared at home for the others.

As I write this post, the world is trying to adapt to significant changes related to the Coronavirus. WHO has declared a pandemic. Colleges and universities are extending spring break or cancelling classes for the balance of the semester. The NBA suspended its season. March Madness is off. Disneyland and Disney World are closed. And millions of people in the US and around the globe are making their own personal adjustments to the threat of Covid-19.

Kate and I are making our own changes. That is not new for us. We’ve been doing that for the past nine years since Alzheimer’s entered our lives. The fact that we eat out for both lunch and dinner every day is of special concern, however, and I am looking at that very carefully.

Getting food is not the problem. It’s the fact that we eat out for all our lunches and dinners. Of course, I can prepare meals at home or have them delivered, but that requires a life change that has been critical in our minimizing the impact of Alzheimer’s. It has helped to keep us from feeling socially isolated. It’s a change I don’t want to make, but we have made many changes already and have adapted well. I believe we will do the same this time.

That prompted me to think about some of the previous changes we’ve made. Kate gave up her position as our church librarian even before the diagnosis. She knew she wasn’t handling the job (even as a volunteer) the way she felt she should. I began a phased-in retirement to take care of her. Kate replaced her responsibilities with the library by working in the yard and working on a family photo book on her computer. Early on, I became the sole driver when Kate had an accident that totaled her car. I took over management of the household. I cut back on my volunteer activities at church and in the community. We discontinued international travel. We stopped making our annual trips to Chautauqua. We gave up all evening events except our music nights at Casa Bella that begin at 6:00 and end between 8:15 and 8:30. Kate had pruned the shrubbery so severely that many died and others didn’t have anything left to prune. She lost the ability to use the computer. That left her with the iPad that she has used so much until recently. Now she is having great difficulty working her jigsaw puzzles. We stopped making trips to see our children and grandchildren. Movies used to be an important source of entertainment. We saw only two last year, and Kate only enjoyed one of them.

Eating out has helped us maintain our quality of life. I am not yet planning to stop, but I do want to be prudent. Friday afternoon I made an unusual trip to the grocery story. Typically, I go once a week to buy eggs, V8, and bananas for my breakfast as well as a few other incidentals. Friday’s trip was for some frozen items as well as assorted foods that I can prepare at home. I didn’t buy a lot. I just wanted to make sure we have enough food for several days. During that time, I will reassess the situation and make further plans. I believe the probability of receiving or passing the virus is greater at some restaurants than others. We ate lunch at Applebee’s on Friday. No one was there when we arrived. Only three tables were occupied when we left. Bluefish Grill has very few customers for Saturday lunch, and they are spread out. That was true this past Saturday. Our Sunday lunch place seats almost 200. I counted thirty while we were there yesterday. Unfortunately, our regular music nights at Casa Bella appear to be the biggest threat. The crowd numbers about sixty in close proximity. The same is true for our regular pizza place.

We ate at home the past two nights. Saturday, I cooked boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a tomato sauce with Italian seasoning. Kate is not a vegetable eater, so I served fresh fruit salad with blueberries, bananas and apples. Last night, I added bouillon to the leftover thighs and sauce and made a soup. We had a very pleasant time both nights. In a way, sitting down at our own table was almost like a treat.

Looking ahead, I see a downside that I will have to address. Cooking adds a new element of stress. I have only so much time for all my activities, most of which involve caring for Kate. I skipped the Y on Friday to grocery shop. The preparation of a meal as well as the clean-up afterwards takes time I could do other things. This is a little thing, but I am reminded of why I was initially motivated me to eat out in the first place. It was only later that I came to realize its social benefits. I believe one reason I have been able to manage stress as well as I have is that I have worked to minimize the things I have to do on a daily basis. Cooking our meals is not something to which I look forward. I am going to assume this will be temporary, and plan for to eat out less. We have adapted before. We will continue to do what we need to.

As I think about all our changes, I have to say that one very important thing hasn’t changed – our relationship. What I mean is the feelings that Kate and I have for each other have remained strong. I would say even stronger than before Alzheimer’s. Each of us places more value on the other and recognizes it.

Kate may not always remember my name or that I am her husband, but she continues to feel comfortable with me. She is especially insecure now and looks to me for help with everything. Interestingly, she has called me by name more often in the past few weeks or months than she has for a year or two. I think that is a case of “reflexive memory.” She calls my name most when she needs something, and that occurs more frequently now. The name just pops out. At other times she asks my name. It often happens while riding in the car, eating a meal, or when she wakes up in the morning. In moments like those, my name and relationship have slipped away. I imagine she is thinking, “I know this guy, but who in the world is he?”

She continues to be very appreciative. Two nights ago, as she was getting in bed, she thanked me for taking care of her. For a moment she was emotional and started to cry. She said, “You have such a load on you.”

She also likes to be with me. We share many tender moments in which we express our love for each other even when it doesn’t involve words at all. Sometimes we just sit side-by-side with my arm around her listening to music. Other times, we just hold hands. We don’t always need to express our love in words. I didn’t imagine it would be like this at the time of her diagnosis. That’s just one more reason I say we are fortunate. I am grateful.

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