The past few days have made me more aware of something many other caregivers talk about. People with dementia can change quickly from one moment to the next. I frequently find myself caught off guard by Kate’s behavior. Take last night for example.
After spending most of the time sleeping or resting from Thursday night until getting up for dinner yesterday, she was in bed about 7:15 and asleep shortly after that. I was surprised when two hours later I heard her say, “Help me. Help me, please.” I told her I would. She repeated her pleas for help several times before I could get in bed.
After joining her in bed, I asked how I could help her. Her most common response is to say, “I don’t know.” Instead, she said, “I don’t know anything. Help me.” I told her I could help her and said, “First, do you know who I am?” She said, “What’s your name?” I told her and she repeated it but mispronounced it a couple of times. I coached her, and she got it right. Then I asked if she knew her own name. She didn’t. I said, “Your name is Kate.” She said, “Now let me say it.” She couldn’t remember it. I repeated her name twice. She repeated it successfully. For the next 15-20 minutes we repeatedly went over her name and mine. As soon as we finished one repetition, she wanted to go through it again. I wish I could capture the tone of her voice and how intent she was about trying to remember her name and mine. That is what made it so sad. She wanted to do something she simply could not do. The extent to which she was bothered is another example of her awareness that something is wrong with her. She was only successful a couple of times, and then it immediately followed my repeating the name. It was a powerful example of just how poor her short-term memory is, that is, virtually non-existent.
The only good news coming out of the experience is that she began to tire and wanted to go to sleep, and she as been all right today.