There are many reasons I often say that Kate and I have been fortunate while “Living with Alzheimer’s.” Being able to play to her strengths, her intuitive abilities, accounts for much of that. Although I am familiar with many stories of other people with dementia whose intuitive abilities continue to provide pleasure even to the latest stages of the disease, I’ve always wondered how long Kate’s would last. I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that they remain very active.
Her appreciation for music is as strong as ever, and the breadth of her musical tastes is much greater than before Alzheimer’s. I don’t mean to suggest that she has a critical eye for things. She doesn’t distinguish the quality of the musicians she hears. She just enjoys the music.
She also loves “things of beauty” although she often sees beauty in objects that the rest of us never notice. The one I have mentioned most often is her fascination with the paper doilies that she brings home from one of the restaurants we have visited so frequently in the past. She placed some of them on her dresser, a few on her bed table and several in different places in the family room. She continues to appreciate their beauty even as they get crumpled and soiled.
She also stops to take in other items around the house that intrigue her. This past Saturday, I cleaned out a drawer in my desk in the kitchen. One of the things I pulled out was a large envelope with “First Class Mail” printed in large bold letters on the front and back. This quickly grabbed her attention. She folded the envelope and spent 15-20 minutes running her fingers over the words. When she finished, she returned to the first word and repeated the procedure.
I noticed that she pressed her finger on each word and then lifted it. This is something she also does with the pictures in her photo books. She learned on the iPad that touching an icon would take her to something else. She finds it frustrating when nothing happens after touching photos or, in this case, the words “First Class Mail.”
She asked for my help. I explained that it was designed to mail something to another person. Then I said, “You could write a letter to our daughter, put it in the envelope, and mail it to her. Would you like to do that?” She did and I told her I would write the letter on my computer if she told me what she wanted to say. I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t know what to say and wrote a short letter and read it back to her. She liked what I had written. Then I printed the letter and asked her to sign it “Mom.” I gave up having her sign cards, letters, and other documents a year or two ago but thought it would be nice for her to sign this one to Jesse.
I had difficulty explaining where she should sign. After printing the “M,” she needed instructions on both the “o” and “m.” She was unable to put them as close together as she should. In addition, she added several extra “o’s.” She wanted to send a letter to Jesse and wanted to sign it correctly. She just couldn’t do it. It was just the way a small child of three or four might have done. I was touched and hope that Jesse feels the same way when she receives it.