Change in the Air

Since the coronavirus came on the scene, change has become a regular part of everyone’s life. As my recent posts have suggested, Kate is no exception. I have a much harder time anticipating what a day will be like. That’s not because the good times have passed. They haven’t. They still represent a much larger percentage of our experiences than the trying, or even challenging, moments, but she definitely keeps me on my toes. Monday represents a good illustration.

The day began early, about 2:00 a.m. to be exact. It lasted off and on for the better part of two hours. I can’t recall the precise conversation. She was concerned about either a responsibility she thought she hadn’t fulfilled or what was on our agenda for the day. She asked me a few questions that I answered only to be followed a short time later with the same questions and my same answers.

Because she lost some sleep, I assumed she would get up a little later. That turned out to be a wrong assumption. About 7:30, I heard her say something just as I was going to take my morning walk. I went to the bedroom and found that she was confused but not seriously disturbed. She just wanted help understanding where she was and what she was supposed to do.

I asked if she was ready to get up. She said she didn’t know. I suggested that I take her to the bathroom. She agreed and on the way said, “Where’s my husband?” At the time, it was not a surprise, but her failure to recognize me was repeated throughout the day. It was the second time that has happened in the past week or so.

After she was dressed, I gave her a bowl of strawberries and blueberries and a glass of apple juice. For the first time, she showed little interest in either the fruit or her juice. She left half of the fruit and didn’t want any cheese toast when I offered it. She was quite talkative, however. Like other recent conversations, she didn’t realize that she was talking to me and kept saying she wished “my husband” were here to explain more of the things she talked about. We talked for an hour at the kitchen table before I assumed we would adjourn to the family room where she would rest. Wrong again.

Instead, she noticed a letter from Blue Cross on my desk. It was a communication about a medication I take for a dry eye condition. She picked it up and made an effort to read it. When we walked into the family room, she took it with her and then went into the living room. She took a seat and started reading it. I remained in the family room. I knew she wouldn’t be able to understand it but was fascinated to see how long she would try and made periodic visits to see if she was napping or reading. Each time she was trying to read with the same degree of seriousness she had shown a few days earlier when she tried to read The Velveteen Rabbit.

She came back to the family room in about twenty minutes and took a seat beside me. She started to read the letter when I noticed that she had it upside down. I asked if she wanted me to read it. She did. First, I explained what it was and that it included the company’s non-discrimination policy in nine languages besides English. I felt exactly the way I had the other day. I was glad to see her try to read but sad because she faced such an impossible task.

My Rotary club started its meetings again, and I re-established our arrangements to have a Monday sitter. She is someone who had been with us almost a year but not since September 2018, so I asked that she come an hour early to give Kate an opportunity to develop a comfort level with her before I left.

That went well, but when it was time for me to leave, Kate wasn’t comfortable about my going. She wanted to go with me. I told her the sitter be with her and that I would be back after my meeting. She wasn’t happy but accepted without a protest. I gave her a couple of her photo books to look over while I was gone.

When I returned, she was resting, but awake. I brought in groceries I had picked up on the way home from Rotary and then checked email. I heard her talking with the sitter and walked into the room. She was glad to see me. I told the sitter she could go. Then Kate and I spent time with one of her photo books.

During dinner, she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed early. She said the same thing after dinner. When we walked into our bedroom, she wanted to lie down. I suggested that she brush her teeth, put on her night clothes, and call it a day. She agreed, and I got her to bed. I watched the evening news and then put on some music for her while I took a shower.

After my shower, she began a long conversation. She was in bed when it began, but she soon took a seat on my side of the bed across from the chair in which I was sitting. I couldn’t fully understand what she was talking about, but I surmised that she thought I was a student with a part time job at whatever place she thought we were in, perhaps a hotel. I also gathered that she was trying to help me get a regular job. She asked if I knew her husband. I told her I did. She said he would be able to help by directing me to people who might be hiring. She said he was at work but would be coming home soon and repeated this a number of times. Realizing that he might not come home before I left, she asked if I had her husband’s phone number. I told her I did. Then she said, “If you run into a problem, call Richard.”

She was very eager to help me and kept repeating the whole scenario multiple times over an hour. For at least the last thirty minutes, I made an effort to close the conversation so that I could get to bed, but she continued. When she was nearly finished, she tested me to see if I remembered what she had told me to do. She said, “Now, what do you do if you run into a problem?” I told her I would call Richard. I don’t remember the other question, but I do remember the answer was to contact her. I was glad to have passed. She continued to talk and tested me one more time before the conversation ended for good.

We had what I thought was a rather amusing conclusion. I suggested we get to bed, and she asked where she was going to sleep. I pointed to her side of the bed. She was surprised. It turned out that she thought she would be going “home.” I told her she would be staying the night. She asked where I was going to sleep. I pointed to my side of the bed. She seemed a little hesitant but got in. I turned out the light and got in bed beside her. She was comfortable being with me, but she didn’t respond to me like I was her husband.

It is obvious that Kate is changing in a variety of ways. Her sleep pattern is unpredictable. She has more delusions. She has very talkative spells. As usual, the only way I can make sense out of it is to remind myself that her Alzheimer’s is a result of the plaque and tangles in her brain. They continue to grow and cause the circuits in her brain to malfunction. Regardless of the explanation, Kate is clearly changing, but I am glad to say that she is almost always kind and gentle. Just yesterday, she suddenly snapped at me because of something I said. She immediately apologized and said, “I really don’t like to be that way.” No wonder I want to give her the best care I can.

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