Living with Unpredictability: Part 1

Living with COVID-19 has brought about significant changes for everyone, and they keep coming. Kate and I are no exception; however, I am especially mindful that Kate’s Alzheimer’s is also undergoing changes that have upset the very nice routine we have had for years. I’m a person who likes consistency but “Living with Alzheimer’s” means increasing unpredictability. Her sleeping “pattern” is a good example.

Before Kate’s diagnosis, we tended to follow a regular schedule each day of the week although it changed periodically with other changes in our lives. That has been true true since the diagnosis as well.

Until about two years ago, her daily schedule meshed rather well with mine. I got up around 6:00. That gave me time to have breakfast, take my morning walk, and take care of email and household chores. She got up between 8:00 and 9:30. That is when we started going to Panera almost every morning and the café in Barnes & Noble in the afternoon. Add eating out for lunch and dinner, and we had a full day. Then we enjoyed a little time for relaxation at home before going to bed.

The first big change came about when she started sleeping later in the morning. We began to skip Panera and go straight to lunch. At the same time, she started resting shortly, sometimes immediately, after returning home from lunch. The consequence was that we also stopped going to Barnes & Noble in the afternoon. We still ate out for dinner, so our schedule continued to maintain a significant amount of stimulation for both of us. In addition, when she wasn’t resting at home, she worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. That kept her occupied and her brain focused on a pleasurable task.

We began to move away from this routine early this year when she twice remained in bed until well past lunch. The pandemic brought about more change. Eating out came to an abrupt halt, and Kate lost the ability to work her puzzles on the iPad. The result was a drastic reduction in outside stimulation. It has been especially tough for Kate. That, in turn, has required more of my time to keep her entertained. Despite my efforts, our lives have become more sedentary.

Kate adjusted by resting more than she did previously. That may be what is behind the variability in the time she awakes in the morning. Of course, it is also possible that it relates more directly to changes in the brain as a outgrowth of Alzheimer’s.

At first, I suspected that her staying in bed so long related to fear or anxiety related to her confusion upon waking or to frightful delusions. On at least two occasions, I have said, “You look frightened. Are you?” In those instances, she said she was but didn’t know the cause.

More recently, she hasn’t appeared to be frightened, simply tired. That was true two times last week. The first time I was successful in getting her up. The second time, I was not, at least until after 1:30. I first tried to wake her at 11:00. She woke up and seemed in good humor; however, when I suggested that she get up for lunch, she balked. I let her rest another twenty minutes and tried again. Still no luck. I tried two other times and finally gave up.

I had planned for us to go out for lunch but shifted gears and had lunch delivered to the house. At 1:30, I tried again, this time with success. The only problem I had was that she didn’t recognize me as her husband. Usually that doesn’t make a difference. This time she wasn’t as comfortable with my help in the bathroom or in helping her dress. She ate her lunch. Then she had a hair appointment.

As in the past, she sometimes gets up early. Last Friday, that was 6:25. This occurs frequently enough that I am keeping more breakfast food for her. Although her early starts interrupt my daily routine, I adjust easily to that. I enjoy the time with her. In addition, I know she will want to rest before lunch. That gives me a chance to take my morning walk. Not only that, but she normally wakes in time for us to have lunch on those days we have a sitter.

What is next? I’m not sure. Although the unpredictability of her getting up represents a significant change in our life style, it is far from being a serious problem. I know we will have bigger adjustments in the future. I expect that she may eventually sleep for extended periods during the day. I don’t look forward to that. I would rather live with the current unpredictability.

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