Unpredictability: Part 2

Early last week, I wrote a post in which I talked about Kate’s unpredictability and illustrated with the changes in her sleeping pattern. By itself, that is not a serious problem. It’s something to which I can adapt; however, the source of this change concerns me. She is far more insecure than ever and is often uneasy about getting up. For a long time, she has experienced anxiety upon waking, but it seems more serious now. Previously, I was able to get her up without any problem. Then she would begin to feel better. Her response now is to withdraw. That makes it hard for me to help her.

The change that has bothered me most is the first signs of hostility. So far, that has involved occasions when I am helping her in the bathroom, dressing in the morning, and getting her night clothes on.

One of these occurred one evening last week. We had a good afternoon though a short one since she got up a little later than usual. As sometimes happens, it was almost 3:00 when we finished lunch. She rested about an hour or a little longer. She was in a good humor when she finished resting and expressed an interest in the house. That led me to take her on a tour, something we haven’t done lately. We didn’t get very far, but that was because of her interest. It took a long time for me to point out items of interest and listen to her own reactions.

She rested again before going out to dinner. She seemed fine at the restaurant. All was well until we got to the bedroom. Our normal routine is to go first to the bathroom to brush our teeth. When I mentioned it, she said, “I’ll do it later.” I brushed my teeth. Then I got her night gown and took it to her. That’s when the trouble began. She snatched the gown from my hand and said, “I’ll do it later.” I told her that would be fine and settled in to watch the evening news.

At 8:00, I asked if she was ready for bed. She wasn’t, I told her I was going to take my shower but was very careful not to say it in the same tone of voice she had used. I knew that would exacerbate the problem and hoped that when I got out of the shower, her mood would have changed. That wasn’t in the cards.

When I came out of the bathroom, she was looking intently at the bedspread and running her fingers over it as though she were writing. I didn’t say anything. In a few minutes, I asked if she would like to get ready for bed. She was ready, and I told her I would help her. I walked to her side of the bed, picked up the night gown and put it next to her. Then she said something I didn’t understand. All I picked up was that she saw other people in the room and for some reason wanted me to sign my name on her gown. I did exactly what she had been doing on the bedspread. I pretended to sign my name on the front of her gown. After that, she asked a couple of questions about the people in the room. I told her they were gone now.

When I picked up the gown, she said, “I’m not wearing this.” She was adamant about it and added, “Get me something else.” I took the gown and went to the closet and came back with another. I said, “Let me help you.” She gave me a stern look and said, “You can, but we’re going to do this together. You understand?” I said, “That’s fine. I like for us to work together as a team.”

She took the gown and tried to figure out how to put it on. Quickly, she realized that she needed my help. Soon after that, she was in bed. She was awake when I called it a day over an hour later. She seemed to have forgotten the whole incident. It was a typical close to our day. I told her I loved her. She said the same to me.

The next day, we had a similar experience. She was up even earlier and was very cheerful and talkative. As she did the day before, she expressed great interest in the house. We tool a brief tour of the dining room and living room. Then we came back to the family room where we looked at photo books until time for lunch. It was a very nice morning and afternoon. That evening we had a repeat of the night before. Since then, there have been a couple of other times when she was rather hostile.

Concurrent with this change is an increase in her delusions. They often involve people who are in the house. This results in her whispering so that “they” can’t hear her. She is very insistent on my speaking the same way. Other times, she is concerned about some kind of project on which she is working. I haven’t been able to figure out what it is, but she is very worried.

My impression is the hostility with me arises for two reasons. First, I think they come at moments when she has forgotten who I am and doesn’t trust me. Second, she is worried or frightened by her delusions.

Once again, I turned to The Velveteen Rabbit (TVR) as a way to calm her and ease her concern about me. It is amazing how effective that can be. A few nights ago, she was quite troubled when I got in bed. It involved an event on which she was working and was concerned about the people working with her. I tried to divert her attention to other things. That didn’t work. Then I read TVR to her. She was attentive and responded audibly from the beginning. That is not typical. It usually takes a while. She calmed quickly. At the end, I thanked her for letting me read to her and told her I liked the book. She said she liked it as well. She asked me a number of questions about it. I was surprised because the questions indicated that she had grasped at least some of the content.

This morning I saw a tweet that said, “The #dementia caregiver’s goal is to communicate “Let’s solve this together.” I try to emulate this approach, but I don’t seem to be doing so effectively at these moments. That is something I will have to work on.

Although many things are unpredictable, I am happy to report that the day virtually always ends on a positive note. I would say 99.9% of the time. When I get in bed, I say, “Thank you for another nice day. We always have nice days, don’t we?” She agrees, and I tell her I love her. Occasionally, she does not reciprocate by saying she loves me. That’s when she doesn’t remember that I’m her husband. On those occasions, she sometimes laughs. Regardless of what she says, she is both at ease and happy. I can accept that. It’s far better than butting heads.

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