It’s been a while since I’ve commented on my use of The Velveteen Rabbit to distract Kate when she is disturbed or bored. Regular readers of this blog will probably recognize that as one of the most reliable tools in my “Caregiver’s Toolbox.” I’m sorry to report that at this stage of her Alzheimer’s, some of my tools aren’t as reliable as they once were. Unfortunately, these include her photo books, our “tours” around the house, and The Velveteen Rabbit.
The good news is that TVR hasn’t lost all its charm. It continues to help me out and has done so twice in the past two weeks. The first occurrence happened when I thought she might be headed toward another experience with sundowning. The preceding occasions began with restlessness accompanied by a desire to go home.
Several times this occurred after she had been in her recliner for a couple of hours. In every instance, it followed a period during which Kate and her caregiver were seated close to each other but not interacting. Although all of our caregivers do a good job with the basic tasks involved in caring for Kate, they are very much like the average person with respect to communicating with her. I am very understanding about this. It really is difficult for them to establish a close personal relationship with her. When asked questions, she doesn’t understand or simply doesn’t answer. Thus, caregivers receive little reinforcement for their minimal efforts.
Even though I am understanding, the contrast between the relationship between Kate and her caregivers is dramatically different than the one Kate and I have. While we also have moments of silence after the caregivers leave each evening, the silence is punctuated by brief conversations and often expressions of our feelings for each other. I don’t expect caregivers to relate in this way, but I would like them to find their own “tools” to handle the situation.
I want to help them and decided to intervene next time I noticed the first signs of sundowning. When that happened, my first step was to kneel down beside her recliner and seek to comfort her. I spoke to her slowly and softly and explained that I wanted to help her. She wanted to get out of the recliner and go home. I told her I would be happy to do that. She began to feel less agitated, but I didn’t solve the problem. I started to pick up one of her photo books. Instead, I thought about The Velveteen Rabbit. I went to the bedroom where I keep it to read to her as a bedtime story. I brought it back to her and read it. As often happens, she was not immediately engaged. The more I read the more she listened. I can’t be sure if TVR made the difference. I do know that she enjoyed the book and didn’t show any further signs of sundowning.
A few days later, we had a similar experience. She and the caregiver were seated in the family room just a few feet from each other. Kate looked bored. She and the caregiver hadn’t been talking at all. I felt like Kate needed a boost. Once again, I picked up TVR and read it to her. She perked up rather quickly and gave her customary audible emotional responses to various passages. It was just the tonic I was looking for. At the end, I noticed that the caregiver was wiping away a few tears. She told me later she wasn’t familiar with the book and thought her daughter might like it.
Will it work the next time she has a problem? I don’t know. I haven’t found anything that always works. One thing is sure. The Velveteen Rabbit still has value, and I don’t intend to give it up anytime soon.