Recovering and Declining At The Same Time

Kate’s recovery from her experience with COVID and her hospitalization is progressing. We are working our way into getting her out of bed almost every day now. The process doesn’t go as smoothly as I would like, but she is getting more accepting of our (the caregivers’ and mine) role in helping with her physical and mobility needs. That makes life a little easier for her and for us.

Sometimes it takes as long as an hour or more for her to reclaim her cheerful self after we get her up. The other day someone said, “At least they forget quickly.” That may be so if we are talking about her memory for specific incidents that may have annoyed (angered) her. On the other hand, I believe her senses can hold a feeling for a while.

Now that she is recovering from COVID, I notice differences that reflect her decline from Alzheimer’s. Some of that started as long as 6-12 months before getting the virus. One of those I haven’t mentioned involves her salivation. Four years ago, she stopped swallowing her saliva during most of her waking hours. That required my keeping paper towels or napkins in the car all the time. All our servers were sensitive to this and provided extra napkins for her. It declined a little after a 2-3 years, but now appears to have stopped completely. I don’t have a good explanation for it, but it correlates with other things that have changed.

Some of that involves her food preferences. She has never liked onions, but she eats them now so long as they are cooked. She doesn’t realize she is eating them. Similarly, she never liked coconut. Now one of her favorite soups is one we have gotten at a Thai restaurant. It contains a broth made from coconut milk. During the pandemic, we have used a caterer for meals once a week on Friday night. She sometimes includes a homemade version of a Mounds chocolate bar. Kate loves them.

Other changes make me feel sad. For years she has taken great pleasure in the beauty of trees, plants and flowers. Now she rarely comments on them when she sees them. Even when I pick up a plant and show it to her, it doesn’t invoke the same excitement it used to.

More troubling is the fact that she seems to be losing her interest in her photo books and other family pictures even those of her mother. She still maintains a strong feeling for her mother when she talks about her, but it has been weeks since she has expressed much interest in photos of her. Yesterday was a notable exception. We spent about thirty minutes looking at the “Big Sister” album her brother Ken made for her almost three years ago. She enjoyed every minute until she felt tired. If this decreasing interest in her photo books continues it will remove one of the most valuable “tools” in my “Caregivers Toolbox.” I have used them many times to entertain her or to shift her mood.

On a more positive note, it’s been a long time since she has awakened in the morning and felt afraid. I can’t believe that this is a because she wakes up clear-headed and knows where she is, who she is, etc. She just seems not to be bothered by it the way she used to.

The highlight of our day comes after the caregivers leave around 7:00. I usually get in bed with her and watch some of the evening news. While I take my shower, I turn on music videos for her. After showering, I return to bed with her, and we watch YouTube together and chat. She is perfectly at ease, and I treasure these moments.

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