In “Settling In Part 1,” I outlined the positive changes we’ve experienced with in-home care since our move. During the same time, there have been similar improvements in Kate’s behavior. She is much less frightened than she was when she came home from the hospital at Thanksgiving. That makes the experience of tending to her needs less disruptive for her. As a result, it is easier for her caregivers and me.
The biggest problems we’ve faced involve some of the basic things we have to do to care for her. That is mostly the process of changing her as well as getting her in and out of bed, her wheelchair and her recliner. As she has become more familiar with the process she has become less frightened and more cooperative. It’s not something she likes at all, but she is more accepting.
From the beginning, I’ve played an active role in these activities because her first response is to fight back with her hands. As one might expect, she has been particularly bothered by being changed. My part is mostly to calm her. In the gentlest voice I can muster, I tell her what is about to happen and that we need to help the caregiver by relaxing. I ask her to hold my hands tightly. That was tough for her at first, but in the past couple of weeks she has gotten much better. She seems to find security in holding my hands.
There’s a tendency to think that someone in the last stage of Alzheimer’s can’t learn at all, but we have seen signs that she can. This does not occur through her rational, but her intuitive ability. It’s not because she understands and remembers what we have told her to do. It is simply through experience that she is beginning to learn. One example involves our use of a lift to get her in and out of her bed as well as her wheelchair and recliner. She is learning where she needs to put her hands. That’s not only beneficial from a safety standpoint, but it keeps her from grabbing and holding on to something (like the arms of her wheelchair or recliner) that makes lifting more difficult for us.
She surprised me over the weekend when I took her on a tour around the other buildings. She told me to “watch out” as we approached an area where the tile floor ended and a carpeted section began. She has learned from experience that changes like these mean “bumps,” and she doesn’t like even small ones.
We’ve also been able to make important changes in her daily routine. We get her up daily, if not for the entire afternoon, for dinner. We relax on the balcony almost every day. Recently, she has been out of the apartment five or six times. Each time I have introduced her to other residents. Over the weekend, I took her out twice without the caregiver. One of those days, we stopped by our coffee shop for ice cream. I don’t know the full benefit of these outings and encounters, but I believe it’s good for her. It gives her a better feeling for everyday life, and I plan to keep it up.
I’ve also been pleased with recent efforts to read to her and to look through her photo books. Both of these have been of less interest to her in the past few months. I’ve had success with The Velveteen Rabbit in the past two weeks as well as at least one look through the photo book I gave her for our recent anniversary.
She still wakes up between 11:00 and noon, but she is occasionally wide awake much earlier. That allows me to get her morning meds earlier as well as getting her something to drink and a snack before the caregiver arrives. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it happens more often than in the past. The bonus is that several times I have gotten in bed beside her and read to her, looked at a photo book with her, or just worked on my laptop while she rested. It has been good to have that extra time with her without the caregiver’s being around.
We have two other goals: to get her hair done in the salon downstairs and to give her a shower. We may try the shower this week.
I should add that I attribute much of Kate’s improvement to the consistency we have with out in-home care. I am especially grateful to Adrienne, the caregiver who is with us 10 out of every 14 days. She has played a major role in the establishment of a regular routine.
There are two things that I don’t expect to improve. One is her Alzheimer’s. The other is her mobility. I don’t believe she will walk again although her recent progress has encouraged me to think about attempting it. That’s something I won’t pursue without the help of a physical therapist.
All in all, Kate seems more relaxed and happy. Her quality of life has gotten much better, and that means it has for me as well. We’re making progress.