Settling in Part 3: My Adjustment

Eleven weeks ago, Kate and I moved into our new home (apartment) in a local life plan retirement community often called a continuing care retirement community. In two previous posts, I described the changes in our in-home care and Kate’s adjustment to the move. Today’s post deals with how I am doing. With one exception, I can say that my report is just as positive as the others. Let’s deal with the positive first.

Shortly after moving in, I went through a period of disorientation. All of my routines were disrupted. It was a little like starting from scratch – new grocery store, new pharmacy, new part of town, new apartment and a bit of confusion over where various things had been put by the movers, as well as a temporary cessation in my daily exercise. Within 2-3 weeks, I was recovering from that and am now quite comfortable.

At the same time, I found our new environment very much to my liking. After months of preparation for the move, it was a relief to be settled into a new home. That likely would have happened no matter where we had moved, but there are several aspects of this community that I find especially appealing.

We’re in a new building that opened the end of February, and I like our particular apartment. I had had a little concern about living in a place one-third the size of our previous home; however, I had always liked the floor plan. Everything is very efficiently arranged. We have two bedrooms on either side of a large open area containing the kitchen, living area, and dining area. We also have a 16-foot balcony overlooking a courtyard below. It felt right the very afternoon we moved in. Now that we have been here a while, I find that it suits our life style quite well. I haven’t missed the space we left behind at all.

Apart from the apartment itself, there are other things that are more important to me. Some of them are things people generally expect from from life plan communities. They simplify life. I am relieved of almost all the personal responsibilities required in our previous homes. Not having to hire help with cleaning, repairs, or the wide arrange of maintenance issues was never a great chore, but it is nice to leave that behind.

Among the big benefits is availability of daily meals. I still fix my morning breakfast and like it that way. I value my morning routine that had been somewhat disrupted right after the move. For a short time, I continued to fix a simple lunch but gravitated to going downstairs to the salad, soup, and sandwich bar. I eat there every day but Wednesday and Sunday when I go to restaurants I have frequented for lunch for more than five years.

Kate and I do not eat lunch together. That’s because she doesn’t usually wake up before noon and isn’t ready to eat until 1:00 or shortly thereafter. At night, I bring in meals from the dining room. Kate and I eat together in the apartment. I like that.

Speaking of meals, living here has also been accompanied by a change in my eating habits. I eat more soup and vegetables than I ever have before. That relates directly to the way they are prepared. Most of the soups are quite good, and the vegetables are nicely-cooked. I’m especially fond of their broccoli and asparagus. For years, I have enjoyed salads, and the salad bar downstairs offers a wide variety of ingredients to make salads to suit my particular preferences.

Although our balcony doesn’t provide as beautiful a view as we had at our home, we have taken greater advantage of it than the patio we had. We spend some time there with the caregiver almost every day. Now that it is hotter, we are eating early. Then we go to the balcony until time for the caregiver to leave. It has provided more relaxing moments than I expected. By the way, I am writing this post on the balcony enjoying a gentle breeze (from our ceiling fan) and a light rain.

Our new routine also involves other relaxing moments as well. At the top of the list would be taking Kate around the interior of the buildings. It gives her a change as well as an opportunity to meet other residents and staff. Several times, we have gone to the ice cream shop. The ice cream is good, and we have spent as long as 45 minutes relaxing while encountering other residents.

That leads me to say what I believe is the most important benefit of living here. It provides significant opportunities for social activity and interaction. As my closest friends know, I’m a bit gregarious. Despite Kate’s Alzheimer’s and the pandemic’s lessening my social contact, I never felt isolated as do so many people in my situation. A lot of that was because we ate out for all lunches and dinners for at least eight years. I also remained in contact with people via email and telephone and continued to serve on committees at church and several community organizations.

The move, however, has substantially increased my daily social contacts, and I am thriving. It’s hard to walk out of the apartment at any time of day without bumping into someone and engaging in a brief conversation. One of our caregivers has joked with me about how long it takes me to run down to the dining room to pick up our dinner because I get into multiple conversations along the way.

So, what is the one exception to how positive my experience has been? Here it is, and it has nothing to do with the move itself. Several weeks before the move, I began to experience a rash on my back and other parts of my body. My dermatologist took a biopsy and found that I have eczema. She gave me a prescription for prednisone and a cream that helped but did not eliminate the problem. She recommended changing the detergent used to wash our clothes, the soap I used for bathing, and hand lotion. In addition, I started using an over-the-counter cream to replace the prescription that had expired.

The rash subsided somewhat but flared up in the past week. For the first time, it hit my face around my eyes as well as spots on the right and left sides of my neck. The itching isn’t pleasant, but I have been more annoyed by the places around my eyes. I feel awkward when I leave the apartment. I find myself explaining the problem everywhere I go. The good news is that the dermatologist gave me a new prescription that seems to be working. We have also scheduled an allergy test in an effort to determine what is causing the problem.

Other than that, life is good, and I am adjusting quite well.

Addendum to Previous Post: Another Breakthrough

Right after writing my previous post, we added another success to those I mentioned. For the first time since Thanksgiving (seven months), we gave Kate a shower.  Prior to that we had only given her bed baths.

The amazing thing is how well it went. It had been a day of ups and downs. She was awake early and not talkative but relaxed and in a good mood. I spent a good bit of time with her prior to the caregiver’s arrival. The first thing Adrienne does is to ask how Kate is doing. I told her it looked like a good day, but she was a bit slow in getting going.

I left for lunch. When I returned, Kate was in her recliner, but she wasn’t happy. I made an unsuccessful attempt to change that. I decided to do what Adrienne had already done, not bother her for a while. An hour and a half before dinner, I suggested we go out to the balcony. Kate said she didn’t want to go, but I reminded her how much we liked it. Then Adrienne and I took her. She was sullen the entire time.

On Monday, Adrienne and I had talked about the possibility of showering her on Tuesday. When the time came, her mood led me to table those plans. We decided to wait until she was in a better humor. That happened more quickly than either of us could have imagined.

Everything changed at dinner. She almost always enjoys her meals, but she was especially enthusiastic this time. She was on a high. I talked with Adrienne about going ahead with the shower, but I indicated I didn’t want to push her. She agreed.

I walked over to Kate and very calmly told her I thought that she might like to get a shower before getting ready for bed. I was prepared to say a lot more to encourage her, but she responded favorably. Adrienne and I went into action quickly but without rushing her. I changed into my gym shorts and warmed up the water for her. We transferred her from her wheelchair to her shower chair (that had never been used), and into the shower we went.

It went swimmingly well. Kate didn’t make even the slightest protest. At one point, she even lifted her arms, looked at Adrienne and said, “Over here” to get her to spray the water. Everything went well for all three of us. Adrienne and I are eager to try it again. We’re on a roll but not naïve about how quickly moods can change. This particular experience illustrates that beautifully.

Settling In Part 2: Kate’s Adjustment

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.

Accepting Each Day As It Comes

“It’s a day to celebrate although I don’t know what lies ahead.” That’s a quote from my previous post in which I talked about our 58th anniversary and that Kate had given me the perfect gift the day before. As it turned out, the actual anniversary wasn’t exactly the way I would have liked although it ended well.

Unlike the day before, she slept late and wasn’t in a particularly good mood when she awoke. I decided not to wait until later to give her the anniversary card and photo book I had prepared. She is almost always more cheerful in the afternoon.

In my eagerness, I didn’t wait long enough. When I told her it was our anniversary and read her card, she didn’t show any emotion at all. It seemed like she knew I wanted her to be excited, and she was going to show me I couldn’t do it. I gave her the photo book with 95 pages of pictures of people and places that had been special to us the past 58 years. It was clear after showing her the cover and first couple of photos that I was facing a losing battle. I made a wise decision to try again later.

The opportunity came as we ate dinner. She enjoyed her food, and she became more cheerful. When she finished her ice cream, the caregiver went to the bedroom to get things ready for the night. I picked up the photo book and showed it to her. She took to it right away. It was too much to go through all of it, but she liked what she saw. She was cheerful and loving for the rest of the night.

Yesterday was a very good day. For the third time since we moved six weeks ago, the caregiver and I took her out of the apartment. For the second time, we walked through the park across from our building. We followed that by relaxing on our balcony until time for dinner. She enjoyed the day.

Of course, I would have liked the day of our anniversary to have been like the day before and the day after, but I had little or no control over that. By this time, however, I’ve learned the value of accepting each day as it comes. That doesn’t mean I simply give up and let it go. I always try to make things better. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don’t. I try not to push her. That only makes things worse. If I just back away for a little while, she often comes around naturally. One thing is sure. I know that the bumps in the road are going to occur, and I am encouraged with the knowledge that we’re also going to have more “Happy Moments.” I wonder what’s in store for today.

Reflections on Leaving Our Home

Two years ago this month, I took a big step and made a down payment on an apartment in a local continuing care retirement community (CCRC). I was motivated to do this for at least two reasons. First of all, Kate and I cared for our parents for twenty-four years. We didn’t mind that. We would do it all over again if faced with the same situations; however, we wanted to make sure our children’s responsibilities for our care would be minimal. I don’t recall that we talked about a specific way to do that, but I felt that we needed to plan for an easy transition to the last chapter of our lives. Neither of us wanted to put them in the often awkward position of letting us know that it was time to give up driving or to move out of our home. Living in some type of senior living facility was always an option. I didn’t establish a specific time frame for a move or assume that we would have to move at all. I approached life a step at a time and was prepared to make changes as I thought needed before our children would feel the need to step in.

That leads to the second reason for my decision. Kate was approaching the last stage of Alzheimer’s. I was handling things with minimal help, four hours of paid help three afternoons a week. She had become totally dependent on me, and I began to wonder what would happen to her if something happened to me. That was the catalyst that led me to explore a CCRC. We have several local options, and, in the past, I had visited at least four of them. I’ve known quite a few people who lived or had lived in the one I chose. It was one of two that were located in places I felt would be convenient for us. I knew the marketing director and that they were about to begin construction on a new building for independent living. I made an appointment with him. Two weeks later, I gave him our down payment.

I haven’t waivered in my decision since that time. As time passed, Kate declined, and the pandemic hit us. At least one of my good friends has asked several times if I were eager to make the move. The answer was and still is that I am not eager, but I believe it’s the right decision. It provides access to all the options we might need in the future. That includes assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehab. In addition, the doctor who established the geriatric practice with which Kate’s doctor is affiliated has opened a practice on the grounds in the building next door to ours. Yes, he makes house calls as well. I haven’t made the change for Kate just yet, but her doctor and I have talked about it. She actually suggested that as a good possibility. I intend to explore it further once we move in.

Having made that decision two years ago, I’ve learned a couple of things. One is that two years is not a long time. It passed quickly. Had I been eager to move, I’m sure I would have thought the day would never come. That doesn’t mean that I have any regrets about my original decision. I don’t. I also believe I made it at the right time. I didn’t want to move when it might have been disturbing for Kate. Her decline during that time has been significant. I don’t expect her adjustment will be difficult although I feel equally sure she will notice some difference in her environment.

The second thing I’ve learned is that a move like this is stressful. I’ve had an abundance of help. In addition to Kate’s caregivers and the woman who cleans our house, I engaged three other people to assist me with different aspects of the move. One is the decorator Kate has worked with about thirty years. She helped me decide on the furnishings to take with us. I know someone else whose business is assisting seniors who want to downsize. She is handling all aspects of the physical move itself. The third is a woman who has cared for the plants in our yard, on the patio, and front porch. She has also taken care of our holiday decorations. She and I have been worked together 6-8 months getting rid of things in our closets, cabinets, and attic.

Despite this assistance, I have found it impossible to turn over everything to them. There are just many decisions I need to make myself. In fact, I view this move, possibly our last one, as a continual process of decisions regarding what is important in life. Numerous times, I have looked at boxes of “things” we have accumulated over the years and thought a person in the ministry could preach a year’s worth of sermons about them. Most of them are of little value to me now. I’ve discovered they are also of little value to our children or anyone else.

That said, I’ve found that what matters most are intangibles. Uppermost in my mind are the memories that I will take with me. Recently, our weather has been perfect for getting outside. Kate, her caregiver, and I have spent time as much time as we can on our patio enjoying the spring flowers and watching the new growth of leaves on the forest of trees behind our house. It’s been a therapeutic break from the preparations of moving and brought back memories of the good times we’ve had here. I especially remember special celebrations like my parents’ 65th and 70th anniversaries, my dad’s 100th birthday and those leading up to it starting with his 90th. There were also grandchildren’s visits and the time spent in and around the pool. I would also include the almost 5 ½ years Kate’s mother spent with us with 24/7 care provided by 6-7 caregivers who became part of our family. But most of all, I think of the good times with Kate before and after her diagnosis, and it is all but certain we will have more of them during the next week that we are here. I will leave with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude for these memories and many more.

The other day I thought about the move my parents made from their home to live close to us. My dad was the same age I am now, nearing 81. They had lived in South Florida much longer than we have lived here. The move was stressful for him. My mom was in the early stage of dementia. He did his best to see that she got acquainted with people. One of the first things he did was join a local senior center. He became active in Kiwanis and a seniors writing group. He loved his computer and kept up an active email correspondence with friends from the past and many new ones. He adapted very well and lived to be 100. I’m optimistic that I’ll do the same.

Celebrating Happy Moments in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

Although Kate’s recovery is much slower than I would like, I rejoice in the Happy Moments we continue to experience. As I’ve said in other posts, our evenings are very special. That’s not to say that they are the only special moments of the day, but they are the most consistent. It’s nice to have a day that ends well.

One of our caregivers was surprised when I told her about that. She wondered what we could be doing that would be so special. I’m sure she asked because Kate often seems so passive when they are here. In addition, when she is talkative, most of the caregivers don’t enter into the conversation. Much of what she says is rooted in delusions. That may be why they tend to ignore her. They don’t know her well, and it isn’t easy for them to live in her world by participating in her delusions. It’s much easier for me to do that.

I believe our good evenings occur because she senses that when it is just the two of us, she can relax. I won’t do anything to disturb her. She almost always recognizes me as someone familiar. That contrasts with her caregivers. She has 5-7 of them and all but one is new since Thanksgiving. She hasn’t developed a strong relationship with them. Apart from the length of time we have been together compared to her relationship with the caregivers, I am also more careful to give her my attention. My impression is that she may feel more alone when she is with her caregivers.

Night before last was an especially good night. We were both propped up in the bed watching a 1993 Barbra Streisand concert. She was in a good mood and enjoyed the concert more than most music videos. We talked about the concert and especially Streisand. It’s important to note that it wasn’t a time when her Alzheimer’s symptoms disappeared. Throughout the concert she repeatedly asked Streisand’s name, but she liked what she saw and heard. She was also very loving. She held my hand and ran her hand across my arm, and we expressed our love for each other. When the concert was over, it was time to call it a night. Before doing so, Kate asked if I could take a picture of us. I take that as another sign that she had a good time.

It’s not unusual for her to be both puzzled and fascinated about her top sheet and bed spread. She often asks me what they are. I explain that they are something to keep her warm during the night. She has another purpose for them. They’ve become a convenient “Fidget Pillow.” For those who are unfamiliar with fidget pillows, they are often pillows with a variety of buttons, ribbons, or other objects. Many people with dementia find them fun to fidget with. They come in a number of other forms than just pillows. I bought one for Kate a few months ago, but she’s never taken to it.

Her top sheet or bedspread has become her personal substitute. She uses two hands about 18 inches apart to pick up either the sheet or bedspread. While holding it, she pulls her hands together to make a “shape.” She continues to make different shapes and asks my help and approval of the work she is doing. We did this together for almost thirty minutes last night. She enjoyed it and admired her own “works of art” while I enjoyed being part of her fun. This is something else in which her caregivers are not likely to be a participant, and I understand how they might think this is just a silly game. For me, however, it’s rewarding to see her enjoy simple things like this. After all, it’s difficult or impossible for her to engage in many of the same things that appeal to us. As they say, “It’s important to live in her world.”

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.

Making Changes to Deal with Stress

Before starting this post, I remembered that I had dealt with this topic almost a year ago It was instructive to read them again. I found them to fit with my more recent ones involving my blood pressure and stress.

At that time, I noted that my stress was increasing but felt it was lighter than that of many other caregivers. (I continue to believe that.) Then I commented on several factors that might explain why I felt that way. In addition, I outlined what I was doing for stress control.  (If you care to read them, go to  the “Archives” to the right of this post. Select 2019 and then September and scroll to September 1 and 2, “Thinking about Stress.)

Stress is a bigger issue now, and there is every reason to believe that the source is not going to diminish. The recent experience with my blood pressure suggests it is time to make a few changes. My own awareness of the stress the day before taking any BP readings was a clear sign of a problem. Then my overreaction to the readings themselves suggests not only the stress but my OCD tendency in action. As they say, “It’s time to pivot.”

In my previous post and quite a few others I have mentioned my “caregiver’s toolbox” of ways to the problems I confront with Kate. Except in the two posts mentioned above, I’ve said little about the “toolbox” I use to help me with my own problems. Until now, I haven’t had to search for any new tools.

One of those is joining a caregiver support group. I have always intended to join and one in particular appealed to me. It is one of a variety of activities sponsored by a local Alzheimer’s Café. I have been out there twice in the past 2-3 years, once by myself and once with Kate. I have also had several phone conversations with their director and one or two others on the staff. I have received their monthly newsletter since my first phone contact with them.

Until now, I hadn’t participated for two reasons. The primary reason was that I didn’t feel the need. My stress was minimal and quite manageable. Because of my prior and current experiences with dementia and caregiving, I didn’t have a special need to get information about caregiving per se. I did need social contact but was getting that in a variety of other ways. The second reason is that the times of their support groups and men’s coffee group didn’t fit my personal schedule nor that of our sitters.

My recent blood pressure episode and covid made a difference. My stress is greater, and the activities at the café are now via Zoom. That means I can connect right here at home. To be sure, it is not like being together physically, but it is a start.

One of the first things I did after meeting with my doctor about my blood pressure was to join the men’s coffee club. They meet in the morning the second and fourth Friday of each month. I met with them right away and will do so again next week. There were about eight of us. One other person also attended for the first time.

We had a good conversation. It is somewhat like a support group in that there were periodic references to dementia, caregiving, and our personal situations. That was particularly true in our introductions. Most of those attending were in the caregiving role now although one or two had already lost their spouses to dementia. The rest of the meeting was just a time to chat. The group has a leader who attempts to see that no one dominates.

On the whole, I enjoyed the people and will definitely be back next week unless it is one of those mornings when Kate is up early. That is likely to occur once in a while. Next Thursday I will have my first meeting with the support group. If it meets my expectations, I will continue it.

That leads me to another important step I’ve taken. I talked with the agency that provides our in-home care about adding another 4-hour shift on Thursday. That is up from the three afternoons a week we have had the past three years. We began this past Thursday, but the agency is short-handed because of covid; therefore, they don’t yet have anyone who can come regularly on that day. They are working on it and have arranged for the same person who came this week to come next week as well.

Joining the men’s group and support group as well as adding more in-home care is something that people often suggest to caregivers, but there is something else that has been at least as important for me if not more important. That involves how I manage my time. I’m making changes in that area as well. That will require a little more explanation. I’ll do that in another post.

Another Change Since Sheltering-in-Place

I’ve talked about the negative impact that seems to relate to sheltering-in-place, but some changes are good. Saturday and again this morning, Kate was up early enough for me to fix her breakfast and enjoy being with her while drinking my coffee. I think these were the fourth of fifth times she has had breakfast since our being homebound. Being together for breakfast has never been a part of our marriage. I am an early riser and like to eat soon after I am dressed. Kate sleeps later and hasn’t had a great interest in breakfast, at least not right away.

Although her getting up for breakfast changes my morning routine, I find that it has two benefits. One is that it gives Kate something more nourishing than what she had in the past. Second, it provides us with a pleasant relatively quiet moment to start our day together. In each case, I have played soft music that is relaxing to fit the pace that we both enjoy in the morning. Our conversation matches the pace of the music. That works well for Kate and for me as well.

Is this change caused by our being homebound? I don’t really know. I only know that it corresponds to the time we were asked to shelter-in-place. Prior to that time, we would have gone to Panera for a blueberry muffin. Kate enjoyed the 400-plus-calorie muffin, and we both enjoyed the social contact it provided.

We only leave home for takeout now. That gives us much more time together and has been a bonus. On the other hand, it also leads to Kate’s being bored, so she sleeps or rests much more now. I believe the extra rest she gets plays a direct role in her sometimes waking earlier. It’s not just that she gets more rest. Her rest is intermittent and irregular. She rests a while. Then she sleeps. Then she rests while awake. I am sure that some days she gets more sleep than on other days. I believe she wakes early the mornings after days she has had more sleep the day before.

Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed the change, and it encourages me about the future. For a long time, I felt that we would ultimately transition to a day when we spend more time at home. Covid-19 may be introducing that transition earlier than I had anticipated. It reminds me that change can bring about both positive and negative consequences. This is one I welcome.

An Especially Good Morning Yesterday

I can’t ignore the fact that caring for Kate has become more challenging. On the other hand, there are real high points intertwined with the challenges. That has definitely been true the last couple of days.

On the whole, Kate has been more insecure. Some of that arises from her physical instability. She almost always wants to hold my hand when she walks. It happens every time she sits down. It also occurs when she is emotionally disturbed. It is hard for her to explain it to me, but she  experiences anxiety attacks.

This has happened twice in the past three or four nights. She didn’t know anything at all and was quite disturbed. They both occurred at least an hour after she had gone to bed. She couldn’t tell me much, but she was frightened. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for her to calm down. All she needed was for me to lie down with her and comfort her.

We had a particularly good morning yesterday. Except for being unsteady on her feet, she seemed fine when she got up. Getting her ready for the day went smoothly, and she was ready to go. I told her I could fix her some cheese toast, and we went to the kitchen. I had finished my breakfast a short time before but fixed myself some coffee and sat down with her for what may be the fourth or fifth time in the past few weeks. I don’t know what has prompted her getting up so much earlier. It may be getting more sleep during the time she rests.

After breakfast, she wanted to know what she could do. I suggested we go to the family room and look at one of her photo books. We were only a page or two into one of them when I could see that she was tired and asked if she would like to rest. She took me up on that and rested about an hour and then sat up. I took a seat beside her and opened the book we had begun before she rested. For some reason, she didn’t respond with much interest. It’s hard to find something that works all the time.

Then I thought about reading something to her. I picked up The Velveteen Rabbit from the table in front of us. It had been quite a while since we last read it. I had gotten the impression that my reading to her had lost its allure. Anyway, I decided to try it again. Of course, she didn’t remember it. I was pleased that the impact of hearing it again was like the first time I read it to her several months ago. She expressed her emotions audibly throughout the book. When we approached the end, we were both a bit teary. I joked with her that we were quite a sight, two people approaching 80 being moved by a children’s book.

Kate’s rational thought and abilities are so weak that I find it interesting that she is able to enjoy the book so much. I am almost certain she is unable to process the story line. Her own emotional response must relate to the emotional content that is central to the story. I also suspect that is what has made the book a popular one for such a long time.

If that Happy Moment had been the highlight, I would have called it a good day, but there was more. When we finished, Kate said something about her parents. That made me think about showing her some of the things we have from her parents’ home. She was eager to see them. I began by showing her a salt-glazed pitcher on a counter behind us. On the bottom is a typed note from her mother explaining that her father bought that for his mother and after her death it became hers. She noted that it was for Kate and that Kate could pass it along to our daughter, Jesse. Kate was very touched as I read it to her.

From there, I took her on our usual tour through the living and dining rooms. She was especially moved by the things I showed her. Interestingly, I am getting more nostalgic myself. All of these things have also been a part of my life. I suppose that is a function of aging, but I believe it is more than that. I think that the narrative I present to Kate is actually rekindling my own memories in a way that the items themselves hadn’t done in the past. One thing I do know is that we spent a good portion of our morning simply enjoying ourselves via our intuitive abilities. Moments like these continue to uplift us even as the challenges increase.