I am becoming more confident that Kate’s asking for permission is as much or more her asking “what should I do?” rather than “what may I do . . .?” It seems to be a little of both. I think she is unsure of herself and looks to me for guidance. Clearly, I do correct her on some things, so I do think she wants to please me. I don’t, however, see any sign either in the tone of her voice or the look on her face that seems to convey any resentment, just wanting to know what she should do.
Tonight we had another very peaceful and very pleasant evening together. We always do. We had spent almost an hour at Panera that was very relaxing. Then almost another hour at dinner. As we waited for our pizza, she looked over at me and said, “You know you’re the most important person in my life.” I suspect that is something that every caregiver would like to hear. Then we came home where she worked on her iPad while I watched the evening news. The next thing I knew it was 8:45. I went to take my shower. She continued with her iPad.
While I was in the shower, she opened the door to the bathroom and in a soft voice said, “Richard.” I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Can I get ready for bed now?” As always, I said, “Yes.” She is now in bed while I write this post. Chris Botti is playing on my sound system. It’s been another good day. I think I’ll join Kate.
Kate’s asking permission for things that she shouldn’t need to ask continued at dinner tonight. When we were about halfway through our meal, she asked me (with hand signals as she often does) if she could drink her iced tea. Up to this point, she had already drunk about a quarter of the amount in her glass. I asked why she was asking me. Then I said, “You don’t have to ask me to drink your tea.” She said, “I thought so. I just wanted to make sure.” Before we had finished eating, she asked me the same question two other times.
She had salmon tonight. When she had eaten about half of it, she asked if she could eat it. I said, “Yes, you can eat it. You don’t even need to ask.” Once again, she told me she “just wanted to make sure.” Nothing in the tone of her voice or the expression on her face suggested kidding me or acting as though I am a tyrant, but it does make me feel uncomfortable when she does this. It also makes me want to be more careful about those things for which I correct her. I may be overdoing it. On the other hand, it may simply be a sign that she doesn’t know what to do and appeals to me to help her. I hope it is the latter even though it saddens me to acknowledge that possibility. I don’t like to see her growing dependence. I prefer it when she seems to fight for her independence. These days that happens most often when I offer my hand as she steps off a curb. At night, she is almost always glad to accept.
We returned from dinner about thirty minutes ago and have settled into our bedroom where I am watching the evening news and Kate is working jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. It is a normal evening for us except for her asking my permission to do two things that she would not usually ask, and certainly aren’t required. First, she asked if she could sit in her chair. I naturally said yes. Then she thanked me, and it was a genuine thank you. Right after that she asked if she could put on her robe. Again, I told her that would be fine, and, again, she thanked me.
Several times lately I have wondered if I am appropriately using the word “permission.” It could also be that she is simply asking because she doesn’t know what to do next. After reflecting, I believe that both interpretations may be correct. I mean that on some occasions she is asking if it is all right for her to do something. This has happened most often when she asks, “May I work in the yard?” Or “Can I use the clippers?” There are other situations in which she primarily uses hand signals to ask something. The best illustration would be pointing to her iPad and to herself to ask if she should take her iPad along with us when we are leaving the house. It also happens when she points to her cup in the car and the to the restaurant at which we have just arrived. In this case, I believe she is asking if she should (not may) take her cup in as she does at Panera or Barnes & Noble.
What strikes me most is her really asking permission. I like to think that the nature of our relationship that was established long before her Alzheimer’s would make such requests unnecessary. In addition, nothing other than the words she uses suggests that she sees me as a tyrant. On the other hand, I acknowledge that there are many things about which I correct her. Typically, that involves the clothes she wears. Although I usually let her wear whatever she wants, I frequently have to let her know that what she is wearing is not the best because of the weather, the occasion or that she has her clothes on inside out or backwards. Regardless of the reason for her asking, it saddens me to see it happen.
In my recent posts I have noted that Kate has been very tired. That has been especially since our return from Texas this past Monday. After lunch yesterday, Kate came inside and went directly to bed. She slept three hours. When she got up, she was hungry. That led to our having an early dinner. Of course, that meant we were home earlier. I put on a DVD of The Merry Widow. She worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad while it was on, but she enjoyed the music. By 7:30, she put away the iPad and went to sleep. I went to bed close to 10:00. I discovered that she was awake. I am sure that was a result of her having slept so long during the afternoon. It wasn’t long, however, before she was asleep for the night.
At 7:45 this morning, she came into the kitchen where I was working on the computer. She was ready for Panera. We were there at 8:00. I think there has only been one other time we have gotten there so early. By 9:00, she was ready to go back home. I could tell she was tired. I asked her if she would like to lie down on the sofa in the family room while I read the paper. I told her I would build a fire. She took me up on that offer and rested for more than an hour and a half. She asked if she could go outside. I told her that would be fine. As she does so often, she then asked if she could use her clippers. I told her she could. She gave her customary response. She looked quite surprised and said, “What’s got into you?” I always think this is funny because I have never said anything about her not using the clippers nor have I ever said no when she asks if she can use them. We are having a slight break in the cold weather, and I’m actually glad that she has a little break to go outside. She hasn’t done that much lately.
In another twenty minutes we’ll leave for lunch. At 1:15, we are going to The Greatest Showman. I haven’t had much luck finding movies that Kate enjoys lately. She did enjoy Darkest Hour. This will be very different, but I hope she will like it.
I continue to notice Kate’s checking with me to see if it is all right for her to do things that shouldn’t require my permission. Yesterday, we were leaving for dinner, and she asked if it were all right that she had left the drapery in our bedroom open slightly. She also asked about turning out the light in the laundry room and locking the door to the garage. Last night she put on her night gown, something she doesn’t always do without my prompting. This time she had also put on a top that she had worn all day yesterday. When she got close to the bed, she pointed to the bed and gave me the look that means she is asking a question. I told her it would be fine to get in bed, and she did.
My interpretation of these things is that she feels less and less sure that what she is doing is right. I also recognize my own OCD tendencies, and she definitely does. It appears that she is working harder to do everything the right way, but is also encountering problems at every turn. A moment ago, she asked me if I would refill her cup with iced tea. (We are at Panera.) When I brought it back, she was about to put the lid on upside down. Before she realized it, I told her. That irritated her because she had just realized that herself. Earlier this morning, I noticed that she had put her top on inside out. I mentioned that. She was glad that I did. When she took it off, it was all twisted. I started to help her. She didn’t want my help. In a minute, she called for me. She hadn’t been able to straighten it out. These kinds of things happen all the time. I know it must be discouraging to her. So being aware that she often makes mistakes and knowing that I am a bit particular, the safe way to adapt is probably to seek permission in advance. It seems to me, however, that the things for which she seeks permission are unnecessary. I wish I could help her overcome this feeling, but it is probably inevitable.
Twice today, once coming home from Panera this morning and one after returning home from the movie, Kate has asked my permission to work in the yard, to wear a cap, and to use her clippers. As always, I said yes to each of these. Both times, she looked at me like I never let her do these things. It is intriguing to me that she does this without my ever denying her.
The sign language intrigues me. When she asks to work outside, she points to herself and then to outside. When she asks about the clippers, moves her index and middle fingers like scissors. I understand these without problems. There are other time when I can’t understand what she means. That frustrates her. That tickles me since I think I should be the one who is frustrated.
I have commented several times about Kate’s having developed a habit of asking my permission to pull leaves, specific parts of the yard in which she can work, and to use her clippers. Today, she opted for another variation of this. As we got near the house, she asked, “What can I not do?” She was asking about pulling leaves. I told her that would be fine. She asked, “Where?” I told her anywhere. Then she said, “Clippers?” When I told her that was all right, she asked one final question. She just held up her cup. She was asking if she could take it with her to the yard. I said yes, and she looked amazed.
Earlier this afternoon I posted a journal entry about little changes in Kate’s behavior that are becoming commonplace. This afternoon she exhibited another one. It is not the first time this has happened, but I don’t recall saying anything about it. Kate came in from outside where she had been pulling leaves. She was hot and sweaty. Naturally, she wanted to take a shower. Typically, she just goes to one of the bathrooms. She chooses the guest room bath most often. Today, she looked at me and asked which one I wanted her to use. I told her could have her pick. She started to walk away. Then she turned around and asked, “Did you say the middle one?” I said, “That would be fine.” This fits the increasing pattern of asking for my advice or permission.
Among the changes in Kate’s recent behavior, I have noticed changes in her mood. I had previously mentioned that she had had several days during which she was in an especially good mood and very cooperative. She seemed to accept just about any of my suggestions. Then she had a day when she was quite irritable. That didn’t last long, and we returned to our usual habits of a mixture of more neutral behavior with a few irritable moments when I make suggestions about things to wear or offer my hand when she is going up or down stairs or a curb. We had a good day in Asheville on Sunday. Then yesterday morning she was irritable without any precipitating action on my part. We had a lunch scheduled with several people from our bank. She was far from excited about that. She seemed to enjoy herself and chimed in several times to make fun of my talkativeness. This is something I didn’t mind at all. It was fun to see, and I think our friends at the bank felt the same way. It was, however, something she would not have done before her Alzheimer’s. It was one of those times that her brother refers to as speaking with his “filter turned off.” I’ve learned that he means that he is insensitive to the possible impropriety of his comments.
This morning as she was getting out of bed she asked me if she should make up the bed. I don’t ever recall her asking this before. The only thing I can relate it to is that she knows our housekeeper comes once a week and washes the sheets. On those days, she did not make up the bed. Over the past 2-3 years, she hasn’t regularly made up the bed on any day. This is worthy of comment although I don’t believe I have mentioned it before. Her mother had taught her to always make up the bed. She has done so throughout our marriage until Alzheimer’s. Another connection to asking me this question is that asking my advice, permission, or confirmation is becoming another of those little changes that are taking place. This one just surprised me.
When we returned from Panera this morning, she asked me if she should wear a cap when she went outside to pull leaves. This was the first time she has asked this. It is an overcast day. Perhaps, she was really asking herself if she needed a cap.
When we got home from lunch, she asked me if she could use the clippers while she was working outside. As always, I told her she could.
Kate’s requesting permission to work in the yard and specific places in the yard is becoming a regular pattern. It also extends to things like asking if she should take or leave the glass with her iced tea at the restaurant as she did tonight or take it with her. It has been a while, but on two different occasions, she has started to walk away with her glass from our favorite Mexican restaurant. One time the owner caught her and asked if she would like to have a take away glass. The other time I caught her before anyone noticed.
She also continues to make requests without verbalizing them. For example, with her glass of tea tonight, she just lifted it up and brought it to her chest with her face making the gesture of a question. Yesterday for the first time, she did this with someone else. She walked into the examination room with me at my ophthalmologist’s. She held up her iPad and gestured to the assistant who brought us to the room. The assistant didn’t know what she was asking. I told her.