Music Is Still One of the Best Tools in My “Caregiver’s Toolbox”

Periodically, I’ve talked about my “Caregiver’s Toolbox” and the fact that caring for Kate requires a lot of different tools to meet the variety of problems we encounter. I’ve also noted that some of these tools no longer work as well as they did in the past. In particular, photo albums don’t have the same appeal they did for years. One of those I can still count on much of the time is music. The pleasure of music continues to lift Kate’s spirits and provide many hours of enjoyment for both of us.

Since her diagnosis 10½ years ago, I’ve called on music to address specific problems. The first time occurred in the early days when I rushed her as we were getting ready to attend a concert by our local symphony orchestra. She had a panic attack and hadn’t fully recovered when we left the house. As soon as we were in the car, I turned on the second movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto. It’s a very peaceful adagio that runs just over 10 minutes. Kate was calm before it ended. That experience led me to create a short playlist of the second movements of the Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn violin concertos for use on other occasions.

Several years ago, Kate was uneasy after awaking from a short nap on the sofa in our family room. I was seated across from her and went over to see what I could do to help. After an unsuccessful attempt to calm her, I started to sing a children’s song, the name of which I no longer remember. That seemed to bring a brief smile to her face, but my memory of songs escaped me. I took my phone out of my pocket and searched for albums of children’s songs on Google. I found one with 100 songs and downloaded them to my phone. For the next 30-40 minutes, we sang songs like “Polly Wolly Doodle,” “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and many others. The crisis was over in no time.

As I was about to go to sleep earlier this week, Kate had a delusion like many others she has had in the past. She was worried about someone she believed was coming to see us. She couldn’t stop talking about it. I tried to reassure her by telling her I would help her and that I had everything worked out, but that didn’t do the trick. I leaned upon music to help me. Lying beside her with my head on her shoulder, I began to softly sing “Edelweiss.” Then I hummed it again. I followed that by humming “Nearer My God to Thee.” My next step was to start a search for both of these songs to play on my audio system. Before I could do that, she had stopped talking. She was calm and drifted off to sleep. Music had come to the rescue once more.

There are many other examples of the ways in which music has enriched our lives. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m optimistic that it will be important to us the rest of our lives.

A Rough Start, But a Nice Day

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my morning walk (inside our apartment), I noticed that Kate was awake. She looked disturbed. It was easy to tell that it was one of those moments when she didn’t know where she was, who she was, who I was, etc. Her mind was an apparent blank. Although she didn’t recognize me, she didn’t appear to be afraid of me, only frightened by not knowing anything. This is something that used to occur occasionally before the pandemic. It seems to be making a unfortunate comeback.

I asked if she could tell me what was wrong. She said, “I don’t know.” I told her she had been sick and that sometimes caused memory problems. She said, “What’s my name?” I told her and then gave her my name and relationship along my usual recitation of our lives from college to having children. Sometimes she comes out of this fog rather quickly, but she didn’t this time. I turned on some relaxing music. Then I got her morning meds and gave it to her with some yogurt. I also made her a smoothie with cranberry juice, blueberries, and prunes, my latest effort to prevent constipation. I followed that with mandarin oranges. Her anxiety lessened, but she was still not cheerful. She looked a little tired, so I let her rest while I took my walk.

When I finished, she was very cheerful and talking to “someone.” That was the beginning of a day of talking and delusions that was only interrupted by an appointment with a podiatrist just before at 1:45. Knowing that the caregiver would have less time than usual to get her ready, I decided to fix her lunch. That was a good thing because Adrienne didn’t have to rush her while getting her dressed.

She remained in a good mood, but Adrienne and I were both a bit apprehensive about how she would respond to having her toenails cut. It had been too long, and Kate had protested vehemently the last time we tried. For that reason, I gave her half a tablet of Seroquel 25 mg. Normally, it takes effect with 15-20 minutes, but we couldn’t tell that it worked at all.

When we told Kate we were going out, she didn’t want to go. With a little coaxing, she agreed; however, her protest about leaving and the fact that the sedative didn’t appear to have worked added to my anxiety. Fortunately, the podiatrist’s “office” is only a short walk down the hallway. This is another benefit of moving from our home. We won’t trim her toenails again.

The podiatrist works primarily with seniors and visits a lot of local senior facilities in our area. Thus, she is experienced with the challenges she can face. Kate was quite comfortable with her. Her only protests came when the doctor lifted her feet to put them on a foot stool. She also screamed a few times during the trimming process, but she didn’t put up a fight.

After this successful experience, it seemed natural to stop for ice cream at the café we passed on our way to see the doctor. While Kate was enjoying the treat, two different people we have known from our church stopped at our table. We talked for about 30 minutes. When they left, we asked Kate if she were ready to go “home.” She said she wasn’t. We stayed another 30 minutes. During that time we asked several times if she were ready. Finally, we decided it was time and left. She didn’t protest at all. I’m glad she finds the café a relaxing place to spend some time. Adrienne and I feel the same way. It’s just nice to get out of the apartment.

We had more than an hour before dinner, so we spent that time on the balcony of our apartment. It was especially nice out as the temperature was much lower than usual.

Kate’s talkativeness had subsided until we got home. She began to talk again and didn’t stop until Adrienne left about 7:45. She even talked between bites at dinner. Once in bed, however, she relaxed and slept for about an hour. We watched a Peter, Paul and Mary concert on YouTube and then retired for the night. She was tired after a full day and was asleep in no time.

One of Those Days

Kate and I have many good days, but not always. Sunday was one of those exceptions. It began around 9:00 when I got a call from the agency that provides two of our three caregivers. The one who was to come was sick, and they were looking for a replacement. They had identified someone who might be able to take her place, but she would be on overtime, and they wanted to know if that would be all right. I gave my approval.

A little later, I received another call telling me that person couldn’t come. After we hung up, I called them back to say that if they couldn’t get someone for the whole day, I would be happy to have someone for a short time to help me get her up for the day and return later in the day to help me get her to bed.

They found someone who could come under those conditions and that she would not be on overtime. They let me know that she was inexperienced and would need my help if I were agreeable. Since I’ve been an active participant in Kate’s care, I agreed.

When she arrived, I learned that she had been in training as a medical technician. She had taken a temporary position with the in-home care agency to make a little money before continuing her previous educational plans. It didn’t take me long to find out that she was not skilled in the kind of care Kate requires. She wasn’t good at changing or dressing someone in bed, and she had never used a lift for a patient.

This was not an ideal situation, but I began optimistically with the thought that I might have learned enough to make things go smoothly. I think of myself as a pretty good assistant to our regular caregivers, I quickly learned how unskilled I am in direct patient care and training of other caregivers. Trained and experienced caregivers clearly handle situations like this without any great difficulty. I won’t go through any of the details, but it took us at least twice as long to get Kate up and in her wheelchair. Fortunately, using the lift went more smoothly.

In addition, Kate was more confused and not as cheerful as she is other times. I’m not sure that I have mentioned that for the past 4-6 weeks she has had more experiences when she doesn’t recognize me. That normally disappears after I give her my name and tell her some of our history (where we met, falling in love, having children, that we have been happily married more than 58 years, and that I love her dearly ). After that, she usually responds to me as though she knows me. It usually lasts for the rest of the day or at least a few hours. On Sunday, she asked, “Who are you?” off and on until we retired for the night.

I’ve frequently mentioned that I like routine. This was a day that was far from that and, therefore, somewhat uncomfortable for me. That was particularly true in connection with the difficulties with a substitute caregiver. I had become comfortable and dependent on our regulars. A new and unskilled caregiver was an abrupt change.

Despite that, there are good things to report. For the first time, I took Kate for ice cream without a caregiver. We went down the main hallway that is officially named “Main Street.” Our building is at one end, and the café with ice cream is almost at the other end. It was a nice stroll and a treat to enjoy time to ourselves.

After the caregiver left that night, Kate and I had another good evening. At first, she couldn’t remember who I am. I gave her my routine explanation a couple of times and ended by telling her how much I love her. That seemed to stick. We watched YouTube videos with music by The Kingston Trio and The Brothers Four. The day ended well as it always has.

Caregiving: An Exercise in Problem Solving

As noted in my previous post, life is going well in our new home. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any problems. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s requires continual problem solving, but we do have successes. Among them is being able to get Kate out of bed every day, something we hadn’t been able to do for months after her return from the hospital on Thanksgiving. We also take her out of the apartment though hallways that connect us to all the other buildings in our complex. That’s been helpful in terms of introducing Kate to other residents, and stopping along the way for ice cream hasn’t been bad either.

We have encountered one troublesome problem during these outings. Kate doesn’t like her feet to be on the footrests of her wheelchair. She is quite strong, and the caregivers and I found that she stiffens her legs when we attempt to place each foot on its rest. We almost always succeed, but she protests loudly, something that stands out in our quiet hallways. Several times we’ve had to return to the apartment before going very far. When we succeed, she often takes one foot (her left) off the rest and drags it along the floor. That creates a safety hazard for Kate and also makes it decidedly more difficult to push the wheelchair.

I explored ways to address the problem for several weeks and didn’t find just the right thing. My initial thinking focused on the fact that it was her left leg that was the bigger problem and that it gradually worked its way to the right until the foot fell to the floor between the two footrests.

I talked with someone at a local medical supply store who wasn’t encouraging. He told me there are boards that are designed to be installed across both footrests, but he indicated a number of problems with them. Then I began to consider why Kate had so much trouble getting her feet on the rests to start with.

For months I noticed that she keeps her legs crossed while she is in bed. Since she is in bed about 18 hours a day, I wondered if she had experienced
muscle deterioration. A number of times I thought about having a physical therapist come out for an evaluation. I mentioned this to Kate’s doctor during her appointment two weeks ago. He took action for me and requested both a physical and an occupational therapist.

Before the PT’s first visit with Kate, I decided to check on Amazon for footrests that might address our problem. I found what looked like a potential solution the day the PT came. It’s a solid footrest that sits on top of the existing footrests and has a raised padded portion against which her calves can rest. I showed it to the PT who thought it was worth a try. I ordered it immediately, and it came in the next day. It works beautifully. We’ve used it four days in a row without a problem. When we put Kate in the wheelchair, her feet rest naturally on the new footrest. More importantly, she must feel comfortable because she keeps them there. That has made life much easier for Kate, her caregivers, and for me.

But, wait, there’s more. It turns out the therapist himself is the best I can imagine. He seems quite young but combines several important qualities, his knowledge, bedside manner with Kate, and a desire to explain what he does and why. In addition, he is able to explain in non-technical terms what the caregivers and I should do to build on what he does.

As it turns out, we found a way to keep Kate’s feet on her footrest as well as a physical therapist who is helping us acquire a reasonable set of expectations for someone in her physical condition. She is quite strong, but she is not going to walk again, and we’re not likely to need much PT. Although I had held this assumption previously, it was good to hear it from an expert. He also offers good tips for everyday care. Now, we’re ready to face whatever new issues arise, and I know they will.

Benefits of Living in a Life Plan Community

Kate and I continue to get along well in our new home in a local retirement community. My motivation for moving was to provide backup support for Kate should something unforeseen happen to me. Having made the down payment two years ago this past May, we were considered to be part of the community with access to virtually all the benefits available to those who were already living here. It wasn’t until a short time before our move that I felt the need to take advantage of anything. That’s when we became eligible for the COVID vaccination. I jumped on that but wasn’t able to get Kate out at the time.

When we moved in, they were no longer giving vaccinations, but I spoke with one of the staff who coordinates resident services about arranging for someone to come to our apartment. She said she would work on that, and shortly thereafter, a team from the county hospital came to us for Kate’s first and second doses.

The longer we are here the more benefits I discover and take advantage of. Many of them are little things that make life a little easier, but some are more significant. This past week involved the latter. The first was a switch in Kate’s primary care physician.

For about fifteen years, she has been patient at the geriatric practice where my mother and father as well as her mother were patients. We have always been pleased with all of the physicians who practiced there, but getting Kate to the doctor now requires our arranging for a wheelchair van or ambulance for her transportation. A year ago, however, the doctor who started the practice and was on the faculty of the medical school opened his own private practice at our retirement community. Kate’s doctor who has worked with him for years and is also with the medical school suggested that it might be best for her to become a patient at his practice.

I thought about that for several months. Two weeks ago, I made the arrangements for the transfer. She had her first appointment Tuesday. He and his nurse spent an hour with us at our apartment where we spent most of our time talking about Kate’s medical history, especially her Alzheimer’s and medications and made the appointment for a second visit, also at our apartment, a month from now. What a wonderful benefit. She has a physician I have known and respected for more than twenty years, and his office is in the building next door. We are connected by a hallway so that we don’t even have to go outside when we visit him, and he doesn’t mind coming to our apartment when that is more convenient.

Kate was the recipient of another health-related benefit this week. Last weekend. a resident in one of the cottages tested positive for COVID. The management responded with a number of changes that involve our wearing masks, cancelling social activities and asking us to minimize our social contact for the next couple of weeks. They also required everyone to be tested Tuesday and Thursday.

I was tested the first day along with 251 others. No one tested positive. I was concerned about Kate’s taking the test that requires a swab for the nose. Although it is not at all painful, I thought she might be frightened by it. I spoke with the person who had arranged her vaccination. She immediately said she would be happy to come to our apartment for the test. We set that up for late afternoon the day before yesterday.

When she and her assistant arrived, I introduced them to Kate and explained what we were going to do. I did so in the calmest non-threatening tone of voice possible. She was quite accepting until I tried to use the swab. The moment the swab touched her nose she pulled away and was adamant about not wanting us to do it. We tried several times over the next five minutes and finally agreed that we should approach it a different way.

I told her I had a prescription of Seroquel that I had used only a few times before and that it makes her sleepy. I added that I felt most comfortable giving it to her before she went to bed. We scheduled it for the following day. I had only used the Seroquel three other times. It knocks her out, so I don’t like to use it; however, it works well for something like this. I held her hands and let the nurse do the swabbing. Kate awoke immediately, but the nurse was able to finish quickly. We had the results (negative) before she left the apartment.

Living in a life plan community (often called a continuing care retirement community) may not be for everyone, but it has certainly made life easier for us. I’m glad we’re here.

A Great Day for the Caregiver

Last week, I spoke to a group at our church about living with Alzheimer’s. During the Q&A, someone mentioned the stress experienced by caregivers and asked how I was dealing with that. As I said to him, “That’s a good question and one that I’ve tried to address since Kate’s diagnosis.” My thoughts about care for the caregiver is rooted in watching my father as he cared for my mother who had dementia. Except for the things I did to support him, the only help he sought out was a daycare center for my mother 4 hours every Wednesday so that he could go to Kiwanis and the grocery store. He was always in good spirits, but the stress took its toll on him. I vowed not to let that happen to me. I can’t say that I have found a way to eliminate stress, but I have been able to minimize it.

Since our move in April, life has become much easier for me. Supervising only three caregivers is much better than the 6-9 we had before the move. That has meant more routine in our lives. As expected, the convenience of meals on the premises has been a major benefit. Little things like being able to stroll down the hallway to a café where Kate can get an ice cream or a milk shake adds pleasant moments of relaxation. On top of that, I am enjoying the social interaction with other residents and staff that occurs throughout the day.

I also get away from the grounds several times a week. I attend Rotary every Monday and have lunch at two of my favorite restaurants on Wednesday and Sunday. Of course, there are also trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

This past Wednesday was an especially nice day. I had lunch at Carla’s where I had an arugula and goat cheese salad with cherry tomatoes and pecans accompanied by a side of smoked brisket (the best I have had outside of Texas). The meals in our retirement community are quite good, but they don’t compare to the ones I get at Carla’s or Andriana’s.

Apart from the meal, I had conversations with two of the staff I have known for quite a while. One is a server who is moving to Nashville. Her boyfriend just graduated and is moving there to look for a job. She is going with him to further her education to become a physical therapist. She was excited about the move, and I was excited for her. It reminded me of the early days of our own marriage.

The conversation was with the shift manager. He is from Romania and has been in the US about five years. He is married to a Puerto Rican who is in the Air Force. Earlier this year, he became a US citizen, and was very excited about that. Now, he is excited by the news that his wife’s next assignment is in Naples, Italy. That will put them within an hour by plane to his family’s home. That will make it much easier and less expensive for his parents to visit him and his wife and daughter. When his wife finishes this assignment, she will have only three years until she can retire. Upon retirement, they plan to return to the US. I found both of these conversations to be uplifting and was happy for them.

Wednesday is also “Spa Day” for Kate. The caregiver bathes her, shampoos her hair, applies lotion to her body, and does her nails. When I got back to the apartment, I was pleased to see Kate with eyes closed relaxing in her recliner while the caregiver filed her nails. Until two years ago, I had been taking her to have her nails done once or twice a month. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she became somewhat frightened, and I stopped. This particular caregiver has been doing her nails since she came to us in December or January. It does my heart good to see Kate enjoy herself so much.

To top it off, we made our trip down the hall for ice cream. I didn’t need anything more to keep my spirits up.

“Happy Moments” Make for “Happy Days”

Almost all of our “Happy Moments” are unplanned. That’s part of what makes them special. One of those occurred the other morning when I was giving Kate her meds in a cup of strawberry and banana yogurt, a favorite of hers. After her last bite, she began to whistle. (She’s hasn’t been a whistler until the past 6-12 months when she began whistling to express her happiness.)

One of my many quirks is that I often hum, whistle, or sing softly without being quite aware of doing so. In this case, I began to whistle “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” She expressed her pleasure with a smile. It doesn’t take much encouragement for me to break into song, and I sang the song to her. Spurred on by her pleasure, I whistled “Old Man River” and followed by singing it.

She was enjoying the music so much that I put on an album of children’s songs I downloaded 3-4 years ago when she was disturbed about something. Since that time, I have periodically used it for entertainment, not to solve a problem. We spent the next 20-30 minutes listening and sometimes singing songs like the “Alphabet Song,” “If You’re Happy,” and “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”

When we finished, Kate was ready to rest, but it was another unanticipated “Happy Moment” that didn’t require any planning or great musical talent. Just two people connecting through music that added an extra measure of happiness to our day.

Some might say, “What’s so special about that?” John Zeisel answers that in his book, I’m Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimer’s. He points out that too often we treat people living with dementia like “patients” rather than as “people.” We need to accept and appreciate their capabilities that last long after the diagnosis. It’s possible to maintain positive relationships with our loved ones with dementia through many things like photos and music that have been very important to Kate and me. This particular “Happy Moment” illustrates how we are able to continue to enjoy life and each other. May it always be so.

On a 1-10 Scale, Wednesday was an 11.

Just over two weeks ago, Kate and I celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary. That morning I wrote a post saying the day before she gave me the perfect present. She was  in a cheerful mood all day. I commented that if she wasn’t the same way on our anniversary day, it was just fine. She had given me enough to keep me going for a while.

I bring this up because yesterday was my 81st birthday, and the day before that was even better than the day before our anniversary. My feelings were the same. Although I would have loved it, she didn’t need to be as upbeat as she was on Wednesday to make me happy. Experiencing the pleasure of her joyfulness will last a long time, and Adrienne, our caregiver, got as much pleasure out of it as I did.

She was just waking when Adrienne arrived at noon that day. I left soon after for my usual Wednesday lunch. When I returned, she was in her recliner. Adrienne said that she had been happy and cooperative when she got her dressed and out of bed.

An hour later, we took her for a stroll around the interior of the campus. We went to the wellness center and met three of the staff. Then we toured the chapel. Along the way we saw a number of people who hadn’t met Kate. I was glad for them to meet her and for Kate to have the experience of getting out and engaging in normal activities. She was enthusiastic about going out and continued to be expressive throughout out our tour.

When we returned, we went to the balcony where we relaxed about forty-five minutes before dinner. It was a very pleasant afternoon, and we went back to the balcony for almost an hour after eating.

She was very cooperative as we got her into and out of the lift as well as when we got her ready for bed. It was her best day in many months. Everything seemed to go right, and that is something to treasure.

Settling In Part 1: In-Home Care

Eight weeks ago, Kate and I moved into our new home in a local retirement community. Over the weekend, I met a couple who moved in two months before we did. He told me what a big change it had been after living in their home over forty years in the same town in which they had grown up. I could relate to what he must have felt. All my established routines were disrupted, and I’ve been working to establish new ones.

I’m happy to report that we’re making progress.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve felt much more settled. That relates to three aspects of our lives that have improved significantly. In this post, I’ll tell you about Kate’s In-Home Care and follow that with posts about Kate herself and then me.

Prior to Kate’s hospitalization with COVID eight days before Thanksgiving, we had help from caregivers three afternoons a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, four hours for each day. We maintained that schedule for three years. We were fortunate that the caregiver who came on two days a week was with us the entire time. We had 3 or 4 for the remaining day. During this time, the demands on the caregivers were minor. I just needed someone to be with Kate while I was gone. They didn’t have to be in charge of any of her personal needs.

We were approaching the time she would require more care when she and I tested positive for COVID. Before she entered the hospital, I arranged for 8-hour daily care for her. Our regular agency was unable to fill the schedule. That led to my adding a second agency that provided help the four days not already served by the first agency. I’m grateful for their coming to my aid on such short notice, and I thought all of the caregivers were able to perform the needed tasks. Unlike our original agency, however, they never provided the consistency that I wanted. During the 5 months prior to our move, they sent us 6-8 different caregivers. They were all competent, but it was impossible for Kate to develop a comfortable relationship with them.

Our move required some adjustment. Our retirement community has its own home-care agency (Caring Hearts), but they do allow caregivers from other agencies to work here. There were two catches. The first is outside caregivers have to complete the same requirements as their own employees. That involves background checks, an all-day orientation, and health requirements. In addition, there was a $320 charge to me for each caregiver. As it turned out, only two caregivers chose to go through the process, one from each of the other two agencies.

The best news is that one of our caregivers, Adrienne, was already employed by Caring Hearts as well as the agency we had worked with for three years. She is also our best caregiver. As a result, it worked for her to cover 10 out of every 14 days. She gets every other weekend off as well as every Friday. The caregiver who has been with us over 3 ½ years continues to come on Fridays, and Caring Hearts is providing a new person for the weekend Adrienne is not with us.

These changes have had two major effects. First, our daily routine is decidedly more consistent. Adrienne shares some of my OCD tendencies and has a steady routine. Second, It gives Kate a chance to develop a closer relationship with her.  She has 3 different caregivers rather than 6-8. Only one of them is new. She is young (19) and has limited experience, but she is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and is in school to become a nurse and then a physicians assistant. I’m optimistic about her.

I am especially pleased with the daily routine. When Adrienne is here, I feel more comfortable about leaving and regularly leave for lunch on Wednesday and Sunday very shortly after she arrives. She is the only caregiver that gets Kate up and dressed without any help from me; however, I have been helping her when we take Kate to the balcony or outside the apartment. I also help her get Kate ready for bed.

Apart from her routine, I like other things that she initiates on her own. For example, she has designated Wednesdays as “Spa Day” for Kate. On that day, she does Kate’s nails. She also takes more time getting Kate up each day. She works very slowly bathing, changing, and dressing her. She’s very good about making sure Kate gets her fluids, something I have found most of our past caregivers haven’t made a priority. I almost forgot to say that Adrienne always fixes a nice breakfast/lunch for Kate every time she is here. She is French and make French toast, French omelets, and fruit. On top of these things, she doesn’t ask if there is anything she can do for me. She just does the things that need to be done. She regularly takes care of washing and drying clothes, taking out the trash and recycling, organizing, and letting me know when we need new supplies.

This change in care has had a noticeable impact on both Kate and me. I’ll say more about that in my following posts. At the moment, I’m just glad that our in-home care is working well, and that makes life better for both of us.

Our Relationship

First, let me say that Kate had been in a good mood all day. Second, nothing in my caregiver’s toolbox works every time. On the other hand, Kate and I still work well together most of the time. Here’s an example from last night.

Kate was awake very early yesterday, just before 8:00. In fact, in the past few days, she has been awake as early as 7:00. It’s not unusual for her to do this occasionally, but she typically goes back to sleep. Not so, this time, and I took advantage of the opportunity of being together. I got the photo book I made for our recent anniversary and jumped into bed with her. We spent a good while going through it together. This was a time when she was interested. We enjoyed reminiscing about all the things we have done together. We only stopped when she began to tire. Then she rested until the caregiver arrived.

The afternoon also went well. Kate, the caregiver, and I spent over an hour relaxing on our balcony. That’s becoming a regular part of our daily routine at least until the summer heat makes it less appealing.

Although she is adjusting to our getting her out of and back into bed as well as changing her, Kate continues to protest, at least a little, most of the time.  That was true when we got her into bed after dinner. As the caregiver started to pull her slacks down, Kate responded forcefully both verbally and physically.

I responded by getting into the bed from my side. She was holding tightly to the caregiver’s arm with one hand and her pants with the other. I spoke slowly and softly and asked her to take my hands. She didn’t release her grip. As carefully as we could, the caregiver and I took her hands and put them in mine.

Then I said something like this. “Sweetheart, it’s about time for Lilly to go, and before she does, she needs to get you ready for bed. She needs our help. I know you would like to help her.” She said she did. I continued, “What we can do is just relax and let her do what she needs to do. She’ll be very gentle. She knows how to do this. I know this isn’t easy for you, but I am right here with you. You can hold my hands and squeeze them as tight as you want.”

She began to relax. Lilly did what she needed to do, Kate never protested. The two of us talked about how much we appreciated having someone to help us. When she was ready for bed, she said, “Thank you” (to Lilly). A potential problem had been averted.

This recovery wasn’t a singular event. It grows out of our longtime relationship and individual personalities. We are both conflict avoiders, and each of us likes to please the other. That has carried us a long way in our marriage, but I never imagined that it could pay such benefits in the last stage of her Alzheimer’s. Will it last forever? Obviously, I hope so, but I can’t even be sure it will happen the next time we encounter a similar situation. Still, I’m optimistic that the nature of our relationship will continue to help us face future challenges as they arise, and I know they will.