How Long Can The Velveteen Rabbit Last?

I know there is no end to the challenges that Kate and I experience. “Living with Alzheimer’s” isn’t something that gets easier along the way. I do wonder what will remain in my “caregiver’s toolbox” in the months ahead. My guided tours of our house with a focus on pictures of her parents and grandparents and other items from her parents’ home are no longer as effective as they were only a couple of months ago. I also find that I need to come up with new commentary related to the various family photo books in order to engage her attention.

Then there’s The Velveteen Rabbit. That something I haven’t relied on too heavily though it has come to the rescue 4-5 times over the past few days. She never gives any indication she has heard it before, but that’s true for other things that no longer have the same appeal. At the rate I am using it, I should soon find out how long it works. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pull it out when I feel the need.

That shouldn’t be long. Kate’s changes come about surprisingly quickly. One minute all is well, and the next she is disturbed about something. That happened two nights ago. The day had gone well and we had a nice takeout dinner. Then she was ready to go (home). We jumped in the car and drove for thirty minutes before getting home again. As usual, we went directly to the bathroom to brush teeth. That’s the first step in our nightly routine. She was in a good humor and brushing teeth was no problem. The next step is to take her nightly meds. That, too, went smoothly.

The final step is getting her out of her clothes and into her night clothes. That’s where I ran into a problem. It is pretty common for her to ask why she has to take off her clothes, but this time she simply got in bed with her clothes on. Not anticipating a problem, I told her I wanted to get her night clothes on before I took my shower. She said, “I’ll do it later.”  I knew that wouldn’t happen. In the first place, she wouldn’t know where to get what she needs or how to handle the nighttime underwear. I encouraged her to let me help her change for the night. She didn’t want any part of it. I saw immediately that it was going to be a losing cause. I backed away and told her I would take my shower. Each of us was annoyed by the other.

When I finished my shower, and as though I were going after my weapon for battle, I got The Velveteen Rabbit once again. When I got back, I said, “I thought it might be nice if we read a bedtime story.” Then I proceeded to read the book just as though we had never had the earlier clash. Like the past few readings, she didn’t show any sign of interest or approval when I started. By the end, however, she was a different person. At least for the time being, the Rabbit still works.

We talked a few moments about how much we both like the book. Then I said, “Well, it looks like it’s time for bed. I’ll be glad to help you change into your night clothes.” That was all it took (and, of course, TVR). It took no more than five minutes to get her changed and back in bed. Best of all, we were both in a good mood. That’s always a nice way to end the day.

Subject: Anxiety: Mine, Not Kate’s: Part 2

When I wrote my previous post, I was feeling better psychologically because I could focus on the problem from the standpoint of caregiver stress rather than a cardiac issue. That meant I could exercise some measure of control over the situation and was comfortable with that.

I slept well through the night. The next day and night (Saturday) my readings continued to be normal. I was fine until 1:10 Monday morning. I woke up and went to the bathroom. As soon as I got back in bed, I realized this was one of those times I wasn’t going to drift back to sleep quickly. I felt very nervous. I went to the family room where I got in the recliner and took my BP. It was 161/91. That seemed a very significant jump, especially since I couldn’t identify any precipitating events that might account for it.

Even though it didn’t cause any harm, I did something I now know I shouldn’t have done without talking with my doctor. I took another tablet of my BP medication that I had taken not quite four hours earlier. I also took four aspirin (.81mg), something I had learned is fine when one suspects a possible heart attack. Having previously had success by simply relaxing in the recliner and listening to soft music, I decided to try that as well. Ten minutes later, my BP was 144/77, but it remained at approximately that level until I went back to bed at 3:15. I felt very nervous during the entire time as I grappled with the decision of going to the hospital or not. I decided not to go. That decision was based almost entirely thinking about what I would do with Kate.

Before fixing my breakfast at 6:10, I took another reading. It was 151/77. I was concerned again. I took another reading after breakfast at 7:00. It had dropped to 133/65. I felt better but continued to weigh the matter of a trip to the ER. That led me to prepare two pages of health/medical information that someone might need if I were incapacitated. I took a break at 7:50. My BP was 143/66. When I finished at 9:00, it was 139/73.

I decided to write a message to my doctor to send through his portal. That turned out to be stressful as I couldn’t remember the password, and the one I had stored was incorrect. I also ran into complications when I tried to reset the password. Ultimately, I decided to print it and hand deliver after Rotary. In the meantime, I tried to get Kate up before the sitter arrived at noon. I was unsuccessful. All this pushed the BP back to 146/84, and my heart rate was 79.

During the balance of the afternoon my BP fluctuated between 128/79 to 149/68. I was still uneasy about having another night like the one before. I called two friends who live nearby. They both agreed to be on call to stay with Kate should I decide to go to the hospital. I invited them over that evening so that I could show them where things are and provide other information that would be helpful. One has a daughter who is a nurse. She came along.

They spent about 45 minutes with me. The nurse asked me to tell my story and then take my BP. It was 146/86. We had a long discussion. To make a long story short, the nurse didn’t think my readings indicated a heart problem. More specifically, she said that if I were getting systolic readings over 170, she would have responded quite differently. Since my BP reached 161 only once, 151 twice, and the rest were a mixture from 111 to the mid-140s, she didn’t believe they looked so bad. In effect, she said, “You are over-reacting. Your problem is not likely to be your BP or your heart. It’s probably stress.”

When I heard that, I felt a release of tension almost immediately. I was very much at ease. That continued through the time I went to bed. I slept well. The next morning I took a 50-minute walk (inside the house, of course) and took another reading. The results were normal: 120/73, pulse 67.

Although everything was going well, I decided to keep the appointment with my primary care physician Wednesday afternoon. I wanted to talk in more detail with him about what happened and hear his opinion based on my records over the past fifteen years. His view was the same as that of the nurse and the friend with whom I had originally spoken. This was a matter of caregiver stress.

I considered that very good news. As I said earlier, I feel much more confident that I can do something to minimize, though not eliminate, my stress. It is now Saturday morning, over a week since my initial concern that became inflamed on Monday. My BP has been within normal ranges since my friends left the house Monday night.

As I reflect on the whole episode, I believe a number of factors were involved in my over-reaction. The most fundamental one was, indeed, the stress of caring for Kate. Although I have often had moments of frustration, this was the first time I had felt so tense. That led me to take my BP in the first place, something I hadn’t done in years since purchasing the monitor.

Beyond that, I haven’t thought much about my BP since the doctor originally put me on medication. That was a big psychological blow to me. Overall, I am a rather calm, easy-going person who has tried to take care of himself. I was wounded by having to rely on medication. A number of times since then, I have spoken with the doctor about discontinuing it because I was doing so well. Each time he has said that was because of the medication and told me I need to accept it and enjoy life.

Along with not thinking about my BP, I had never educated myself about normal fluctuations that occur. As a result, when I saw the first reading of 138/85, I was surprised and disturbed by it. I know now that it has probably been that high and higher during the normal course of a day even before Kate’s Alzheimer’s.

My OCD also plays a role. As in other aspects of my life, I want Kate to have the best care possible and that she is very dependent on me. I don’t want to look back and think that I should have done more to provide her the highest quality of life she can have while living with Alzheimer’s.

I have always recognized the importance of caring for myself. Maintaining my health is essential in order to properly care for Kate. From the point of her diagnosis 9 ½ years ago, I have done and still do many other things to minimize stress. Many of these were also things that Kate enjoys. That has given us many great moments together. Engaging sitters to be with Kate three afternoons a week and my decision to move to a continuing care retirement community are more clearly steps to help me.

But life is changing now. Kate continues her decline. That requires more of me than before, especially since sheltering in place. My experience with this faux-BP/cardiac problem has been an important sign that I need to consider other avenues to control stress.

Fortunately, I am aware of many options to achieve this objective. In addition, I have the willingness and wherewithal to draw upon them.

So, what’s next? I’ll talk about that in another post.

Anxiety: Mine, Not Kate’s: Part 1

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been quiet over the past week. I usually blame that on being busy, but that is only a part of the reason this time. Let me explain.

I should preface the story by saying that as an adult, I have been attentive to my health and wellbeing. As early as my freshman year in college, I was active in the gym. At that time, I was into weightlifting. I bulked up to 198 pounds, but muscle accounted for a lot of that. I put exercise aside the rest of undergraduate and graduate school. That extended another 5-7 years when I launched a 10-year career teaching college.

During my first two years, I felt that college teaching was not the best fit for me. Finding something else that was more to my liking and talents required time and effort. That proved to be stressful. I took up running. I continued that for about 10-15 years before having some hip trouble. Then I took up walking. Once my business was going in the mid-80s, I joined the Y and have continued to the present time.

I didn’t give a lot of thought to what I eat until Kate was pregnant with our first child. She had gestational diabetes. Her doctor put her on a high protein diet. I went on it with her. Since then I have been more careful about what I eat. Over the years, my waist had grown, but my weight has gone down. I am almost 30 pounds lighter than I was during my senior year in high school.

I mention all this to say that I take my health seriously. It’s one of my OCD tendencies. I am also very sensitive to the impact that caregiving has on one’s health. During the 9 ½ years since Kate’s diagnosis, I have made numerous changes to minimize or reduce stress. Notable examples would be reducing, then ceasing, travel and engaging the help of sitters for Kate three afternoons a week. Another big step was making a commitment to move to a continuing care retirement community the first part of 2021.

Over the past year, Kate has required much more of my time than before. That has been especially true since sheltering in place. These things have clearly raised my level of stress.

That brings me to the past week. Three weeks ago, I had a routine telemedicine appointment with my doctor. He mentioned that I ought to take my blood pressure readings periodically. I didn’t get around to it; however, last Wednesday, I felt under more stress than usual. That made me think about my blood pressure. Although I have been a regular blood donor and then a platelet donor, I hadn’t taken it at home in years. I located my BP monitor that night.

The next morning, I had that same feeling as I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen to get my breakfast. I took by blood pressure. It was about 135/85. That may not be high in general, but it was most unusual for me. I have been on BP medication for ten years or more and my readings have always been about 110-120/70-80.

I ate breakfast and then took my regular morning walk. I walked 50 minutes and took my BP again. It was about the same. By 11:20, I had taken several other measures, all were within normal levels.

Then I went to the bedroom to get Kate up. She didn’t want to get up. I got in bed with her and remained with her for almost 40 minutes. She still didn’t want to get up.

When I got up, I took another reading. This time it had jumped back to 138/85. I relaxed in Kate’s recliner and played some soft music. That dropped the reading to 118/78. I took seven other readings between 12:30 and 7:30. They were all normal.

Friday morning before breakfast, my BP was 151/78. That got my attention. That made me wonder if I might be in the early stage of a heart attack. I thought about the symptoms I could remember. I didn’t seem to have any of them. I went to the computer to look for others.

I still didn’t have any of the signs of a heart issue; nevertheless, I started to think about going to the hospital to be checked. Then I thought about Kate. I knew hospitals had not been allowing family members to be with the patient. I also knew that I couldn’t leave Kate alone. I called the agency that provides our sitters and asked if they would have someone right away. The regular sitter was scheduled for 1:00. They were stretched thin and couldn’t get anyone.

I also remembered that when you go to the cardiac emergency room, they keep you a minimum of six hours and want you to stay overnight. I asked the agency about someone for the weekend just in case. Then I called a friend to see if she could come over if I needed her. She was willing to do that. It turned out, however, that she was able to offer a better perspective on the situation. I should say that she is well-informed about health issues because of her work with the hospital. In addition, her mother cared for her own husband with dementia. I shared by BP readings with her, and she said she thought it looked more like anxiety caused by stress than an impending heart attack but said it would be better to hear that from my doc. I had already left a message at his office.

When I spoke with the doctor’s nurse, she said the doctor’s interpretation was the same as my friends. I felt the same way but also felt I should err on the side of caution concerning a possible heart attack. I scheduled another telemedicine appointment with the doc for the following Wednesday.

In the meantime, the agency was able to contact the sitter and asked her to come early. I had trouble getting Kate up and was concerned about leaving her but planned to do it anyway. I decided to take the afternoon to myself. I ran several errands. I spent the rest of the afternoon at my office relaxing, not working. I watched an interesting lecture and conversation with a couple who are Buddhists. It came at a good time for me in that I was trying to do exactly what they were recommending – living in the moment. As Kate has declined, I have been spending much more time thinking about the future and plans for our move. After returning home, my BP was normal the rest of the day. I felt much better when I went to bed that night.

However, that isn’t the end of the story. This is already a long post. I’ll save that for my next one.

Happy Moments and Challenges

I often fear that when I post stories of the more challenging (troublesome? Disturbing?) experiences Kate and I have, you may feel our lives have become gloomy. Similarly, when I post our good ones, I fear that I am failing to convey the trials we face. The truth is that both the good and bad are happening, sometimes in very close proximity. I want you to know about both. Beyond that, I want you to know that our Happy Moments continue to outweigh the more difficult ones.

This morning (See below.) we have had contrasting experiences, and it’s only 9:55. It began when I woke up a couple of minutes past 6:00. As I started to get out of bed, Kate said something to me. She seemed wide awake . . .

The paragraphs above were written about 9:45 Wednesday morning. It is now 2:58 Wednesday afternoon. Since then I have been occupied with Kate, some household chores, and checking email. In a way, the break was fortuitous in helping to make my point about the mixture of experiences we have during the day.

Let me pick up where I left off. She seemed wide awake when I started to get out of bed. More importantly, she seemed perfectly at ease although she did ask me what she should do. I said that it was a couple of minutes past 6:00, and she should probably go back to sleep for a while. That satisfied her, and I went to the bathroom.

Moments later I heard her say, “Hey.” I opened the bathroom door and saw her standing there. She needed to use the bathroom. As is often the case, she was very dependent on me. Since she was up so early and cooperative, I suggested it would be a good time for a shower. She didn’t object.

When we got out, I started to dress her. She wanted to rest before we could finish. That seemed like a good thing as I hadn’t done anything to get myself ready for the day. I left her in the bed while I went to the bathroom, dressed, and fixed breakfast.

I had just put my breakfast on the table when I heard her call. I took my plate of scrambled eggs with me to see what she wanted. She was ready to get up. She was in a good humor, and I had no trouble getting her ready. While helping her, I ate my eggs and gave her a bite. She loved it.  I was glad because that gives me another breakfast alternative for her.

She was in an unusually cheerful mood when we left the bedroom for breakfast. She was excited about the flowers and trees in the back yard. At breakfast, she was very talkative. Everything pleased her. The sun was shining brightly, and she loved looking out the kitchen window at all the “green” in our neighbor’s yard. She raved over the apple juice, blueberries and strawberries, and her eggs. We were off to a great start. I had already thought about writing a more upbeat post, and she was providing all the material I needed.

After breakfast, we went to the family room where I picked up The Velveteen Rabbit, and we sat down to read it. She has never enjoyed it more, but she did look tired when we finished. I asked if she would like to rest. She said she would. That’s when I got my laptop and sat in a chair across from her to write this post.

She didn’t rest long. She began speaking to someone who had apparently appeared in a dream. When she started to get up, I walked over to her. She greeted me warmly as though I were a guest and not her husband. I asked what she wanted to do, and she said she was going “over there” and pointed to the back yard. It is most unusual for her to go out to the patio and back yard. I was pleased.

We spent about fifteen minutes walking around to see all the plants that she admires from inside the house. She was excited to see everything up close. It was another high point of the day.

It was time for lunch when we came back inside. I called in a takeout order from a place nearby. Everything went well until near the time we finished eating. She seemed a little disgruntled and wanted to go home. I was hesitant to do that since the sitter arrived only a few minutes before. I told her we were at home but quickly recognized that wasn’t going to work. I told the sitter I was going to take her home. She remained at the house while we took a 20-minute drive.

Until then, our drives “home” had worked well. That wasn’t so  that day. Before leaving the house and in the car, Kate asked several times if I knew where she lived. Each time, I assured her I did. She seemed quite suspicious. Then as we came within a block of the street where I was to turn for our house, she said, “This doesn’t look right.” She repeated this after I made the turn. When she saw the house, she didn’t believe it was her house. She was hesitant to go in and insisted on my going in first. It seemed to me that she recognized the house as familiar but knew it was not “her” house. Since this was the first time she did not accept “our” house as “her” home, I wonder what will happen next time I try the same thing. (I got to find out yesterday afternoon. It went well.)

When she saw Mary, she didn’t recognize her at all; however, she gave her a warm welcome. I started to go to the kitchen, but she wanted me to stay with her. I sat beside her on the sofa and picked up The Velveteen Rabbit again. She shrugged but listened. She didn’t respond at all the way she usually does and had earlier that morning; nevertheless, I could tell she was following the story. She got tired before I finished and put her head down on the pillow. I finished the book while she rested. I went to the grocery store and back. I was at home the rest of the time the sitter was here.

After Mary left, I decided we needed a boost for the day. I took Kate to Casa Bella for dinner. We had a nice meal and returned home for the night. All was well. It wasn’t our best day, but it had some very good moments. I felt good.

Emotional Times

I always assumed that the last stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s would involve sadness for me. That is happening now although it is only periodic. It is minimized by the many happy moments we continue to experience. In addition, there are times for which neither happy nor sad seems to be the right word. Those are tender moments when each of us feels a deep sense of love for the other as well as (at least on my part) the recognition that time is running out.

Sad moments for me occur when Kate is disturbed by her lack of memory and any sense of where she is or what she is supposed to do. Most of these experiences are in the morning and have become almost routine. I know how to comfort her, and most of them are not as serious as others. For that reason, I don’t usually feel sad.

Several days ago, she had an experience that was very upsetting to her and to me. It was definitely a sad moment and not one that happened in the morning. She had finished resting in the family room. I looked over at her and saw that her eyes were open. The expression on her face was one of concern. I asked if I could help her. She said yes, and I walked over to her. She wanted to go to the bathroom.

On the way, she continued to act as though something was troubling her. What I initially saw as concern wasn’t about getting to the bathroom. While seated on the toilet, she tilted her head down and held it with her hands. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was in tears and distraught. She said, “I feel like I am not alive. I don’t know anything.”

This was as sad a moment as I have felt. I focused on comforting her. I said, “I know you’re not yourself right now, but I want you to know I am with you and will always be with you.” When we finished in the bathroom, I took her to the family room where we took a seat on the sofa. I told her I had something I wanted to show her and picked up a three-ring binder of information about her and her family. I reminded her that she frequently asks me to “write that down for the book” she plans to write about her family and told her that the binder contained some of the information she had wanted.

She responded quickly. Offering comfort and diverting her attention are a powerful combination. I don’t know that it will always work, but, so far, it has.

Saturday morning, we shared a tender moment. I put on a Judy Collins album before trying to get her up. It was still playing when we got to the kitchen to take her morning pills before leaving for lunch. As usual, my focus was seeing that she took her medicine and wasn’t thinking about the music. Collins was singing “Amazing Grace.” The music caught Kate’s attention. She stopped taking her pills and commented on how beautiful it was. With tears in her eyes, she grasped my hand and held it tightly. I put my arms around her. She began to cry, and so did I. We stood there, arms wrapped around each other and enjoyed the moment.

As I reflect, I don’t believe either of us was simply responding to the music. Like many people, we love the song, but we have never reacted to it this way. I believe it was a catalyst that heightened our existing emotions. Music can do that. That may be especially true for us because we have devoted so much of our attention to it since Kate’s diagnosis.

This an emotional time for us. She is struggling with the symptoms of her Alzheimer’s. It is frightening not to know anything. It’s also an emotional time for me. I’m happy when she is happy, but the corollary is that I suffer when she suffers. In addition, I experience something she can’t. Although I can’t predict the future, but I am very mindful that our time together is rapidly diminishing. Music can move us anytime, but it is especially powerful when our emotions are on “high alert” as they are now. I am sure it will continue to bring us comfort in the days ahead.

Feeling Insecure, Dependent, and Appreciative

The past few days Kate has been unusually insecure, at times almost helpless. It has been evident in both her behavior and expressions of appreciation to me. Most of these signs are not new but the degree of her emotions has seemed more intense than in the past.

Thursday morning, I had an appointment for my labs in advance of a doctor’s appointment  later this week. She was with me the entire time except when I stepped into the restroom to give them a urine sample. When I returned, she was very relieved to see me. As soon as we got in the car, she said, “I feel better when I am with you.”

That afternoon, she had an appointment with her stylist for color and a shampoo. I used to sit in the waiting area up front. In the past year or so, I have taken a seat across from her about 10-12 feet away because she sometimes feels uneasy when she doesn’t see me. That worked fine. This time she wanted me to stay closer to her. Once I stood by her, she wanted to hold my hand and did so until time to move back to another chair for the stylist to finish. After making the move, she wanted to hold my hand again.

I was at home most of the time on Friday while the sitter was here. After almost three hours, she called to me and walked into the kitchen. She had a pitiful look on her face and asked, “When will you be able to be with me?” I told her I had a few other things I wanted to take care of, and it wouldn’t be long. She wanted something to eat. I fixed her a slice of cheese toast and a Diet Dr. Pepper. (Those her know her well may recall that she has never liked the diet version, but that’s another change in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. I buy only diet now.) I finished up what I was doing and let the sitter go early again. This is becoming a frequent thing, and it has never kept me from doing anything I had to do. It makes Kate feel better, and that makes me feel better as well.

During the weekend, she was excessive in expressing her feelings about me. She thanked me for helping her so much and emphasized that she couldn’t live without me. Being appreciative is not something new, but the way she has expressed it recently suggests to me that she has a greater sense of the seriousness of her problems than before. I can’t help thinking that having less stimulation during the pandemic has played a role by giving her more time to focus on what she can’t do rather than simply enjoying what she can.

The Ups and Downs of our Present Life

Looking back at the almost nine and a half years since Kate’s diagnosis, I see how gradual Kate’s changes were during the earlier years. We lived as though she were stable and adapted in various ways to make life easier or safer. For the most part, that meant giving up activities that had been an important part of our lives. I’ve mentioned all of them as they happened. The big ones for Kate involved her giving up her computer, working in the yard, and, finally, the iPad. Both of us gradually became less active in church and community work. We gave up all evening activities except for eating out for dinner, and we do that earlier than before. In 2015, we took our last international trip. In 2017, we made our last trip to Chautauqua, and we made our last trips to see our children in 2018.

Although all of these were significant changes in our lifestyle, they occurred slowly over time. Our world was getting smaller, but our daily routine was comparatively normal. That is no longer the case. The pace of change picked up within the past year, especially the past six months and even more during the pandemic. As a result, it is much harder for me to remember many of the details that I would like to report. That means I report on fewer issues that arise on a daily basis. I suspect that I may do less reporting on what a day is like and focus more on specific incidents I am able to recall. With that in mind, here are several things that have happened in the last few days.

After finishing my shower three nights ago, I walked into the bedroom and noticed that Kate was lying almost perpendicular to the headboard. I spoke to her, and she pointed to a section of the sheet beside the outline of her body. She motioned to me to come closer and said, “I need your help.” She pointed again and said, “Read this.” As you might have guessed, there was nothing there but the bed sheet. I hesitated a moment trying to decide what to say. Before I could ask any questions, she again asked me to read it. I took a moment to look at the sheet and pretended I was reading something.

When I finished, she asked me what it said. For a moment, I was puzzled. That must have been obvious to her since she mentioned something about ways that someone could help. I still wasn’t sure what she wanted. After a little probing I learned that she wanted me to help her with a young man and woman who were apparently new to our area. She wanted me to introduce them to other people and give them information that would be helpful about our area. She wanted us to meet with them and asked for my advice about the time and place of our meeting as well as taking charge of arrangements.

As I gave her my recommendations, I began to wonder how long this conversation would go on. It turned out to be very short. When I mentioned that I was available for lunch the next day, she said that was too soon. I told her I would call him and set up a lunch meeting several days after that. She was agreeable to that and thanked me for helping her. She went on to say it was time for her to get to bed. She said this in a way that made it clear that she did not recognize me as her husband.

For much of the time yesterday, she wasn’t sure who I was. That was true at lunch when I said, “I’m not much of a talker.” She broke into laughter. Obviously, I was not a stranger to her.

After lunch, she rested. Two hours later, she started to get up from the sofa. I asked if she would like for me to read something to her. She was receptive, and I picked up The Velveteen Rabbit. Before reading, I showed her the drawing of the rabbit on the book’s cover. She had some difficulty comprehending what a stuffed rabbit is and wasn’t particularly interested. As I proceeded to read, her interest rose quickly. As on other occasions, she responded audibly to quite a few passages. Each time her emotions were appropriate for what I had read.

When I reached the part where the boy refers to the rabbit as real, she asked if I were real. I told her I was. Without hesitation, she asked how I knew. I told her that was a good philosophical question. I went on to say that I felt I was real because I was able to interact with other people, and they responded as though I am real. She didn’t want to pursue it any further, but I thought it was interesting that she asked both questions.

It also made me think about her interactions with her stuffed bear. She cuddles him and talks with him as though he is real. She does the same thing with other inanimate objects like a pillow in our kitchen. On the other hand, she doesn’t always seem to see her bear as real. Yesterday, she was carrying him in her arms as she started to walk down the steps into our garage. I asked if I could hold him. She said, “No, I don’t think that would look right.” I said, “You don’t think that would look manly.” She responded with an emphatic “No.”

The best part of the day came after we finished the book. I reminded her that she had been a librarian and that she must have enjoyed introducing so many children to books. That led to a conversation that lasted almost an hour, during which she did most of the talking. She told stories about her relationship with her students. At one point, I mentioned that teachers have a big impact on their students. That prompted her to tell me about students who had thanked her for what she had done for them. While there is no way for me to be sure, I don’t believe anything she said actually happened. I am sure she was adlibbing, but she enjoyed talking, and I enjoyed listening. The conversation was especially interesting because it showed such insight regarding students, teachers, and their relationships while the facts seemed to be fictional. To be sure, there is some sadness associated with moments like these. At the same time, the nature of the conversation also seemed quite natural, like those we had before Alzheimer’s. At this point in the disease, conversations like that are a pleasure. I count them as treasures.

Our Days Are Always Eventful

Kate was up early once again on Friday. This time it was right after I had dressed and was about to get breakfast. She seemed less disoriented than usual. I got her ready with no problem, and we went to the kitchen where we had breakfast together. When we finished, she wanted to “go home.” I took her for a 20-minute drive.

When we returned home, we sat down on the sofa to look at a photo book. We didn’t even open the cover before she wanted to rest. I went to the desk in the kitchen. It wasn’t long before I heard her say something. She was getting up and wanted to go home. We took another ride and were back home before 10:00. She was ready to rest.

I was preparing for a Zoom meeting at 2:00 and was testing my setup in the guest room when I heard her say, “Hello.” When I got to the family room, she was walking in from the kitchen. She was greatly relieved to see me. She also seemed disturbed by something. I tried to comfort her for a few minutes before she told she told me she had done something she regretted. She said it wasn’t a big thing and that other people might think nothing of it, but to her it mattered.

I asked if she could tell me about it. We sat down. She wanted to tell me but said she didn’t know how. As often happens, she wasn’t able to give me a consistent explanation of the problem. I did learn that it was something that had occurred in the past and that it involved the two of us. Once or twice she said she couldn’t even remember what it was. Later on, I asked her if she remembered what she had done, and she said she could. She just didn’t know how to tell me. I assured her that it would not be a problem for me. She said she knew that, and that made it even harder to tell me.

It seemed like a good time to try to divert her attention. Even though it was a little early, I suggested we order a meal and bring it home for lunch. She agreed, and we got in the car again. She was troubled all the way to the restaurant but apparently forgot everything on the way home. She didn’t said another word. I wonder what she thought she had done.

Kate is Keeping Me Busy.

The other day, I got a message from a Twitter friend who asked how things were going with Kate and me. She had noticed that I haven’t been as regular in posting as in the past. I explained that with the progression of Kate’s Alzheimer’s life was simply getting busier. This past Sunday was a good example of what can happen in a single day.

It began early that morning. I was about to get dressed at 6:30 when Kate woke up and wanted to go to the bathroom. Afterward, I helped her dress and prepared a light breakfast. This was the earliest I ever recall her getting up for the day since she was a teacher and librarian. It was also unusual in that we ate breakfast together for the second time in the past few weeks.

Since she started the day so early, I knew she would want to rest after breakfast. She fooled me. She wanted to go home. I took her for a thirty-minute ride around town.

Once home, we spent an hour and a half looking at one of her photo books and our wedding album. Finally, she wanted to rest. That only lasted 30-45 minutes.

I suggested we go to lunch, but she didn’t want to get up. I told her she looked afraid and said I could help her. She said she didn’t “know anything” and didn’t know what was happening to her. I told her again that I could help and mentioned she had had experiences like this before. I added that in the past she began to improve after getting up. That gave her the incentive to get up although it didn’t reduce her anxiety.

On the way to the restaurant, I put on some music she likes as an effort to calm her. She didn’t pay as much attention as she usually does, and her anxiety won out over the music. She was worried about what people would think of her. She said, “They will think I’m an idiot.” I assured her they would probably not even notice anything. She thanked me and said that made her feel better. Her insight and self-awareness impressed me during this whole episode. She recognized that she was progressively feeling better.

Before arriving at Andriana’s, she said, “I know you’re my husband, but I don’t know your name.” Then she remembered it and was excited. She said, “I think I’m getting better. Maybe I’ll start remembering more.” I assured her that she would. She was bolstered by that.

She was very uneasy as we entered the restaurant. She was still afraid of what people would think about her. She improved quickly when we met the hostess who greeted us warmly. She is one of the most welcoming of the ones we know. This made her feel comfortable.

That didn’t last long. When we took our seats, she was worried, and it showed. Two women at the nearest table noticed something was wrong when Kate started to cry and wanted me to hold her hand.

It wasn’t long before our server came to the table. She, too, is very friendly and told Kate how nice she looked. Tears welled up in her eyes as she profusely thanked the server and told her how much that meant to her. She wanted to stand and give the server a hug, but the server explained and kept her social distance.

Kate continued to talk about the way she felt. She noted that she didn’t know who I was but felt like she knew me. Almost within seconds, she called me by name. She was encouraged. I picked up on that and told her she would continue to feel better; however, I wasn’t surprised when, moments later, she couldn’t recall my name or that I was her husband. She continued to feel more comfortable as we ate our meal and was fine long before we left.

Once we were home, we started on one of her photo books but soon stopped for her to rest. When she finished resting, she looked at me and wanted to know who I was. She wasn’t worried and seemed comfortable with me. She invited me to sit on the sofa with her. I said, “I’m Richard, your husband.” She didn’t buy the husband part at all and laughed. I didn’t try to convince her; however, I picked up our wedding album and proceeded to go through some of the photos. I was never sure that it had any impact on her memory, but she accepted what she saw without any questions.

We had a little time before dinner, and I suggested we call a longtime friend of hers who was her matron of honor. She wanted to call, but she told me she wanted me to do most of the talking. To my surprise she did quite well. It was not a lengthy conversation, but she seemed at ease and enjoyed herself.

Kate has always been appreciative of my care for her. Periodically, she makes an extra effort to tell me how much that means to her. She was like that at dinner that evening. It means a lot to me that she is appreciative, but I feel a touch of sadness at moments like this because I think it is heavily driven by a recognition of her dependence on me.

After dinner, she said, “Are you ready to go?” I knew that was the signal that she was ready to “go home.” We went out for another drive “home.”

We returned thirty minutes later and went to the bedroom for the remainder of the evening. It was later than usual, and I was eager to get her ready for bed. She is usually ready herself, but that was not true this time. She started arranging the things on her bedside table. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem. This time, however, she seemed obsessed about getting it just right. She invited my participation as she created a new arrangements and stood back to give it a critical eye. After almost thirty minutes, I was ready for my shower and wanted to take care of getting her in her night clothes first. She didn’t want to be rushed. Finally, I told her I was going to take my shower and would help her after I got out.

When I turned on the shower, she called me. She wanted help with her night clothes. I turned off the shower and got her into bed. I also turned on YouTube for music videos to entertain her.

After my shower, I took a seat on my side of the bed and read a book. Less than an hour later, I turned off the TV, turned on some soft music on my audio system, and prepared to get in bed. It turned out that Kate was engrossed in the YouTube music and very disappointed I had turned it off. I turned it on again and got in bed.

Kate was sitting up in bed with her back against the headboard. She continued watching the music videos for another hour before calling it a night. It was a long day for both of us.

Not every day is like this, but increasingly I am devoting more attention to Kate while at the same time trying to keep up with household responsibilities and other personal activities. This does create more stress, but I am far from overwhelmed at this point. That is because I back away from other things I need to do. One of those is writing new posts. I’m all right with that because I think I am capturing enough to convey what “Living with Alzheimer’s” is like for us.

An Update on “Knowing” Me

Tuesday got off to a better start than Monday, but there was a blip that afternoon. Kate had been resting on the sofa, but I could see that she was awake. An old Ronnie Milsap album was playing, and he was singing “What a Difference You Made in My Life.” I walked over to Kate and said, “That’s what I could be saying to you.” She said, “What?” I explained and she gave me a dirty look. I realized that she hadn’t recognized me, but I was startled and said, “Help me understand. Why you did that?” She said, “I don’t know,” a stock answer for almost everything. Then I said, “I think I understand. You don’t know who I am.” She said she did, and I said, “Who?” She said, “The girl across the street.”

I didn’t tell her otherwise and took my seat again. In less than three or four minutes, she made an abrupt change in mood. She looked at me cheerfully and sat up. She started to stand but then picked up two of her photo books and wanted to take them home. She asked me to put them somewhere. I took them. She found several other books she wanted to take with her.

Then she wanted to go to the bathroom. She gave me a smile and cheerfully spoke to me as though the previous incident had never happened. I am sure she had no recollection. I showed her to the bathroom. When she was finished, I thought we would get ready for dinner. Instead, she got in bed and pulled the sheet over her. I was concerned that she might not get up, but she surprised me. Only a few minutes passed before she got up on her own, and we had dinner. She seemed just fine. That didn’t mean that she recognized me as her husband, but she was as friendly with me as she normally is. The following day we had a similar experience that was just as short-lived.

At least twice yesterday, she spoke harshly to me and then apologized. One of those times we were in the car, and she said she didn’t know why she had responded that way. I don’t recall her exact words, but she had a concerned look on her face and said what I interpreted as a recognition that something is the matter with her that causes her to behave this way. That fits with so many other signs of her self-awareness.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. It could be like other things that occur once or twice and not again, or it could be the beginning of a progression of her Alzheimer’s that only gets worse. My guess would be it’s something that will get worse though I think her dependence on me and the positive feelings derive from that relationship will last a long time. At least that’s what I’d like to believe.