Change in the Air

Since the coronavirus came on the scene, change has become a regular part of everyone’s life. As my recent posts have suggested, Kate is no exception. I have a much harder time anticipating what a day will be like. That’s not because the good times have passed. They haven’t. They still represent a much larger percentage of our experiences than the trying, or even challenging, moments, but she definitely keeps me on my toes. Monday represents a good illustration.

The day began early, about 2:00 a.m. to be exact. It lasted off and on for the better part of two hours. I can’t recall the precise conversation. She was concerned about either a responsibility she thought she hadn’t fulfilled or what was on our agenda for the day. She asked me a few questions that I answered only to be followed a short time later with the same questions and my same answers.

Because she lost some sleep, I assumed she would get up a little later. That turned out to be a wrong assumption. About 7:30, I heard her say something just as I was going to take my morning walk. I went to the bedroom and found that she was confused but not seriously disturbed. She just wanted help understanding where she was and what she was supposed to do.

I asked if she was ready to get up. She said she didn’t know. I suggested that I take her to the bathroom. She agreed and on the way said, “Where’s my husband?” At the time, it was not a surprise, but her failure to recognize me was repeated throughout the day. It was the second time that has happened in the past week or so.

After she was dressed, I gave her a bowl of strawberries and blueberries and a glass of apple juice. For the first time, she showed little interest in either the fruit or her juice. She left half of the fruit and didn’t want any cheese toast when I offered it. She was quite talkative, however. Like other recent conversations, she didn’t realize that she was talking to me and kept saying she wished “my husband” were here to explain more of the things she talked about. We talked for an hour at the kitchen table before I assumed we would adjourn to the family room where she would rest. Wrong again.

Instead, she noticed a letter from Blue Cross on my desk. It was a communication about a medication I take for a dry eye condition. She picked it up and made an effort to read it. When we walked into the family room, she took it with her and then went into the living room. She took a seat and started reading it. I remained in the family room. I knew she wouldn’t be able to understand it but was fascinated to see how long she would try and made periodic visits to see if she was napping or reading. Each time she was trying to read with the same degree of seriousness she had shown a few days earlier when she tried to read The Velveteen Rabbit.

She came back to the family room in about twenty minutes and took a seat beside me. She started to read the letter when I noticed that she had it upside down. I asked if she wanted me to read it. She did. First, I explained what it was and that it included the company’s non-discrimination policy in nine languages besides English. I felt exactly the way I had the other day. I was glad to see her try to read but sad because she faced such an impossible task.

My Rotary club started its meetings again, and I re-established our arrangements to have a Monday sitter. She is someone who had been with us almost a year but not since September 2018, so I asked that she come an hour early to give Kate an opportunity to develop a comfort level with her before I left.

That went well, but when it was time for me to leave, Kate wasn’t comfortable about my going. She wanted to go with me. I told her the sitter be with her and that I would be back after my meeting. She wasn’t happy but accepted without a protest. I gave her a couple of her photo books to look over while I was gone.

When I returned, she was resting, but awake. I brought in groceries I had picked up on the way home from Rotary and then checked email. I heard her talking with the sitter and walked into the room. She was glad to see me. I told the sitter she could go. Then Kate and I spent time with one of her photo books.

During dinner, she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed early. She said the same thing after dinner. When we walked into our bedroom, she wanted to lie down. I suggested that she brush her teeth, put on her night clothes, and call it a day. She agreed, and I got her to bed. I watched the evening news and then put on some music for her while I took a shower.

After my shower, she began a long conversation. She was in bed when it began, but she soon took a seat on my side of the bed across from the chair in which I was sitting. I couldn’t fully understand what she was talking about, but I surmised that she thought I was a student with a part time job at whatever place she thought we were in, perhaps a hotel. I also gathered that she was trying to help me get a regular job. She asked if I knew her husband. I told her I did. She said he would be able to help by directing me to people who might be hiring. She said he was at work but would be coming home soon and repeated this a number of times. Realizing that he might not come home before I left, she asked if I had her husband’s phone number. I told her I did. Then she said, “If you run into a problem, call Richard.”

She was very eager to help me and kept repeating the whole scenario multiple times over an hour. For at least the last thirty minutes, I made an effort to close the conversation so that I could get to bed, but she continued. When she was nearly finished, she tested me to see if I remembered what she had told me to do. She said, “Now, what do you do if you run into a problem?” I told her I would call Richard. I don’t remember the other question, but I do remember the answer was to contact her. I was glad to have passed. She continued to talk and tested me one more time before the conversation ended for good.

We had what I thought was a rather amusing conclusion. I suggested we get to bed, and she asked where she was going to sleep. I pointed to her side of the bed. She was surprised. It turned out that she thought she would be going “home.” I told her she would be staying the night. She asked where I was going to sleep. I pointed to my side of the bed. She seemed a little hesitant but got in. I turned out the light and got in bed beside her. She was comfortable being with me, but she didn’t respond to me like I was her husband.

It is obvious that Kate is changing in a variety of ways. Her sleep pattern is unpredictable. She has more delusions. She has very talkative spells. As usual, the only way I can make sense out of it is to remind myself that her Alzheimer’s is a result of the plaque and tangles in her brain. They continue to grow and cause the circuits in her brain to malfunction. Regardless of the explanation, Kate is clearly changing, but I am glad to say that she is almost always kind and gentle. Just yesterday, she suddenly snapped at me because of something I said. She immediately apologized and said, “I really don’t like to be that way.” No wonder I want to give her the best care I can.

Very Talkative at Latest Doctor’s Visit

Last week, Kate had a regular appointment with her primary care physician. She sees her doctor every four months though covid-19 delayed this one by ten weeks. The only thing that wasn’t routine was Kate’s behavior. She was unusually talkative.

As always, the doctor began by speaking directly to Kate. First, she asked a general question about how things were going. Kate said, “Fine.” Then she asked more specific questions, none of which Kate was able to answer. After the last question, the doctor asked if she could get my thoughts. I had sent her an update in advance of the visit, but I mentioned a few minor changes.

Something I said prompted Kate to jump in and say something complimentary about relationship. The medical intern who had accompanied the doctor asked how long we had been married. Kate turned to me, and I mentioned that our 57th anniversary was coming up on Sunday.

Then Kate took the lead. She began what was a lengthy (for a doctor’s appointment) description of my care for her and the closeness of our relationship. It must have surprised the doctor who had never her heard her talk so much.

It was noteworthy to me because it came after several other recent experiences at home when we have had long conversations in which she was the primary speaker. In those cases, everything was fabricated, arising out of an apparent delusion. This time it was because the subject matter is one with which she is very familiar and, thus, about which she is able to speak comfortably, if not accurately.

In a way, it both pleased and tickled me. I say pleased because it’s always nice to hear your spouse say good things about you. I also thought she beautifully conveyed the nature of our relationship to the doctor. It tickled me because she has always expressed her liking for things that are not “overdone.” I’m pretty sure that if she had been an outside observer, she would have said this went several steps too far.

At the time, I didn’t make too much of it, but since then she has been much more talkative. As I often do, I wonder why this is occurring and how much more may be in store. I reported that in the last post and plan to report more on that topic in a post about yesterday.

A Day of Surprises

Yesterday was a very good day for Kate, but I wasn’t sure when she woke up. About 8:30, I heard her say, “Hello.” <pause> “Hello.” Her voice was rather calm. When I reached her, she looked wide awake. I was about to give her a very lighthearted greeting when I noticed that she looked very concerned. I shifted gears to mirror her feelings. She told me she was glad to see me. I asked what I could do to help her.

That initiated a conversation that was a good thirty minutes long. She wanted to know if “they got it.” I never learned nor did she ever hint at what that was, but I told her “they did.” In most situations like this, that would be enough. This time she wanted to know how I knew “they got it.” One fib leads to another, and I told her I was there when they took it. Then she wanted to know who took it. I gave her the name of a friend of her mother’s. She didn’t remember the friend, and I had to give a little explanation.

That ended her questions momentarily. She said she was very relieved. She had forgotten to get someone to take it. I assured her it was taken care of and that she could relax. That didn’t end her concern. Several times, she asked me if I was sure it had been taken and who had taken it. When she was fully convinced that everything was all right, I took her to the bathroom to get ready for the day.

Although it was a very good day, much of the time she did not recognize me as her husband. The first sign of that came as we walked to the bathroom. She asked my name. I told her, and she expressed her appreciation to me for helping her. She went on to say that she liked me. Later, she asked my name again and then asked how she should address me. “Mr. Richard?”

It was still too early for lunch when she was dressed, so I prepared breakfast for her again. She was talkative, and we had a very pleasant time together. Afterward, I was prepared to sit down with her and look at a photo book or read something to her. I took her to the family room and then returned to the kitchen to get my coffee. She took that moment to pick up the Velveteen Rabbit. I assumed that I would read it to her; however, when I asked, she said she just wanted to look through it herself.

I had mixed emotions about her reaction. It was the first time she had ever declined my offer, and she never spends much time trying to read. I actually enjoy reading to her, but I also had other things to do. I decided it was good to let her read on her own and brought my laptop into the room to work on a slide show of photos I have created for our 57th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I took a seat across from her and was prepared to stop at any moment to read to her. The big surprise was that she spent well over an hour with the book. Then she picked up a family photo book and began to read the text accompanying the photos. With both books, she meticulously moved her fingers from one word to the next. I felt two emotions, sadness that she had to work so hard and joy that she seemed to be deriving pleasure on her own. Several times I repeated my offer to help. She never accepted, but she did convey that she didn’t feel like she understood what she was reading.

She continued until Panera delivered our lunch. It arrived thirty minutes before the sitter was to come. I told her lunch was ready, but she wanted me to come to her. She was looking at the flowers and photos in the room as well as the back yard and the forest of trees on our neighbor’s property behind our house. This is not unusual, but she took far more time to look and express her feelings about the beauty she saw. As always, I took pleasure in seeing her so enthusiastic. I reminded her several times that I had her lunch on the table, but she didn’t get to the table until the sitter arrived.

We took another thirty minutes to eat our lunch when I took her to the family room. I felt like it would be too abrupt to rush away immediately. Sometimes I sit down with her to look at one of her photo books. She gets tired quickly and wants to rest. That is what I expected again. I handed her one of the books, and she immediately started going through it on her own. When I told her I needed to run a few errands and would return, she looked sad but didn’t protest or ask to go with me.

The next surprise came when I returned almost an hour later. She was seated in the same place looking at the same book. She looked content, so I didn’t even go into the family room. I made a couple of phone calls and worked on the computer.

At 4:00, I heard her ask Mary where I was and when I would be back. Mary told her I was home and working in the kitchen. In a couple of minutes, she walked into the kitchen. She was glad to see me and said that she was ready to go. I told her there were a few things I wanted to finish before then and to give me a few minutes. Less than five minutes later, she returned with a copy of The Giving Tree, Winnie the Pooh, and her iPad. She wanted to know if I was ready. I told her I was. It was almost 4:15, but I went to the family room and told Mary that she could go. Then Kate and I went to the car along with the things she had been carrying.

I had ordered dinner from a caterer earlier in the week and was scheduled to pick it up at 5:00. It’s about fifteen minutes from our house. That gave me more than enough time, so I drove around until going to her place for our dinner.

As soon as we entered the house, she responded as though it was the first time here. We walked into the kitchen where I started to get the food on the table. She commented that this was the first time she had been here and admired everything she saw.

The next surprise came after dinner. We were walking to the back of the house when she said, “I just want to thank you and your people for everything you have done.” She continued to express her appreciation for several minutes . What I surmised was that she thought she was in some type of lodging, and I was the proprietor with a staff to take care of the guests.

As I helped her get ready for bed, she came back to this topic. She thanked me again and talked a little longer. This was another surprise. She often talks about her working with a program of some type that helps people with education, job skills, and/or financial aid. This time she thought I was directing such a program in which I operated a place for guests to stay and employed people to help them financially and with job skills.

The last surprise came after I got in bed two hours after she did. She hadn’t been asleep at all. That surprised me because she had talked about going to be early when we were driving around before dinner, at dinner, and afterwards. Not only that, but she had gotten up somewhat early and not rested at all during the entire day. After I got in bed, she said, “What do we do now?” I told her it would be a good time to relax and go to sleep. She said, “Good.”

She is still sleeping at 10:15. That’s no surprise. I wonder what is in store today.

The Rest of the Day

I am still not ready to conclude that our Covid-19 pandemic is totally responsible, but Kate is clearly going through changes. As I reported yesterday, some of the changes are quite positive. She is definitely more childlike, and that is accompanied by pleasurable experiences for both of us. That is what happened yesterday morning. She was cheerful and enjoying everything to a greater extent than normal. Were I a better writer, I would have been able to more effectively convey that experience as we went through her photo books and then our old photos around the time of the birth of our first child. Both of us had a great time together.

The good news is that it didn’t end there. After her second rest of the morning, she was alert and happy. It was a little early for lunch, so I suggested that we read The Velveteen Rabbit. I wish I could give you an adequate description of her enthusiasm. She responded audibly throughout the entire book. The surprising thing to me was that her responses, although stronger than one might expect for an adult, seemed to be appropriately matched with the story. I believe she was getting the message in her own way.

The rest of the day went well although it was not nearly as uplifting as the first part. For the first time in six weeks, we got haircuts. On days when she gets color, she goes first. Then while the color sets, the stylist takes care of my shampoo and cut. Ordinarily, Kate works jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. Because she has given up her iPad in the past few weeks, I didn’t take it with us. Instead, I took one of her family photo books to look through while the stylist was taking care of me. When she finished, we both walked over to Kate’s chair. She was holding a towel in her hand and using it like a pen to write a note to someone. She didn’t want to stop to get up and have her hair rinsed. She was confused as to how to say what she wanted in her note. She asked me to help her. I picked up the towel and used it and read aloud what I was “writing.” She was pleased.

I had taken a seat a few feet away from the two of them but separated by a partition that was about 4 ½ feet high. Kate was getting along quite well with the stylist, but quite a few times she asked where I was. Each time the stylist told her, she immediately forgot and, moments later, asked again. Kate and I both wore gloves, and I wore a mask. Kate also repeatedly asked the stylist if she could take off her gloves. I was impressed with this because she had automatically taken them off at the restaurant on Sunday. I wonder if she retained some awareness that she was supposed to keep them on. I suspect it was really because she is so unsure of things that she asks about almost everything.

The day had gone very well until I took my shower. I left Kate in bed watching YouTube videos. As I got out of the shower, she opened the bathroom door. She was obviously confused. I asked what she wanted. She said she didn’t know. I told her to give me a few minutes, and I would help her. She started to leave the bedroom. I asked her to stay so that I could help her. She repeatedly asked me what she could do. I told her she could get back in bed and listen to the music on the TV and that I would be right there.

When I was finished, she was in bed but still confused. Typically, I would sit in a chair on my side of the bed and read or work on my laptop before joining her. I decided it would be better to put on a DVD of Les Miserables and get in bed with her. I thought watching together might divert her attention from her confusion. In the long run, it did. She didn’t show any signs of being disturbed, but she didn’t watch. I’m not sure how much she listened.

I turned it off less than an hour later and put on some very soft music on our audio system. I snuggled close to her and told her I loved her. She didn’t say anything, but she did put her arm across my chest. In a few minutes, she asked my name. I told her. She seemed perfectly at ease. It wasn’t long before we were asleep.

Childlike and Tired

On Monday Kate and I had very little contact until 4:30. I got her up at almost 11:30. She was more than a bit confused but didn’t express the kind of fear she sometimes does. Recently, she has been unsteady after sitting up on the side of the bed or the sofa. The day before, she had fallen back on the bed before attempting to stand up. This time I asked her to sit for a moment. I put my hand on her back to support her. Then I helped her up. She got along all right but was very insecure as we walked to the bathroom.

She experienced one of a number of childlike behaviors when we went to the car before getting a takeout lunch from Panera. She noticed a Dr. Pepper baseball cap that she had long ago hung on the knob of a cabinet door in the garage. Periodically, she takes interest in it. This time she was just like a little child discovering something new and exciting. She thought it was a nice decorative touch (my words, not hers) and said she might hang a number of them around the garage.

After lunch, she was ready to rest. That worked out well because I had a Zoom meeting at 2:00, and she fell asleep on the sofa. She must have been quite tired because she didn’t take off her shoes nor lift her feet to the sofa. She just fell over on a pillow from a sitting position and slept until at least 4:30 when I noticed she had opened her eyes. I got up from my chair and walked over to her and asked if she was about ready to get up. She told me not to talk, that she wanted to talk with me later. She looked like she was bothered by something. I said, “I love you.” She said, “That may be the right thing to say but not right now.” I started to ask her to explain, but she cut me off. I took her hand and told her I would be seated across from her if she needed me. When I started to release my hand, she gripped it tightly. I sat down on the corner of the table in front of the sofa. It wasn’t long before it felt too uncomfortable. I started to gently pull my hand away, and she held it tighter. In five or ten minutes, she was asleep. I took a seat close to the sofa and waited another fifteen minutes before waking her for dinner.

Whatever was bothering her faded from her memory like so many other things. It’s another good example of the pattern of her delusions. She may be resting, but her brain is active and doesn’t function the way it did before Alzheimer’s took over. As I have said before, she had experiences like this before sheltering. I believe, however, that the reduction in her activity has exacerbated the problem. I should add that it is not boredom alone that leads her to rest. She is really tired.

A Change in In-Home Care

Until sheltering came into our lives, we have had the same schedule for in-home care for the past two and a half years. One sitter comes at noon every Monday and stays until 4:00. That allows me to make my regular Rotary meeting, go to the Y, run errands and attend occasional meetings for the balance of the time. Another sitter comes on Wednesday and Friday between 1:00 and 5:00.

I have always preferred the 1:00 time for both sitters, but that wouldn’t allow me to make Rotary. Our club suspended its meetings in April, and I took advantage of the change to request that the Monday sitter come at 1:00 until the resumption of our Rotary meetings. I thought that had worked fine, but last week the Monday sitter showed up at noon just as Kate and I were getting ready to leave to pick up a takeout meal from Panera. It turned out that she had thought that we had made the change only for the month of April.

In our conversation, I discovered that she has other commitments after 4:00 and had only been staying until 5:00 to help me out for a short time. As it turned out, I haven’t felt the need for her during this time. I continued the service for two reasons. First, she has been with us over a year, and I didn’t want to risk losing her if I temporarily discontinued the service. Second, I didn’t want her to sacrifice the income in case she couldn’t find something else until we started again. When I finally understood the situation, I told the agency not to send anyone on Monday until Rotary begins its regular meeting schedule.

So, for the month of May, I only have a sitter two days a week. Ironically, I feel good about this arrangement. While sheltering, I have only run sporadic trips to the grocery or pharmacy and taken a short walk around the neighborhood. I’ve spent the bulk of the time at home. As a result, I haven’t worried about getting Kate up as early as I had been. Quite a few times, we have been eating our lunch when the sitter arrived. She would take a seat in the family room until we finished eating. After that, Kate usually rests for the balance of the afternoon, and I have worked on other things and made phone calls without any interruptions. I think Kate has been comfortable with the arrangement as well. This means there is never any abrupt time when I am leaving for an extended period of time. I generally say something like, “I’m going to run to the grocery and will be right back.” That is something she has been able to accept without any problem. Thus, I have felt more relaxed during our sheltering.

The question now is what is going to happen when Rotary begins. As it stands, the agency will return the same sitter when I tell her it’s time to change back to the noon to 4:00 schedule. That assumes that the sitter has not been assigned to someone else. I am wondering about the possibility of changing sitters even if the same one is available. I have never felt as comfortable with her as I do with the other sitter. On the other hand, Kate doesn’t require a lot of attention. She rests most, and sometimes all, of the time the sitters are here. Like most changes of this nature, I can’t be sure that the replacement would be better, perhaps not as good. Of course, I could try another one or several, but that would mean introducing Kate to more than one new person. I am leaning toward accepting the same sitter if she is still available, but I have almost two weeks before I have to make a final decision. We’ll see what happens.

Kate Was Up Early Again This Morning

Kate called me at 7:15 this morning just as I was about to begin my walk. She was wide awake. I commented on that and asked if she would like me to fix her some breakfast. She nodded, and I proceeded to get her up and finish her “morninglies” (with thanks to Tom Robinson for introducing me to this term) before heading to the kitchen.

Mornings are her most likely times to be confused. I use that term when she seems bothered by not knowing where she is, who she is, who I am, or what to do. I think insecure was a better word to describe how she was this morning.  As she got out of the bed, she said, “Help me; I don’t know what to do.” . She repeated variations of this multiple times before we left the bedroom.

It is not unusual for her to ask, “What do I do?” when we enter the bathroom. Another time recently, she said, “You’ll have to tell me what to do because I’ve never done this before.” Today, I had to do more than explain. She seemed worried that she would fall as she sat on the toilet. I had to put my arms around her and let her weight rest on them. I supported her until she was seated.

She enjoyed her breakfast of apple juice, a small bowl of blueberries, and two slices of cheese toast. She finished more quickly than usual, and we went to the family room where I thought we might read something. I wasn’t surprised when she looked tired, and I asked if she would like to rest. She said, “May I?” (That is something she says frequently. She also asks if she can take off her shoes. She is very respectful, at least 99% of the time. It is more like I am the “person in charge” rather than her husband. Of course, I am both, so I understand. She generally thinks of me as older than she is. She commented on that yesterday, and I asked how old she was. She said she was eighteen.)

She started resting at 8:40. It is now 10:20, and she is sound asleep. Fifteen minutes ago, she opened her eyes and said something I didn’t understand. This is a day for the sitter. I should have plenty of time for us to have lunch before she arrives at 1:00. I plan to make a quick trip to the grocery and then return home for a walk. The balance of the afternoon I plan to remain at home and work on my computer.

Kate and Breakfast

I’ve lost count of the number of times Kate has had breakfast since we have been sheltered, but it happened again yesterday morning and was especially surprising because of how early she got up.

I got up around 6:30 and went to the bathroom. When I left to get dressed, I noticed that Kate wasn’t in the bed. I called to her and asked where she was. I heard her say, “I’m in here.” She was in the kitchen. As best I could determine, she had been looking for the bathroom. That’s where I took her. She was confused but not disturbed in the way I might have expected.

After finishing in the bathroom, she seemed unusually wide awake. I asked if she wanted to go back to bed or get dressed and eat breakfast. She said, “I don’t know.” I suggested she go ahead and get ready for the day. I think I was motivated by the fact that the past two days, I thought she was going to stay in bed most of the day. Fortunately, I was able to coax her to get up both days. The surprising thing the second day was how quickly her mood changed when she finally decided to get up. At first, she seemed rather resistant. Then I said something (don’t remember what) that got her attention, and she was ready to get up.

She was far more willing to follow my suggestion yesterday. As it turned out, this was a morning when we really did eat breakfast together. The other mornings, I had finished my breakfast and just enjoyed my coffee while she ate. When she finished, I took her into the family room where she wanted to rest. That worked for me because it gave me time to take my morning walk.

The next surprise was her wanting to go home after resting. It was over an hour before I planned to have lunch, so I thought that might make for a restful outing, and off we went. We were back home in just over thirty minutes, and she wanted to rest again. I welcomed that because I purchased a new computer, and that gave me time to setup a few remaining things on it.

This morning I had finished breakfast and my walk. A short time later as I was preparing to upload this post, I heard her say, “Hey, what do I do?” I went to her and found she was wide awake. I got her up and dressed and fixed her breakfast again. When she finished, I suggested we go to the family room. I mentioned Anne Frank’s Diary and asked if she would be interested in my reading some of it to her. It has been a long time since we had done this, so I started at the beginning. We didn’t get too far before she was tired although she seemed interested in the book. She has been resting about thirty minutes and appears to be asleep.

I always try to figure out what causes changes like the increased frequency of getting up so early. I am often left with only speculation. That seems to be the case this time. I do know, however, that it coincides with sheltering. That has affected her sleeping and resting. Some days she rests more than others. One possibility is that she wakes up earlier following a day when she has had more than enough sleep; however, she is ready to rest not too long after getting up. Of course, that is true no matter what time she gets up. One exception was this past Friday when she was awake the entire time the sitter was here. Saturday and Sunday she didn’t get up until around noon when I waked her, and she wasn’t eager to get up then.

There is another explanation that may be related to her sleep pattern. It seems to me that she drifts in and out of sleep more frequently than in the past. That has also been true during the night in the past week or so. I’ll continue to observe as carefully as I can. It will be interesting to see what, if any, other changes occur when (if?) we start to eat out for lunch and dinner again.

Alzheimer’s Took Kate On a Wild Ride Yesterday.

It’s been a couple of years since Kate started to forget my name, but I have taken satisfaction that, with rare exceptions, she always recognizes me as someone familiar that she likes and trusts. Yesterday morning didn’t appear to begin that way, but it was soon clear she didn’t know who I was and was very suspicious of me. Perhaps, “suspicious” is the wrong word. She didn’t say much, but the look on her face was a little more like anger. Unlike other occasions, I had a difficult time putting her at ease.

Once again, she awoke earlier than usual. When I walked into the bedroom, she was wide awake and greeted me enthusiastically. Her greeting, however, was a little more like I was a good friend she hadn’t seen in a long time. We chatted a few minutes. Then I brought her bear to her. We talked a little more before I asked if she wanted to get up. She said she wanted to rest a little while longer. I told her it was early, and that would be fine. I asked if she would like me to bring my laptop to the bedroom and sit in my chair beside the bed. She did.

An hour later, she woke up. This time she didn’t express any enthusiasm. She didn’t know anything and was scared. I told her I knew a lot about her and her family and would be glad to answer any questions she might have. She didn’t know what to ask or what to do. I suggested that she get up, and I would fix her breakfast. She liked the idea of getting breakfast but not getting up. I spoke to her very calmly and encouraged her to get up, but that didn’t work. Finally, I said, “You’ve felt this way before, and you seemed to feel better once you were up and dressed.” She was skeptical but agreed to try it. She got out of bed, and we walked to the bathroom. I thought she was all right.

She didn’t say much in the bathroom except to ask my name several times and was not as warm and friendly as she can be. Getting dressed was a simple matter. She enjoyed her breakfast but was rather quiet. We had another hour and a half before lunch, so I suggested we read The Velveteen Rabbit. She wasn’t eager but consented. Before I started, she wanted to rest. I thought about her bear and wondered if that might lift her spirits. She acted like she had never seen it and didn’t care about it.

I let her rest until it was time for me to order lunch. I had no trouble getting her up, but her mood had not changed. On the way to pick up lunch, I turned on some music that she likes. When she heard “Shall We Dance” from The King and I, I noticed the first flicker of a change. On the way home, I played more.

When we returned home, I played the same album and didn’t talk much. Neither did she. She enjoyed the music. During one of the songs, she reached her hand out to me. I took it. She put her other hand over mine, and we sang together. She was back to normal.

It wasn’t long before the sitter arrived. As I have been doing during this period of sheltering, I took a walk. It took me a few minutes to get ready. During that time, I noticed that Kate was talking with Mary. It was at least ten minutes before I left, and they were still talking. I make a point of this because their conversations are usually brief and periodic. Kate rests most of the time the sitter is here. I was encouraged by Kate’s mood and that the two of them were engaged in such natural conversation.

I was only gone about forty-five minutes and was pleased to see that Kate was not resting. She had one of her family photo books in her hand. Mary was seated in a chair across from her. I didn’t go in the room to let Kate know I was home. I am sure Mary heard me come in. I checked email and then had two lengthy conversations with friends.

After the second call, I heard Kate talking enthusiastically about the things she was looking at. Several times she asked when I was coming back because she wanted to ask me some questions. I decided say hello. She was excited to see me, but she was mostly excited about the photo book with its pictures and the accompanying information.

She was particularly interested in my remembering everything so that she could use it in her own album. It always intrigues me that even when I tell her this is her book, and she has all the information, she never understands that it is hers and is available to her anytime. I suspect this occurs because she believes she is in the home of a relative and not her own home.

At any rate, she was unusually animated. She and Mary talked the entire time she was here. I walked Mary to the door when she left, and she told me that she had taken Kate to the bathroom while I was gone and changed her. That was the first time that has happened in the two and a half years Mary has been with us. This was a good indication of how good she felt about Mary. Kate even commented to me about how much she liked her.

Not long after Mary left, we went to pick up our takeout dinner. I had given Kate her bear (Charlotte), and she wanted to take it along with her in the car. On the way home, she mentioned sharing her meal with Charlotte. I wasn’t sure how far she was going with this. I thought Charlotte could get pretty messy. As it turned out, she did get a little food on her but not much. I propped her up on the table beside Kate and got a small plate for her food. Kate put a little food on the plate and also tried to put some in her mouth. She loved attending to Charlotte.

Kate’s mood changed after getting dressed for bed. She didn’t know where we were and was worried about people who were either in the house or who might be coming over. She seemed frightened. I assured her we were the only ones in the house and that no one was coming. She wasn’t convinced and repeatedly asked me where we were and why. This went on for at least thirty minutes before she seemed to relax.

When I joined her later, she greeted me warmly as though she had been that way all day. I was glad to end the day on a high note.

Kate’s New Friend

Quite sometime ago, a Rotary friend whose wife has Alzheimer’s, asked me if Kate enjoyed stuffed animals. He said his wife loves them, and he had given her a collection of them over the course of her disease. I told him Kate had never had a particular interest in them but enjoys children as well as cats and small dogs. I don’t think I mentioned the ceramic cat in our family room. She’s always been fond of him and for years kept him snuggled around the toilet in the bath off our laundry room. I moved him to the family room a couple of years ago. She sees him more often now and almost always stops to greet him in the morning.

More recently, I’ve thought of getting her a stuffed animal, but it was one of those things I never got around to doing. That changed a week ago but not because I finally took action. A colleague at the office brought us dinner last week and along with that a stuffed bear for Kate. He (she?) was an instant hit. Since he entered the picture at a time when her memory is weak, she doesn’t usually ask for him. There has been one exception. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but she had been holding him a few minutes before and went to our bedroom. She said, “Where is he?” I said, “Who?” She answered, “My little friend.”

Her interests change a lot from day to day and, sometimes, from moment to moment. I wondered how long her fascination would last. Today marks a full week since the bear became a part of the family, and her interest has not diminished. She loves holding him in her arms and often talks to him. There are a variety of situations in which she has been holding him but then does something else that makes that difficult.

One of those times is eating dinner. Each night I take the bear from her and rest him against a pillow on the window seat next to the table. I chose that because Kate has been taken with the pillow she thinks is a person. Since placing the bear, she hasn’t “seen” the person.

Anytime she has been holding the bear, and it is time to get a takeout meal, she wants to take the bear with us. He has even made a couple of trips to the bathroom with her.

We haven’t settled on the bear’s gender but may be coming close. The other day Kate said she thinks it’s a girl, but she slips back and forth between referring to “her” as “he” or “she.” We’ve talked about a name, but that, too, is unsettled. Two days ago, I did a search on girl’s names and read quite a few to her. The only name Kate liked was Charlotte. I like it as well, but I keep thinking it is a better name for a spider. (Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist.)

So far, Charlotte has been a friend to hold while Kate is seated or resting, but I’m also exploring its therapeutic benefit. Yesterday, for example, she was confused when she awoke. I brought Charlotte to her and used her a little bit like a puppet to see if I could relieve any of her anxiety. I discovered there is a spot at the back of the bear’s neck that, when pressed, causes her head to nod. Similarly, squeezing her around her waist causes her arms to move up and down. It didn’t take but a moment for Kate to take Charlotte in her arms. She felt better.

I’m not surprised that the bear has been so well-received. Kate is definitely more childlike now. I suspect we may find that Charlotte provides increasing comfort in the days ahead. Everyone needs a friend.