Dinner Conversation

Several times I’ve mentioned that Kate sometimes thinks I am her daddy. Usually, she asks, “Are you my daddy?” when she doesn’t remember who I am. On other occasions, she says something like, “Okay, Daddy. Whatever you say.” These words are less clear in their meaning. It could mean that she was teasing me when she thinks I am treating her like a child. Often I am left in doubt as to what she means.

Last night at dinner we had a conversation that illustrates how she can move seamlessly between understanding and not understanding. I can’t remember the exact words, but here’s my reconstruction of our conversation.

It started when she asked where we were. I told her we were in Knoxville where we had lived for forty-seven years. She said, “And I’ve never had a boyfriend.” I said, “I could be your boyfriend.” She said, “You’re my daddy.” Then she paused a moment to think and said, “I would say that any girl would be happy to have you as her boyfriend.” I thanked her for the compliment. Neither of us said anything for a minute or two. Then she asked asked where we were. Once again, I told her we were in Knoxville. This time I added, “And this is where our two children grew up. They were almost 3 and 1 when we moved here.” Sometimes she expresses surprise. Not this time. She just said, “What are their names?” From this point on we continued the conversation without any sign of her thinking I was her daddy. To me it was a good example of how easily her perceptions seemed to drift from one “reality” to another in such a short span of time.

A related example occurred when we had finished our meal. I asked if she wanted dessert. She said she was full and just couldn’t. I told her I felt the same way. Moments later the server approached the table and asked if we were ready for dessert. Kate said, “What do you have?” I knew then she had made a different decision, and, of course, I enjoyed the fudge brownie and ice cream with her. We’re living in the moment and loving it.

We Take So Much for Granted.

Most of the things we do during the course of an ordinary day we do without even thinking. We’ve learned to do what is appropriate in the vast majority of situations. We come to this through explicit and implicit training from parents, teachers, and everyone else around us. To be sure, the daily news is filled with the most egregious violations of customs or the law, but most of us abide by the norms most of the time. It’s through our rational ability that we learn to follow the rules for both big and little things.

As I have noted before, dementia robs a person of that rational ability. People with dementia often say or do things they would not have done prior to their disease. We generally understand this, but caregivers are always facing new things we didn’t expect. That happened to me tonight.

As Kate prepared for bed, she walked into the bathroom. She saw a tube of toothpaste, picked it up, lifted her arm, and motioning with hand signals asked if she should put it under her arms. I explained that it was for her teeth. Then I showed her the deodorant and told her that was for under her arms. Moments later I saw that she had put toothpaste on her neck.

Although I was surprised, Now that I have reflected a bit, I find her question understandable. This is a sign that she is reaching another stage of her Alzheimer’s. Things like brushing her teeth and using deodorant are regular habits that we do automatically. That is a strong habit for Kate and has lasted a long time, but even that is now fading away. Earlier in the day she had given me the same hand signals without lifting her arm. That time I correctly thought she was asking if she should brush her teeth. Like most habits that weaken, the process is usually a gradual one. I am sure I will see more of this in the future.

Light at the End of the Tunnel (The Cold, That Is)

Yesterday Kate got up around 7:30, went to the bathroom and back to bed. I was pleased when I noticed in the video cam that she was about to get out of bed at 9:00. I went to her and asked if she wanted to get up. She said she did. As usual, the first thing she asked was, “Where are my clothes?” I asked if she wanted to take a shower. She looked unsure. I told her I thought it would be a good idea. She asked where she could find the bathroom. She rarely remembers. I know that she finds one if I am not with her. She must walk around until she finds one.

I went to the kitchen after seeing that she got in the shower. It wasn’t long before I saw that she was out and getting into bed. It was still early, and I know that she likes to stay in bed after her shower so I let her stay there an hour or more. While she was resting, she had a coughing spell about ten minutes. She seemed to be getting along pretty well as she was dressing and on the way to lunch. I didn’t hear any signs of wheezing then or the rest of the day.

She also got along well while we were at the restaurant. She had her usual memory problems, but they seemed worse yesterday. It started with one of the pictures of Frank Sinatra on the restaurant walls. Over and over she asked his name, sometimes within seconds. It is virtually impossible for her to retain information. We had chatted for about twenty minutes when she said, “What is my name?” She followed that with “What is your name?” After I told her, I asked, “Do you think we’re connected?” She said, “Are we married?” This time she didn’t seem skeptical the way she usually does and didn’t say anything.

When we got home, I decided to show her a TCU video on YouTube. Her brother Ken had let me know about it last week. She was fascinated to see the campus as well as some parts of Fort Worth. Like the music videos, the one we watched was followed by many others that were similar. She was well entertained and never worked on her iPad that was in the chair beside her.

After forty-five minutes to an hour, she took a break. While she was in the bathroom, I put in a DVD of her father’s family movies from the mid-1930s to the early-1940s. She was enthralled and whimpered as she watched. We were watching on the TV in our bedroom. Almost an hour later, she got up and walked over to me. She was very teary. She said, “Would you lie down with me?” When we got on the bed, she said, “I love my family. <pause>  My aunts and uncles. They’re all gone now.” I asked if she wished I hadn’t shown the video. She said, “Oh, no. I am glad you did. It just makes me sad. I said, “You must be glad to know that we have this video to remind us of them.” She said she was. I wasn’t surprised. The family movies have always been treasured memories. Of course, for Kate and for the other relatives her age or slightly older, they aren’t memories because they were taken either before they were born or when they were quite young.

While we were talking, we got a call from our daughter Jesse. We had a nice conversation catching up on her family. Kate greeted her when she called and said goodbye when we hung up. She was glad Jesse had called, but she did not participate in our conversation.

We took a break to get a bite to eat before the Super Bowl. When we got home, she waited for me to lead her to the back of the house. I said, “Would you like me to lead the way?” She said, “I could do it, but I would feel better if you did.”

She worked on her iPad for a while. Then she was tired and went to bed. I helped her get undressed and in her night clothes. She seemed especially confused. I had to tell her what to do every step of the way.

She went to bed around 8:30. I continued watching the Super Bowl until it was over around 10:00. When I got in bed, I thought she was sleeping soundly. Then I heard her whimpering. Periodically, she was shaking. I asked what was wrong. She said, “I don’t know.” I asked if she were afraid of something. She said she wasn’t. I asked her what I could do to help. She said, “Just stay with me.” That’s what I did. I gently stroked her back and talked softly about the good things we have experienced during our marriage. It wasn’t long before she was asleep, and so was I.

As I look back on the day, I don’t think there was anything she did that she hasn’t done before. Nonetheless, she seemed more like someone with dementia than she has in the past. During the afternoon, I received a phone call from a friend about our going with them to a concert in Asheville the last of May. I told him I appreciated the invitation, but I was very unsure because of Kate’s recent decline. At this point, I don’t know what to expect by then.

Making Progress?

Kate was getting up on her own about 11:45 yesterday when I saw her on the video cam. I went to the bedroom and asked her how she was feeling. She looked puzzled and said, “Why do you ask?” I don’t think she thought she was sick. In fact, over the past nine days she has only recognized that she coughed and had to blow her nose and that, of course, only in the moment they happened. I had told her she had a cold, but she never remembered it. Day before yesterday, she definitely felt sick. That was when I heard her wheezing. I don’t believe she has had a conception of her being sick over a few days.

The good news is that I listened for her wheezing and didn’t hear anything. Then I asked her to take a deep breath and blow out through her mouth. She did that a couple of times. I still did not hear a wheeze. That made me feel a lot better. I didn’t want to see this advance to pneumonia. Of course, both of us have had the pneumonia shots, but we all know they don’t always work the way they are supposed to. Like many others, we had a light case of the flu last year even though we had the flu shot.

In addition to not wheezing, it was a good while before she coughed after getting up. Excluding her Alzheimer’s symptoms, she also seemed more normal. When I walked in she said, “Are you my daddy?” When I told her I was her husband, she couldn’t believe it. I decided it was best not to go into an explanation and suggested she take a shower. She asked where the bathroom was, and I took her. She took a long shower, dried off, and got back in bed.

After I got her up and helped her dress, she seemed fine. She wasn’t coughing. I decided to go out to lunch When I backed he car out of the garage, she coughed several times. Then I had doubts about going out. When she stopped, I decided to go ahead. Except for a couple of briefs coughs, she was fine at lunch.

Several times she asked where we were. Of course, she has been doing that for a long time. Now there is a new twist. When I tell her we are in Knoxville, Tennessee, she often asks, “What is Knoxville?” Then I explain that it is a city and that Tennessee is the state. It is only in the past few months that she has commonly asked this. It is another sign of the subtle changes that are constantly taking place. Mixed with her questions about our location, she also thought at times we were in Fort Worth. I suspected this on the way to lunch. She commented on remembering many things she saw along the way.

We came back home after lunch. When I got out of the car, she asked if she could help bring things in. I am sure she thought we were traveling and needed to unload the car. I told her I could get everything. Let me digress a moment.

(This is something new that I have mentioned before. Over the course of her Alzheimer’s, she has rarely asked if she could help me. In the past few weeks, she has asked if she could help me fold and put up the laundry, unload the dishwasher, and now unload the car. I also mentioned in a previous post that the other night she asked if there were anything she could do to help me. In that case, she was worried that I was carrying a heavy load and wanted to ease my burden. These may seem like very little things, but they are totally different from the norm the past ten years or so. She was letting me do things even before her diagnosis.)

She said she was tired and wanted to rest but brushed her teeth first. After brushing, she walked back to me in the kitchen. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to know what she could do next. That is a very common thing for her to do. I gave her the iPad and said she could sit in the family room and work puzzles, and I would be there in a minute. I went back to my computer. When I had finished what I was doing, she was walking out of the family room to the back of the house. I don’t believe she even sat down to work her puzzles. Shortly, I went back to one of the guest rooms where she was resting on the bed. She has definitely been more tired since catching her cold.

About two hours later, she came into the kitchen with her iPad under her arm and stood beside me. She didn’t say anything. This, too, is a very common experience. I knew that meant she wanted to get out of the house. We went to Barnes & Noble. We had been there fifteen minutes when Kate looked up at me and said, “I forgot they had this here.” I said, “What do you mean?” She pointed to her iPad and the puzzle she was working. By now I shouldn’t be surprised that she doesn’t recognize her own iPad, but I am. This was one of those times. I wonder what could have made her think it belonged to Barnes & Noble. This is similar to what frequently happens in restaurants. As we are about to leave, she often asks if the cup or glass is hers or belongs to the restaurant. It always makes me think about how she perceives the world. I simply can’t imagine how confusing for her it must be not to know where she is, what is hers, where we are going, and what she is supposed to do. There is so much I don’t understand. No wonder she gets confused.

We had another beautiful end to our day. I had chosen a YouTube video of choral music. In its cycle from one video to the next, we landed on a series of videos by a church choir. I didn’t see any identifiers as to what church or where it is located. I will have to check today. I do know that Kate was taken with everything they sang, and almost all their music was unfamiliar to either of us. She didn’t want me to stop the videos to go to bed. Finally, I turned them off and help her get ready to bed. I had to assure her that this was not a live concert we were watching, and we could pick where we left off tonight.

The Cold on Day 8

I am gaining a better perspective on the lives of other caregivers who deal simultaneously with dementia and other health issues at the same time. To be sure, I am getting only a small taste of what others live with, but it does reinforce what I have said before. Kate and I have been fortunate in many ways since her diagnosis. The fact that both of us have been healthy is one of those. Both of us have had colds before, but it is more challenging at this stage of her Alzheimer’s. In the past it was easier for her to manage her own care with limited help from me. The only thing she can do now is blow her nose and spit out the phlegm that accumulates in her throat.

Despite this, her cold has not been especially serious. Her cough is still infrequent. She coughed just after going to bed and didn’t cough again until 1:45. She coughed on and off for about fifteen minutes and stopped. I haven’t heard any coughing until a few minutes ago, and it is now 9:30. What I do hear is her nasal congestion, but it is not constant. I’ve mentioned the sensitivity of the audio from the video cam monitor. Depending on the volume of the music I am playing in the kitchen, I can hear her breathing. When she coughs, I can hear it over any of the music I might be playing.

Apart from the cough and nasal drippage, the only sign of how she feels is that she seems more tired than usual. As I mentioned in a previous post, she slept until 2:00 on Tuesday. Yesterday, I woke her up at noon because she had a massage at 2:00 and a haircut at 3:15. She got along fine. When we returned home, she rested an hour and a half before I got her up for dinner.

She had more trouble working her jigsaw puzzles last night. Part of her problem is visual. Even when there is only one piece left, she has a difficult time locating where to put it. Each puzzle is on a solid-colored background. When the pieces are scattered, the background color is displayed where the pieces go. Thus, when there is only one piece missing, there is a picture with a rather glaring space colored like the background. To any of us, it would be immediately obvious where the last remaining piece should go. It isn’t obvious to her at all. Even when I put my finger on the piece and then on the spot where it goes, she often doesn’t know where to put it. One additional problem that is easier to understand is that she sometimes puts a piece in place but not precisely in place. Kate can’t tell that, and the app does not indicate that the puzzle is complete. Then she calls me. I locate the piece that is causing the problem and push it into place. Then she goes on to the next puzzle.

When she started working her puzzles a few years ago, she chose those with 42 pieces. Over time, I have selected the number of pieces for her. I dropped the number to 25, then 16. I think it is time to go 9 pieces. That’s the fewest available with this particular app. I hope that it will be easier for her after her cataract surgery on February 12.

Signs of a Cold or Alzheimer’s?

Kate’s cold and accompanying cough continued yesterday. I believe it was somewhat, but not dramatically, improved. It’s been an interesting cold in that her symptoms have been pretty even over the course of the past week. She hasn’t had a fever, and she goes long periods (an hour or two or more) without coughing. She doesn’t go quite as long without blowing her nose, but that also comes and goes.

Her overall behavior, however, suggests she has not been herself. She has been more confused and dependent. She has had greater difficulty working her jigsaw puzzles. She has actually had moments when she didn’t know what she should do with pieces once they were scattered across the screen of her iPad. I don’t mean she didn’t know the exact place to put them; she didn’t know what to do at all. She has also had several hallucinatory experiences. Two of those were a week ago, and one occurred last night.

We stopped at a traffic light on our way home from dinner, and she said, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” This came out of the blue for me. I didn’t know what she might have been thinking and said, “What made you ask that?” She said, “You’ve been going through so much.” I was still confused but decided not to question her. I simply assured her that I was getting along well. I told her that she had always been my support, that she should just continue that. She appeared relieved.

As usual, she worked on her iPad after we got home from dinner. She couldn’t remember how to start, that is, to open the puzzle app. This was not the first time. I showed her as I have done before. Once it was open, I showed her the various options she could choose. I walked away, and she immediately ran into a problem. She hit an arrow at the top left of the screen that took her to the store instead of selecting one of the puzzle options that filled the rest of the screen. That, too, was not the first time, but it is becoming more frequent. When she went back to the puzzles, she worked them for about an hour. Our son called as she was getting started. She said hello with her usual enthusiasm, but then quickly returned to her puzzles. While I was on the phone, she asked me for help several times. Her attention was clearly on the puzzles and not the phone call from Kevin.

When I got off the phone, she wanted to get ready for bed. First, she walked over to me and expressed her concern about me. She made reference to “that man.” I asked if she meant Kevin. She didn’t, but she was unable to tell me who “that man” is. I did grasp that she was again worried about me and the load I am carrying. One might think she was talking about my role as a caregiver, but it was not. I got the distinct impression that it had something to do with my work or volunteer activities. Interestingly, they are minimal these days; however, I am sure hallucinatory experiences often relate to distant memories.

She was tired and went to bed a little earlier than usual. She had done the same the night before. I think this could be related to her cold. After thirty minutes or so, she appeared to be asleep. I joined her thirty minutes later. When I did, I discovered that she was awake and whimpering. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t (couldn’t?) explain but said, “The babies.” I told her I didn’t understand but wanted to help her. She went on to say, “I do want a baby, maybe two.” I mentioned our having had two babies who were now grown up. She was startled, not about having babies, but that she and I had babies. I told her I was her husband. She strongly denied it. I knew I needed to go in a different direction.

This was another time I felt explanations were irrelevant; she needed comfort. I told her just that and said, “I love you dearly, and I want to comfort you.” She said, “I know you do. I can tell by your voice that you’re not just saying that.” That began what may have been close to an hour of conversation during which she talked, and I gave supportive responses. I never fully understood what it was that prompted her worry. At one point, I asked her if she were afraid. She said she was. I was never able to discover why.

What I do know is that she thought she was young and unmarried. A couple of times she said, “I can have a child. I have one now.” One of those times she put both hands on her stomach as she said this. That may have meant she was carrying a child now. She also responded to me as if she knew I were her husband. I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me. Despite this, I don’t believe she ever recognized that I am her husband. I was just someone she felt very close to. She was very comfortable talking with me. Finally, she relaxed, and we both fell asleep.

It was a week ago yesterday afternoon that I noticed the first sign that she was getting sick. She coughed a few times, and it didn’t sound like a normal clearing of her throat. The next morning it was obvious she had a cold. It was that afternoon that she had an hallucination that involved our working in some kind of education project in another country. At the time I wondered if that could have been a side effect of the Robitussin DM or Zyrtec, the cold itself, or her Alzheimer’s.

One thing is clear. She has been noticeably different this week. I have eliminated the Robitussin and Zyrtec. I am left with the possibility of the cold itself or Alzheimer’s. At the moment, I believe Alzheimer’s is the primary cause and that the cold may have aggravated the situation. Time will tell.

A Day of Ups and Downs

It’s impossible for me to describe yesterday in a single word or phrase. A lot of things were going on. I believe and hope the overriding issue was Kate’s cold which had gotten worse during the previous night. The specific symptoms were, at least initially, her cough and her spitting up phlegm. In the middle of the night she had a coughing spell. She had been pretty much cough free during most of the day. I thought maybe lying down might be a problem and wanted to elevate her head with a larger pillow. It gave me my first glimpse of what it is like trying to help someone with Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t grasp instructions and gets more confused as you try to explain what you are doing or want her to do. It was a bit frustrating for both of us. This didn’t last long. It may have been less than thirty minutes. She and I went back to sleep.

A number of times I have mentioned ways in which Kate and I have been fortunate. One of those is that neither of us has had an illness that has made dealing with her Alzheimer’s more difficult. My experience that night gave me a sense of what some people deal with all the time. It also confirmed for me that as Kate continues her decline, I might very well want help during the night in order for me to get the sleep I need to care for her at other times.

I let her sleep yesterday morning. I felt that rest might be the best medicine. She awoke about 7:00, went to the bathroom and went back to bed. From the video cam I had noticed her getting out of bed and went to the bedroom. Her head was more stuffed up than the day before, but she was more clear-headed than usual.

About 11:00, I noticed she was stirring. I went to the bedroom. She seemed wide awake but relaxing in bed. I mentioned going to lunch and asked if she were ready to get up. She said she was. I didn’t push her. I let her take her time. She got her shower and got back in bed. I decided to forgo our usual lunch plans. At dinner the night before she coughed quite loudly a couple of times. I didn’t want to disturb anyone at our usual restaurant that is somewhat quiet and reasonably active on Sunday. I decided to get a quick lunch at Panera.

Before we were ready to leave, two things happened. First, Kate started coughing. Second, as I tried to get her dressed and take her medicine, I rushed her. I also had to correct her on several things. For example, it took a while for her to take her meds. She would take one and leave the others. I had to remind her several times she had more to take. Finally, she broke down. She said, “I just can’t do anything right.” She was also miffed at me for rushing her. Seeing a panic attack coming, I shifted into a more conciliatory style. That may have prevented a more serious attack, but it didn’t immediately stop her emotional reactions.

By this time, I felt it was best to get a to-go order at Panera and bring it back home. The two of us went in the car and brought our lunch back home. It was an interesting change. I think we have only eaten a meal at home two or three times in the past four or five years.

We had a very pleasant time at home between lunch and dinner. We relaxed in the family room while Kate worked on her iPad, and I read some autobiographical materials that a former roommate at TCU had sent me. Kate didn’t have any problem coughing and seemed to be getting along well.

I felt better about taking her out for dinner. We went to a small Mediterranean café near our home. I knew there wouldn’t be a crowd on Sunday night. Kate was very relaxed and talkative. Soon after we ordered, she said she was glad we had come back. She thought we were in Texas. I made no effort to correct her. She commented about the restaurant and liking it. Then she began to talk about “the girls” and also language differences. Pretty quickly I recognized she was having the same experience she had had a few days ago when she had her massage. At that time, I sensed that she was talking about being at a school in a foreign country. This time it started with a belief that we were in Texas. The rest of what she said was very similar in both experiences. One thing was different. The other day I speculated it might have been the cold medicine that was responsible. That was not true yesterday. She hadn’t had any.

Her remarks were not continuous. She didn’t constantly repeat the same things over and over, but she kept bringing them up as though she were continuing a conversation with me. This was something of a challenge. I didn’t want to tell her she was imagining everything. I also didn’t want to make up things to add. I simply acknowledged what she said and agreed. When she said “the girls are smart,” I said something like, “They really are.” This went on until after we were back home.

At home, Kate saw her iPad and said, “What’s this?” I told her and said she could work puzzles on it. She was confused about how to open the cover. I showed her. She said, “I hope I know how to do this.” She was confused about how to begin. I showed her and got the first puzzle up. She didn’t know what to do when the pieces were scattered. I ended up completing one puzzle myself just to show her. She worked them for a while before getting frustrated. I decided it might be time for some music therapy.

The previous night I received a phone call from another TCU friend and housemate. He follows my blog and is aware of our use of music videos on YouTube. He told me about a two choirs in Lincoln, Nebraska, that I might want to check out. One of those choirs is the Wartburg College Choir. After dinner last night, I found one of their videos of a concert tour in Germany in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It contains beautiful music along with correspondingly beautiful churches and other notable sites. It was a wonderful way to end our day. It was like having an hour-long period of meditation.

As I helped her into bed, she said, “Richard, it’s been a frustrating day. <pause> I’m so frustrated.” I assured her that she could count on me to help her. We didn’t say anything more. This was one more reminder that Kate still recognizes that she has a problem even if she doesn’t know what it is or where it leads.

Something Unexpected

Every caregiver knows many of the daily tasks are routine. Along with those are a few unexpected things. They can be uncomfortable. We had one of those yesterday afternoon. As I have noted before, one side effect of Aricept is diarrhea. We have controlled that with an antidiarrheal. That has worked well. In the past few days, however, I’ve had the impression that Kate might be experiencing a little constipation. I’ve asked her about it, and she said she wasn’t. I have learned that she is often wrong about things like this. With that in mind, I decided to skip her antidiarrheal night before last.

Yesterday afternoon she had a minor problem with loose stools just as we were about to leave for her massage. She wanted me to show her where the bathroom is. I was surprised when we got there. She wanted me to tell her what to do. I showed her the toilet. She didn’t recognize it. I explained that she had to lift the lid. She was quite puzzled, so I lifted it for her, told her to drop her pants, and sit down. She said, “It’s got a hole in it.” I told her they were made that way so that one could urinate and defecate through it. Once she was on the toilet, I left her.

Very shortly, she called me. When I got to her, we were both upset, but for different reasons. I felt terrible about not giving her the antidiarrheal and thought she was upset about her accident. In the process of helping her, I discovered that she was upset about something totally unrelated.

This was one of those times that she began to talk as though we had been involved in something together. Thus, she thought I would understand what she was talking about. For me, it was like walking into an ongoing conversation and trying to figure out what in the world she was talking about.

What I heard first was, “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault. I’m sorry to get you involved.” I felt bad and said, “It wasn’t your fault at all. It was all my fault.” She said, “Well, we both wanted to do the right thing.” As she continued talking, I got an entirely different, though never clear, understanding of what she was talking about. It was when she said, “I really wanted to help these people” that I understood that she wasn’t thinking about her diarrhea. It turns out that she imagined (my word, not hers) that she was working in some kind of overseas program helping the poor. I knew from past experience that it makes no sense to ask questions for clarification. That never works. It was better for me to play along as though I understood exactly what she was saying and why.

She continued to feel she had done something wrong. I tried to change her focus. I suggested that we both were trying to do something right and that things don’t always go the way you want them to go. She accepted that but never fully calmed down before we got to the spa for her massage. As soon as we were inside and saw her massage therapist, she looked somewhat calm, but tired.

After her massage, she and the therapist came out to the lobby. Kate was telling her therapist about this project she was working on. She mentioned how much the people need help and that they were smart. She expressed the importance of the project. I let her finish, and we turned around to leave.

As we walked out the door, she said to me, “My husband is working on it too. And he is really patient and can relate to them.” She continued telling me about her husband until we reached the car. I opened the car door, and she got in her seat. Then I leaned down to connect her seat belt, and she recognized me and said, “Oh, Richard, do you know him?” I told her I did. She said, “He’s a really nice guy. What’s his name?” I told her I didn’t know.

This may be a good place to interject that until she started talking about this project before we left home, she had seemed quite “clear-headed.” She hadn’t been especially talkative, but she seemed to know me as her husband and used my name several times. She has imagined things quite a few times over the past several years, but this talk about the “project” came on so suddenly that I was surprised.

She talked about the project all the way home. It was clear that my earlier thought was correct. She was talking about some kind of educational program in a foreign country. The only thing I can imagine that might have prompted this delusion is our experiences with two different trips with Overseas Adventure Travel. One was to Tanzania, the other to Peru and Ecuador. OAT has schools in both places and always takes its groups to visit them.

When we got home, she wanted to use the bathroom. When she came out of the bathroom, she asked me what she should do. I suggested that she work on her iPad in the family room, and I would join her. I put on some music and we relaxed there for an hour before going to dinner.

When we returned to the house, she worked puzzles on her iPad. I’ve mentioned previously that she is having greater difficulty working her puzzles. Last night she seemed especially confused. She couldn’t figure out how to work her puzzles and wanted me to work them for her. That seemed a bit strange, but she has wanted me to do that a few times in the past. I soon discovered that she did that because she thought we were choosing a puzzle to frame it and give to someone. She had a specific person in mind, but she couldn’t tell me who. She said it was somebody I had told her about. She wanted me to show her how to do the puzzles herself, but I tried in vain to teach her. I focused heavily on trying to get her to recognize the edge pieces, especially the corners. As hard as I tried, she never grasped it.

 

The good thing was that I was able to make her feel better. She thanked me profusely for helping her. She said I was the only one who recognized that she was smart. She commented specifically on the trouble she was having at that moment and the fact that she didn’t seem the way she usually is. That is one more sign of things that she is able to sense while being so seemingly “out of touch” with reality. The more she said, the more I began to think that she might be experiencing a reaction to Robitussin and/or Zyrtec. She started coughing night before last. I called her doctor yesterday morning. She suggested both of these medications. I told Kate about my suspicion and did not give her the evening dose.

I have since done a little exploration of the side effects of Robitussin and found that diarrhea is one of them. That could mean that my not giving her the antidiarrheal the night before may not be the cause of yesterday’s accident. I also noticed that I bought Robitussin-DM. When I did a search on dementia and Robitussin, I found something on the Alzheimer’s Association website that indicated that “DM” is contraindicated for people taking Namenda. That is one of Kate’s medications. Kate’s doctor had suggested either Robitussin or Mucinex. I think I will switch to the latter today.

Because she was having so much trouble, I got Kate to put away her iPad for the night and loaded Les Misérables in the DVD player. She watched intently for the next hour and didn’t want to stop for bed.

She slept through the night though she is coughing a little bit this morning. She is still in bed, and I am using my new video cam to check on her. I have discovered that the audio is particularly effective. After her first cough, I went to the bedroom. She coughed again, but it didn’t sound nearly as bad hearing it directly.

Today the sitter is supposed to come at 1:00. I am going to call the agency as soon as they open and cancel. I want to be able to monitor how well she is doing throughout the day.

Confusion and Something New

Yesterday Kate and I had a nice day although it began with her not knowing that I am her husband. She got up on her own after I had played about fifteen minutes of soft music. My video cam alerted me to the fact that she was getting up. I went back to the room where she greeted me very normally. She asked about her clothes, and I told her they were on the chair beside the bed. As I helped her up from the bed, she said, “Are you my daddy?” I told I was her husband. She was surprised but did not seemed especially disturbed, just confused that she didn’t know/remember that. I decided not to make an issue of it and walked her to the bathroom where she took a shower. On the way she asked again if I were her daddy. When I said I wasn’t, she asked, “Where is he?” I said, “Texas.” She said, “Where are we?” I told her we were in Knoxville, Tennessee where we live. She looked puzzled but did not say anythng more. After her shower, I helped her get dressed. This was one of those times she wanted to do things herself but kept asking for my help.

I don’t recall our talking again about my being her husband until we were at lunch. She was in a playful mood and teased me a bit. In response to that, I said, “I would marry you again if I could.” She reacted as though that would be terrible. I said, “You wouldn’t like that?” She gave me a look that I interpreted as “Are you kidding?” Then I said, “We could just keep on living together.” She reacted quickly with a disapproving look and said, “I’m surprised you would even say that. What would your mother say?” Isn’t it interesting how powerful such feelings are?  This is coming from deep within the recesses of her mind.

In the course of our conversation I mentioned our children. She asked their names and wanted me to tell her something about them. We never got back to talking directly about my being her husband, but it became clear that she recognized that and was happy about it.

I think I have mentioned that she is sometimes confused about the words she wants to use. Sometimes she uses a word that is obviously the wrong one. Often she recognizes it is wrong and will say, “You know what I mean.” Sometimes I do know. Sometimes I don’t and say so. Other times I say I know when I don’t and hope that when she says more, I will understand.

Yesterday I was surprised when something new happened. She didn’t understand the meaning of two words I used in our conversation. The first occurred when I said that someone we saw at another table looked like a student. She said, “What’s that?” I helped her understand by reminding her (she doesn’t remember) of the time she was teacher. It wasn’t long before she asked me what the men at the next table were talking about. I told her I didn’t know, but it looked like they were businessmen. She said, “What’s that?” Then I explained what a business is.

The night before she asked the wife of the couple we had dinner with what the child at a nearby table was holding. She told Kate that it was a phone. Kate asked what she was doing with it. She explained that the child was probably playing a game. I suspect part of Kate’s not understanding what the child was doing relates to her eyesight. I can’t tell how much relates to her Alzheimer’s and how much is a result of the cataract in her left eye.

Twice yesterday afternoon, she saw her iPad and asked me what it was. I told her it was her iPad, and she said, “What do you do with it?” I told her she could work jigsaw puzzles on it and opened the program for her. She continues to be able to work her puzzles, but it is getting more difficult for her. It is like many other abilities. Sometimes she gets along fine. Other times she runs into problems.

All of these things signal how much her world and mine are changing. I can’t help wondering what life will be like six months from now but not really wanting to know.

Follow-Up to Yesterday’s Shaky Start

As Kate had wanted, I went back to the bedroom to wake her about 10:30. Although she was sound asleep, she woke up easily. I reminded her that she had asked me to wake her, something I don’t recall her doing before. (I jumped on that opportunity.) She was a little groggy but got right up with a little help. I walked her into the bathroom for her shower and turned on the water. As she took off her night gown, she asked my name. I gave her my name but didn’t mention that I am her husband. She didn’t ask.

When she finished her shower, she asked if she could lie down a little bit. I told her that would be fine. She asked me to come back and get her up. I came back about twenty minutes later. She got up willingly and asked about her clothes. I picked them up from the chair where I had put them earlier and put them beside her on the bed. I gave her a bra and said, “Let’s start with this.” She looked at it strangely. I explained that she could put it on over her head just like putting on a top. I told her it was easier than most bras. She looked at me and said, “How do you know so much about bras?” I chuckled and told her that I had observed her having some difficulty with her other bras that fasten in back and went online to find something easier. I found a company that makes clothing for seniors and ordered several of them.

Although she asked my name off and on throughout the day, she seemed to know that I am her husband. Again, I didn’t ask, but we did talk about her parents and our children. We relaxed at home in the family room after lunch. About forty-five minutes passed. Then she asked, “What is your full name?” I told her. She asked me to repeat it. I did and said, “I’m your ‘Hubby.’” She laughed, not in a way that suggested she didn’t believe but just the opposite.

She continued to work on her iPad for at least another hour before deciding to rest. I thought that was a good idea since we were going to an opera (Tosca) last night and would get home late. This was only the second time in about a year that we have attended an evening event this late. All the music nights at Casa Bella begin at 6:00 and end around 8:30. The opera started at 7:30. We didn’t get to bed until 11:30. That’s a good bit later than our normal routine.

I had been looking forward to the opera and enjoyed it; however, Kate’s experience and mine were quite different. We bumped into a number of people in the lobby we have known from various places around town. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but I think it was a bit overwhelming for Kate. She didn’t appear to recognize anyone. Fortunately, each of the encounters was brief. We were seated beside and behind people we knew. Kate talked with them at the intermission.

When it was over, she was eager to get home. She said she hadn’t been able to understand anything and had “just tuned out.” She said she enjoyed the music but didn’t know what was going on. That fit with my impression during the performance. Several times she responded enthusiastically to a number of the arias. Often she is able to enjoy various performances whose plot she can’t grasp. That happens when she can enjoy the characters or situations in which they are involved. That wasn’t the case last night. In two weeks we are going to see the Live in HD at The Met’s production of Carmen. That will be a good test. If she doesn’t enjoy that, live opera may soon be a thing of the past, not because of the music but a lack of understanding of the plot. I am hopeful that she will continue to enjoy opera night at Casa Bella for quite a while. In that case, the focus is on the music itself.