Life is Different for Us Now, and It’s More Than Covid-19

It is Thursday, three days since my previous post. Some of my readers have let me know they wonder if something is wrong when I miss a day or two. I usually say that I have been busy and that we haven’t experienced any significant problems. That answer doesn’t fit this time.

I have been busy, but a good bit of that has involved problem-solving with Kate. She hasn’t been her normal self. It seems to be an escalation of the problems surrounding her sleeping late. It’s not just the sleeping that is the problem. She has been more confused. She frequently thinks she is not in her own house. Now, however, it seems that she typically believes she is somewhere else. I don’t believe there was a time yesterday when she realized she was at home.

It’s not just home that she doesn’t recognize. She is also having more trouble recognizing me as her husband. It’s ironic that she is simultaneously remembering my name more than she has in a long time. That provides me with a certain amount of comfort although she frequently asks, “Where is my husband?” or says, “I wish Frank were here.” That was especially true yesterday. Before I tell you about that, I need to follow up on our very busy day Sunday. It will be easy to summarize.

You will recall that she was up early on Sunday and very active. She wasn’t agitated, but she was awake all but a very brief time during the entire day. She slept well that night and was wiped out the next day. I made an effort to get her up for lunch before the sitter came. That was a lost cause. I decided to let her sleep/rest as long she wanted. I finally got her up for dinner at 5:45.

She didn’t want to come to the table. I set up a card table and folding chairs in the bedroom, and we ate our dinner. She was still tired after dinner and wanted to go to bed. She slept well. When she woke up on Tuesday, she was back to normal. We had a good day. That brings us to yesterday.

Kate got up about 6:45. I don’t recall her ever getting up so early in years except for a bathroom break. I was in the kitchen when I looked at the video cam. She was starting to make up the bed. When I went to her, I found that she seemed wide awake. I offered to take her to the bathroom. She didn’t want to go. She also didn’t want to get dressed. She wasn’t irritated with me. She just didn’t want to do these things. She was somewhat like she had been on Sunday. She felt there were things she needed to do.

I had taken my plate of scrambled eggs with me to the bedroom. She saw them and said, “That looks good.”  I told her I could make some for her. She liked the idea, and we went to the kitchen.

Throughout the entire day, she kept “losing” me. In most instances, I was very near her at the time. She just didn’t see or recognize me. This first occurred as I walked ahead of her from the bedroom to the kitchen, she lost me a couple of times and asked where I was. She didn’t seem terribly upset, but she was relieved when she saw me. This continued at the table while I was getting her breakfast of apple juice, strawberries, grapes, and scrambled eggs. She ate every bite. I was pleased because she hasn’t wanted eggs in a long time. I’m glad to have a more nutritious option for blueberry muffins.

It was also a day when she didn’t recognize me as her husband nor that she was in our home. She was especially surprised when I started to load the dishwasher. She acted like I was her guest and said she would do it later.

Several times she said, “Where is your brother?” I told her Birmingham. She said, “Why is he there?” One time she said, “When is he coming?” This surprised me as she hasn’t said anything about my brother in a long time. I can’t imagine what prompted her to remember him.

After breakfast, she was tired and wanted to rest. I suggested she get dressed first and then rest in the family room. She accepted my suggestion and slept almost an hour, much less time that I expected given that she was up so early. Since I had missed my morning walk, I took advantage of the time and took it then (inside the house, of course).

The next surprise was that she started to get up after she was awake. Normally, she would continue to rest and only get up when I suggest that we do something together. I asked her where she was going. She said she didn’t know. That’s when I suggested that I come over to the sofa and look at one of her photo books with her. She agreed.

I picked up a photo book and sat with her. She didn’t know who I was and asked my name. I told her, and she wanted to know our relationship. I told her I was her husband. This was a time when I shouldn’t have been honest. She was bothered by not knowing. I told her I didn’t mean to upset her. She said she wanted me to be honest. She went on to say she was not herself. I told her I recognized that. She wanted to know why she was this way. She said, “It’s not just my memory. I don’t know how to do things.” I said, “That must be scary.” She said, “It is.’

She wasn’t as interested in going through the photos as she usually is. That led me to go in a different direction. I started to give her a tour of the living and dining rooms. We passed by a photo of our twin grandchildren. She enjoyed seeing them. Then I showed her a pitcher with a note from her mother that said it had been a gift from her father to his mother and that she had kept in her living room many years and was to go to Kate who could pass it along to our daughter Jesse. Kate was moved by this. From there we went to the living room. I showed her a cabinet with eighteen porcelain dolls. Her father had given them to her mother for anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions. At this point, she got very emotional and indicated this was too much for her. I suggested we eat lunch. I fixed her a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a salad with chicken for me. She sat at the table while I prepared the meal. Several times, she said, “Where is he?” Each time, I walked to her and said, “I am right here. I wouldn’t leave you.” She was very relieved each time.

After lunch, we went back to the family room to look at photo books again. That’s what we were doing when the sitter arrived. Kate was still confused. I decided not to abruptly  get up and leave. Mary had brought her lunch and ate it in the kitchen while we continued to look at family pictures. When Mary finished, she came back to the family room and took a chair across the room. Finally, I told Kate I thought I would take a walk around the neighborhood and asked if that would be all right. She said that would be fine, and I slipped out.

I was gone forty minutes. I expected to see Kate asleep on the sofa. Instead, she was still looking at her photo book. That is very unusual. She always likes to nap after lunch. In addition, I don’t remember a time when she spent that long looking at photo books by herself. It makes me think that she was trying to find something that would jog her memory.

More importantly, she was more confused than when I left. She looked at me with a flash of recognition but was puzzled. I think she recognized me as someone she knows but not as her husband. I sat down with her and went through the book giving her information about the people she in the book. Several times she asked my name and relationship. I told her, but she didn’t express any great emotion.

I could tell rather quickly that she needed something to divert her and thought of her father’s family movies that had been transferred to DVDs. I mentioned them to her, and she was interested. We went back to the bedroom where I put in one of the DVDs. The part we watched was shot around the mid-to-late 1930s, so the quality of the film is poor. The sound that accompanies them was made by Kate’s father, mother, and two cousins as they watched the films we watched. That helped us identify most of the people. That is especially important for the children we have only known as adults. Kate was immediately taken by what she saw. We watched for an hour before ordering a takeout meal for dinner.

During the film, Kate periodically said, “Where is my husband?” Each time I said, “I am right here.” She experienced immediate relief and then asked the same question again. It was a bit frustrating for both of us, she because she didn’t know where I was and didn’t recognize me as her husband, I because no matter what I said I could give her only momentary comfort.

We went through this same routine at dinner. After we finished, she was tired and ready for bed. She was still awake when I joined her two hours later. She didn’t ask about her husband, but I could tell by the way she responded to me that she didn’t believe I was he.

My Busiest Day

From time to time, I’ve said I wish my memory would allow me to report more clearly the things that Kate and I experience while “Living with Alzheimer’s.” That has never been truer than the following account of what happened yesterday. The best I can do is to sketch what happened without the full details that would enable you to get a better feeling for what it was like.

It is unusual for Kate to get up during the night, but the day began at 1:00 a.m. when Kate said she wanted to go to the bathroom. We took care of that without any difficulty and returned to bedroom. I don’t think either of us was awake too long after that.

At 5:00, Kate was awake again and said, “What do we do now?” I told her it was early and that it would be good to go back to sleep. I think she did. I know I did and woke up for good about 6:15.

I had just finished combing my hair when she came to the bathroom door. She was looking for something. She had already gone to the hallway and family room just outside our bedroom and turned on the lights. I don’t remember what she said, but she had the impression that guests were coming to the house, and she needed to prepare for them. Typically, when she gets up, she is a little groggy. This time she seemed awake and on a mission.

I suggested that she use the toilet so long as she was there, and she agreed. Then she said, “What now?” I told her it was still early and that going back to bed would be a good idea. She was very compliant, and I got her back to bed. I went back to the bathroom to shave and then got dressed.

I had finished my breakfast and was about to take my walk when I heard her call. I went to the bedroom and found her ready to get up for the day. She was concerned about the guests who were coming and wanted to make sure the house was in order. I got her dressed and invited her to breakfast. I had a fruit muffin left over from our takeout meal the night before and heated it in the microwave for her. Although she said she was interested in joining me for breakfast, it was difficult to get her to the table. It was another example of the passive aggressive response she has given when I wanted her to get up, and she wanted to stay in bed. As she has done in those cases, she hears me but ignores me.

I heated her muffin in the microwave and invited her to the table. She said she was coming, but she didn’t come to the kitchen. Instead, she walked around the house looking over things to see if they were in order. She keeps some of the paper doilies she picks up from one of the restaurants we visit regularly on her dresser in our bedroom. Before leaving the bedroom, she meticulously rearranged them along with a hairbrush. She continued this effort in the family room and kitchen.

It took several requests before she sat down. I was both puzzled and frustrated that she didn’t come right away. Ultimately, she came, but she only ate a portion of her muffin and some sliced peaches.

From the time she got up, she was concerned about being ready for our guests. She didn’t seem to know anything about them. She repeatedly asked me their names and what time they were coming. I told her she had plenty of time as they weren’t coming for two or three hours. She expressed mild initial relief. Then she completely forgot and started her questions again.

Kate was much more talkative, and her aphasia was evident. I had great difficulty understanding much of what she said. That was true the entire day.

When it became clear that she was not going to finish her breakfast, I suggested we spend time together in the family room. I got her to take a seat beside me on the sofa and picked up her “Big Sister” album that her brother had given her two years ago. We spent a long time with it, and the distraction worked beautifully. She forgot about our guests and getting ready for their arrival.

Our daughter called while we were looking through the album. Kate talked a lot, and Jesse was able respond appropriately. By that, I mean that she only made facilitative responses to Kate’s sometime unintelligible comments. That kept Kate going. I was happy because Kate was enjoying herself.

It was soon time for lunch. I wanted something quick and easy and chose the Brunswick stew I had purchased late last week. We had a pleasant lunch, and she wanted to rest. I was surprised she hadn’t rested during the morning because she had gotten less sleep the night before and assumed she would rest a long time.

She didn’t rest long before she seemed wide awake. We spent more time with photo books. She was getting along quite well. I told her I wanted to show her something in the living room. I am beginning to sound like a tour guide, as I take her through all of the items that were in her parents’ home. I don’t think that was the key at all, but she was very moved by everything I showed her. It was a moving experience for her.

When we finished the tour, we sat on the sofa. She was very emotional and said, “I feel so good. I can’t remember having a day so good.” She repeated this with variations for a few minutes. It was a special moment for me as well. We still had time before dinner, and she was tired and wanted to rest.

I took that opportunity to get on my laptop and sit in a chair directly across from the sofa where she was resting. I wanted to write this post. I had a second thought and decided I would send an email to Jesse and Kevin to let them know that we were having such a good day. I also thought that would provide a good start for writing a blog post.

I didn’t get far before Kate was finishing her brief rest. That made me think about getting something for dinner. I told Kate I would be in the kitchen and would call her when it was ready. While I was in the kitchen, she got up and started wandering around the family room. She called to me. (Yes, she used my name and did so most of the day.) I found her attempting to disconnect the router. She had already unplugged the cable that powers her lift chair. I told her not to touch the router and attempted to explain while knowing she could not understand. This was a frustrating moment because I had been heating some bean soup that had overflowed on the stove top.

I went back to the kitchen. She called again. She was working on the router. I reminded her that she should not touch it. I left for the kitchen. As I was cleaning up the mess, she called again. She had forgotten about not touching the router. I reiterated how important it was to stay away from it and suggested she come into the kitchen with me.

She wanted to help me, but I couldn’t figure out anything useful for her to do. She wandered around the kitchen picking up things. I keep a stack of bills and other communication that deserve attention on my desk. She separated those and arrange them on the desk.

She was back in the family room when I put the food on the table and called her to dinner. She said she was coming but didn’t. I went to her and told her the food was ready, and she could join me. I went back to the table, but she didn’t come. I tried another time and she came.

She was very talkative. It began when she look at something across from her and thought it was a person. Some of her comments were addressed to her and some to me. She talked and talked, but she wasn’t eating. Her aphasia was active. I couldn’t understand much of what she said.

I began to think she might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). I called her doctor’s office. No one answered, not even the answering service. I tried to contact the nearest urgent care center. They had closed for the day. I called Virginia, Kate’s brother’s wife. She is a retired pharmacist with a good knowledge of health and medical issues. I wanted advice on how to proceed. She said she would probably go to a 24-hour urgent care center if one were available. I looked and didn’t find one in our area.

I went back to the table where Kate was still sitting quietly in front of her food. I decided to give her a breakfast bar. She was very calm, nothing like she had been minutes before. That made me think it was not a UTI but Alzheimer’s that was causing the problem.

I cleaned up, and we went back to the bedroom where I got her ready for bed. She had a little difficulty knowing what she should do next and understanding what I told her, but that is normal. She was in bed rather quickly, and I put on an Andre Rieu concert from Maastricht. She relaxed and listened to the music. Nothing eventful happened after that. When I got in bed a couple of hours later, she was either awake or I waked her. She was as loving an affectionate as usual.

It was quite a day. I didn’t get my walk. I didn’t check email. I didn’t write a blog post. The possibility of a UTI was disturbing on a Sunday evening. I have often said that when Kate is happy, I am happy. The converse is also true. We had quite a mixture of happy and disturbed yesterday. I was up with her, and I was down with her. On the other hand, a large part of the day was as good a day as it can be including the end of it. I am very grateful for those “Happy Moments.” They offset the difficulties encountered the rest of the day.

Another Successful Experience with Music

The first time I looked to music for therapeutic purposes with Kate was over eight years ago. We were getting ready to attend a concert by the Knoxville Symphony. Kate was very slow getting dressed. I reminded her several times that we needed to leave right away. This was not long after her diagnosis, and I hadn’t learned how important it is not to rush her. She had a panic attack. That meant I had to calm her. That helped, but she was still experiencing the attack when we got to the car. The first thing I did was put on the second movement of Brahms’ Violin Concerto. It’s a very peaceful movement, and I hoped that might calm her. It worked. After that, I developed a short playlist of the second movements of violin concertos of Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky. We never had another severe panic attack, but she did have milder ones.

That playlist came in handy, and it motivated me to select a broad range of music to play in the car wherever we went. I still play music anytime we are in the car, and I’m careful to select music she especially likes. From there I expanded music at home. Now I rely on it all the time, and I am always discovering new applications. One of those occurred yesterday.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic is affecting everyone. I had been to the grocery store to get a few things in case we weren’t able to eat out. I returned home an hour after the sitter arrived. Although I knew I might run into trouble, I came back just to unload the groceries, some of which needed to be refrigerated or frozen.

As I walked into the kitchen, I saw that Kate was lying on the sofa with her eyes open. I felt I couldn’t leave without speaking to her. I sat down beside her and saw that she was disturbed. I asked what was wrong. She said, “I don’t know. I’m just not myself.” I talked to her very calmly for a few minutes but could tell this was going to take more time.

I told the sitter she could go and turned on “Send in the Clowns” sung by Barbra Streisand. This song has long been one of Kate’s favorites. It is usually very soothing. Not this time. It is a sad song, and, for the first time, she felt the sadness as opposed to the song’s beauty. I knew she needed something much lighter and thought of “A Bushel and a Peck” by Doris Day. I sometimes use this when I am trying to get her up in the morning. She recognized the song very quickly, and the two of us sang it together. She became more cheerful. We, accompanied by Doris, sang it two more times.

This had been successful but had only taken a few minutes. She and I sing together, at least for brief periods, periodically, but it is usually in the car. I decided it might be good if we sang more and streamed a 3-disc album of 100 children’s songs. We started with “The Alphabet Song.” Then we moved to the “Eensy, Weensy Spider.” For the next hour we sang songs we hadn’t heard since our own children were young, some not since we we were children ourselves. They included songs like “Polly-Wolly-Doodle,” “If You’re Happy,” “ The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” “Bingo,” “This Old Man,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Old McDonald,” “Do Lord,” “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,” and many others. We must have sung 30-40 of the 100 and had a great time.

Music is powerful. It has saved us many times, and is always a source of great pleasure.

I May Not Understand It, But a Lot Is Going On in Kate’s Brain.

Over the past three days, Kate has displayed a variety of symptoms that illustrate how active her brain is even if it isn’t working the way it is supposed to. It began Friday morning when she experienced the kind of fright that kept her in bed all day a couple of times in the last three weeks.

Based on the previous experiences, I decided I would be more relaxed this time. When she said she didn’t want to get up, I lay down in bed and talked with her a few minutes. I had already put on some music. She liked it and asked me not to talk so that she could hear it. We listened a little while, and she began to perk up. That made me think getting her up might be easy. I was wrong. She told me she was scared. When I asked what she was scared of, she said she didn’t know. I remained in bed until she appeared to be asleep. Then I took a seat in a chair beside the bed.

I decided not to worry about our having lunch together. The sitter could do that. Half an hour before the sitter arrived, I told Kate the sitter was coming and wondered if she would rather that I or the sitter help her get up for the day. She said she would prefer that I do it. That was two hours from the time I had started to wake her.

She was able to get up without a problem and was ready when Cindy arrived. Kate thought I was going with them and gave me a disapproving look when I told her I wasn’t, but she didn’t say anything. I helped her into Cindy’s car, and they were off.

We went to a different pizza place that night. The hostess asked if we wanted a table or booth. Kate has been having trouble sliding across the seat of a booth, so I requested a table. Before we sat down, Kate said she didn’t like the table and pointed to a nearby booth. That’s the first time I recall her indicating a preference. I went back to the hostess stand and asked for that booth.

I almost always take her to the bathroom at home before going out but had not done so this time. Right after the server took our order, Kate wanted to go to the restroom. I asked the hostess if it was a restroom for one-person knowing that is better in terms of my going with her. She said it had three stalls. I discretely explained that Kate has Alzheimer’s, and I like to help her. She checked and found no one was in there. She said she would watch for anyone else who might want to use it. I accompanied her, and all went well. I was relieved. I feel much better when we can take care of toileting at home.

Back at our booth, Kate was concerned someone was out to get her. I asked who, but she didn’t know. She didn’t say anything more and quickly forgot. The balance of the day went well.

At 2:30 Saturday morning, she woke up and wanted to know what she should do. I told her it was the middle of the night, that she had no obligations and could relax and go back to sleep. We went through a number of variations on the same question and answer for about fifteen minutes before she went back to sleep.

At 5:00, she was awake again and wanted to go to the bathroom. I got up to help her, but she changed her mind. We talked for a short time before we were both asleep. We were going to a luncheon following a funeral mass for someone we know from our music nights at Casa Bella. I was concerned that I might have difficulty getting her ready. She surprised me as I began my morning walk. I saw that she was getting up. I went to her and found that she was wide awake. We made a trip to Panera and returned home where she rested.

While resting, she chuckled a good bit. When I asked what was so funny, she said, “You know.” A little later, she said, “Don’t you like the ‘try.’” I had no idea what was so funny or what she meant by “try.” Her confusion with words is getting worse. The easiest one for me to understand is “shows” for shoes. Sometimes she uses “shows” for socks.

I was a little concerned about the luncheon because I expected a crowd of people she wouldn’t know. That turned out not to be a problem. We were seated with two people we have known for a long time. Of course, Kate did not remember them, but she handled things well. She did ask a lot of questions that were obvious signs of her memory problems. These involved asking the name of the restaurant several times while sitting with the daughter of the woman whose mother opened the restaurant eighty years ago. We have been sitting her three nights a month for six years. The people at our table were very understanding.

It was very noisy. At first, that startled Kate, but she quickly adapted. When we left, she said she had enjoyed it. I was surprised because it was just the kind of situation I try to avoid because it can be so hard for her.

When we returned home, she wanted to rest again. After a while, I noticed that she was uneasy. I asked if there was anything I could do to help her. She said there was and began a lengthy conversation similar to others we have had. She was worried about a young man. She said that I know him, but she couldn’t think of his name. I tried guessing. That didn’t help.

What I learned was that she wanted to offer some financial help to this man. As she talked, she moved from talking about this specific man to a program to help promising boys and girls who did not have the financial resources to enable them to continue their education after high school.

She wanted my advice. This was very much like a recent middle-of-the-night conversation. She talked about helping people in her hometown of Fort Worth and was concerned about locating young people and a person or organization to administer the program. I gave her several ideas, and she asked if I would coordinate everything. I agreed, and she felt better about.

There is more, but I will continue in another post.

Something Old, Something New

For the past few years, Kate as worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad while I watched the evening news. Now that she is less able to work her puzzles, we are trying to adapt. Without her iPad, she has little to do in the evening. When we return home from dinner, I usually ask if she would like to work on her puzzles. Sometimes she does; sometimes she doesn’t.

Last night, she asked if there was something she could read. What she was really asking is “What can I do now?” I always mention her puzzles, one of her family photo books, watch the news with me, or watch musical performances on YouTube. Last night, she said she wanted to work puzzles. I brought her iPad to her, but she changed her mind. Then I handed her the “Big Sister” album her brother Ken had made for her. This has been a big success since he gave it to her almost two years ago.

As she looked at it, she said, “What do I do?” I told her she could look through it and enjoy the many pictures of her and Ken and their family. She didn’t understand. (This is an experience that happens frequently now. For example, it happens when I give her the toothbrush to brush her teeth. Sometimes it occurs when I open the car door for her.) I tried to explain by commenting on several pictures.

This turned out to be one of those times when she thinks her photo book works like her iPad. She touches a photo and waits for something to happen. Once or twice I have observed her looking at other albums or magazines and doing the same thing. In those instances, she didn’t seem bothered by the fact that nothing happened. That wasn’t true last night. She wanted me to help her, but I found that an impossible task. Nevertheless, she was interested, and I really wanted to help her.

I told her the first thing to know was that touching the picture won’t do anything. I explained that she should just look at a picture and enjoy what she sees. I gave her a chance to try it. She immediately touched a photo and waited for something to happen. I reminded her that nothing would happen. I knew my efforts were likely to fail, but I spent about ten minutes trying to teach her how to enjoy the photos.

Finally, I suggested that we turn on the TV and pull up some Andre Rieu concerts on YouTube. That turned out to be a winner. Music came to the rescue again. I didn’t get to watch the news, but I took my shower and watched with her. We spent almost two and a half hours with Andre. It turned out to be a good evening after all.

As useful as some of the old tools in my box can be, it’s always nice to have new things I can add. Last week, I saw an ad on Facebook that said the company could compile a book of the photos I had posted over the past decade. The idea intrigued me, and I made the purchase immediately. The book arrived on Monday, and I was looking for the right moment to show it to Kate. Yesterday afternoon was a good time. She has rested about two hours, and it was still too early for us to do to dinner. I told her I had something to show her, and we both took a seat on the sofa. It’s a big book with 550 photos, so I was unsure how far we would get. As it turned out, we came close to looking at the whole thing. I was surprised. Recently, she has gotten tired when we have looked at some of her other photo books. Personally, I did find it a lot to go through in one sitting, but I was encouraged by her response and will look forward to looking at it again.

If any of you are thinking of having a book like this, I would suggest you do it more carefully than I did. During the ordering process, the company gave me a chance to edit. I thought it was too much trouble. For my purposes, I still think that was true. If I were doing it again, I would go through the entire book and delete unwanted photos and also change the order in which some of them appear. In my case, the book meets my needs. It gives me one other thing I can use with Kate to make her day and mine more enjoyable.

No “Sleeping-In” Yesterday

Following two consecutive days of not wanting to get up, Kate awoke early yesterday and wanted “to get out’a here.” Except for believing she was in an unfamiliar place, she was in a good mood. For me, one of the good things about her wanting to get away is that it makes it easier and faster to get her up and dressed. We were at Panera before 10:30. She worked on her iPad but focused mainly on her blueberry muffin and wanted another. I told her we would be going to lunch in thirty minutes and asked if she could wait. She was agreeable.

The afternoon was our usual one. She rested a couple of hours. Then I suggested we look at a photo album of pictures taken when our children were pre-school age. We did that for a while before our daughter called. We had a nice conversation and Kate handled it well. After the call, we returned to the photo album, but Kate wanted to rest a little longer.

When I suggested our going to dinner, she didn’t hesitate getting up. That is normal. I don’t recall her ever having trouble getting up after resting in the family room in the afternoon. I wish I could say that about the morning when she is in bed.

She was confused about where she was as well as who I was but wasn’t disturbed. She asked my name and asked if we would be coming back for the night. She also said a few other things that made it clear she thought we were in someone else’s house.

At dinner something came up that made me mention our marriage. Kate was shocked. I was surprised at her reaction because we had been talking so comfortably about our relationship. It wasn’t simply that she was shocked. She couldn’t imagine how it was possible that she could have forgotten something like that. Fortunately, I was able to divert her attention. She was fine after that, but I felt bad. I intend to be more careful about that in the future. I think I have been unconsciously trying to keep that memory alive. Now I am beginning to believe that it may be time to let it go. I’ll just assume that she doesn’t remember and not try to remind her. There are enough incidental reminders when we browse through her photo books and interact with other people.

We had one of those middle-of-the-night incidents at 1:30 this morning. I woke up as Kate sat up on the side of the bed. I got up and went around to her side to help her up. She seemed wide awake and cheerfully greeted me like someone she might have recognized but not known. It wasn’t long before she said, “Who are you?” I told her my name but said nothing of our relationship. She didn’t ask.

I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom. She didn’t. She asked about “the others.” I told her we were the only ones “here.” She seemed surprised but didn’t question me. I asked again if she would like to use the bathroom. She asked where it was. I told her I would show her. We usually hold hands, but she didn’t want to this time.

When we reached the bathroom, I stepped in and turned around to direct her to the toilet. She showed no interest in coming in. Instead, she was obsessed with what time she should “be there.” I never found out where “there” was, but it was important to her. I told her she didn’t need to be there until “1:00 tomorrow.” She was surprised and asked about today. I told her it was the middle of the night and that she would need her sleep to be ready for tomorrow. She went back to the question “What time do I have to be there?” We went through a repetition my standard answer and her standard question. A couple of times she asked what time she would have to leave, but her emphasis was on what time she had to be there. She couldn’t remember and kept asking.

Finally, she used the toilet. When she was finished, she noticed two pictures on the top of a nearby cabinet. One was a photo of my mom and me. She pointed to my mom and wanted to know who she was. When I told her who she was, she said, “I remember her. She is very nice.” Then she asked about my sister. I don’t have a sister but said she was fine. Then she said my sister was very nice and that she liked her. Before getting back to bed, she commented several other times about my mom and sister and how nice they were.

Once in bed, she was still wide awake for a short time. I tried not to encourage much talking, and she soon drifted off to sleep. She is still sleeping as I finish this entry. On the video cam I just saw her moving a few minutes ago, I will check on her and see if she is ready to get up. That would be nice. I don’t have Rotary today, and the sitter is coming at 1:00 rather than noon. If she gets up soon, we would be able to have lunch together. That would be a good way to start the week.

Our First UTI Test

Two days ago, I called Kate’s doctor. I wanted to get her thoughts on Kate’s recent changes. I received a quick callback from the doctor’s nurse who said that we ought to test for a urinary tract infection. I am no expert on this subject but told her that it didn’t seem as though she had a UTI. Out of the past fourteen days Kate has had problems on only four days. The inconsistency made me think it might simply be a function of her Alzheimer’s. In addition, her delusions, although they might have been somewhat more frequent, were pretty much in line with the past. She made a point that I can easily understand. She said that symptoms can vary from one person to another. This is one of my mantras. I agreed to take them a urine sample that afternoon.

First thing yesterday morning, I received another call from the nurse informing me that the test was negative, so we can rule out the UTI. She also said the doctor had some time at 2:00 on Friday and would be happy to see Kate and me or just me if I would prefer. That’s a day for the sitter, and I would really like to have a conversation with the doctor without Kate’s presence. I’ll see her then. In the meantime, I think I will write a brief summary using this blog as a source and send it to her via our online portal. I have been using that for years to provide updates before each of Kate’s appointments. I don’t know how helpful that is, but I feel more comfortable that I will give her a better description of our situation in written form than I might do in a face-to-face conversation.

Yesterday went pretty well. Kate was still tired and didn’t want to get up in the morning. She was in a good mood. It took about thirty minutes, but I was successful in getting her up to join me for lunch. As she has done on a number of other occasions, she wanted to lie down again right after using the toilet and washing up. I reminded her that we were going to lunch. I started to help her dress when she wanted to lie down again. I didn’t stop her. We continued to talk for a few minutes before I mentioned that we would need to get ready for lunch. She got up willingly, and we were off.

She was uneasy on her feet walking through the house, down the steps to the garage, and from the car to the restaurant and back. I started investigating walkers yesterday although her inability to follow directions or to learn new things could be a handicap. That’s not to mention the fact that it has to be a walker suitable for someone who is unstable. I have serious doubts that she would be able to use one. This may seem strange to those who haven’t had much experience with someone with Alzheimer’s, but I am finding explanations for almost anything are challenging or impossible for her to grasp. For example, Kate is losing the ability to do simple things like using the toilet, brushing her teeth, where to put her napkin at a restaurant and many other things. She is very dependent on me for help with everything. There is no way I would trust her with a walker unless I were right with her every step of the way.

As usual, she rested immediately after returning from lunch. She was in her recliner when the sitter arrived. When I returned four hours later, she hadn’t moved. Fifteen minutes later, we went to dinner. She went to bed soon after we got home. She was tired and went to sleep. My own interpretation of her being so tired is that it is normal for late stage Alzheimer’s and not something for which we are going to find a solution. I am eager to talk with her doctor tomorrow.

The rest may have caught up with her because she was awake at 5:15 this morning. Her mind was blank. I heard her say, “Who are you?” I gave her my name and told her I was someone who could help her. This began a thirty-minute conversation that went back and forth with her asking the same questions and my giving the same answers. (Who are you? What do you do? Where am I? Do other people live here?) When I told her we were in our house, she wanted to know how we paid for it. That led to how we got money to live. It was particularly confusing for her when I told her we were both retired. The toughest question to answer was “Why don’t I remember any of this?” I told her she sometimes wakes up and doesn’t know anything. Then she goes back to sleep and is all right when she wakes up. Shortly after that she did fall asleep, and I got out of bed just after 6:00.

A few minutes after 7:00 I was about to take my walk when I heard her say something. I checked on her. She wanted to get up. She still didn’t know who I was or where she was. She just wanted to “get out of here.” She must have because she had been to the bathroom, dressed, and taken her pills before we left the house for Panera at 7:45.

An hour later, we were back at home where we started to look at one of her family photo books. We didn’t get beyond the cover photo when she said she was tired and wanted to rest. I’ll be eager to see if I have any problem getting her up for lunch. I am especially interested in getting there early so that we can get her back for a 1:30 hair appointment.

Beginning Our 10th Year Post-Diagnosis

 

Tuesday, the first day of our 10th year Living with Alzheimer’s” started early and with some confusion; however, the day was punctuated with “Happy Moments” as well. About 5:30, I heard Kate chuckle. I chuckled back, and she responded with more chuckles. Then she started pointing to the ceiling moving her arm from one side of the room to the other. As she did this, she commented on “things” (that were not really there) that she liked. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was asleep or awake. When I said something to her, she responded. After a few minutes, I decided she was awake. She then immediately closed her eyes and went to sleep. This was strikingly sudden. It makes me think she really had been dreaming all along.

At 5:50, I told her I was going to get up. She told me not to leave her. She didn’t seem afraid, but she did say, “I don’t know how to say it, but I feel (paused while thinking of the right word) safe with you.” I stayed with her another thirty minutes before telling her I was going to get up and asked if she would be all right. She said she was fine. After I was dressed, she was still awake. I mentioned I was going to the kitchen and to call me if she needed anything. She said that would be all right, but she wanted me to come back and sit in a chair beside the bed.

As I was preparing to put my breakfast dishes in the washer, I heard her call. She wanted to go home. I told her I would take her. I got her to the bathroom and dressed quite easily. During that time, she said she wanted to “get out of here.” She also mentioned girls that were either here or would be coming. This also came up in the afternoon.

We went to Panera arriving about 8:15. That is very early for us. She worked a little on iPad puzzles but stopped to eat her muffin. She was tired and wanted to go home before 9:00. She rested for a couple of hours before we went to lunch. She was very talkative. Most of her conversation dealt with our marriage and also her feelings about our being a good match. At one point, she said, “You know we are so different.” She wanted to continue, but she didn’t know how to express her thoughts. I said, “But we’re so much alike on the things that matter.” She said, “Exactly.” It was a cold day, and we took a few minutes to get our coats on before leaving. Kate also had gloves. She asked if I could take a picture and wanted to make sure I got the gloves in the photo. It’s unusual for her to request a photo of herself. She also asked me to take one at another restaurant a few weeks ago. She wanted a picture of the two of us, and I took a selfie before we got in the car.

When we got home, she rested for an hour. I asked if she would like me to read something to her. She did, and I picked up the photo book of her mother’s family and read several things about her grandfather. She loved hearing about him and was most impressed. I’ve read this to her before, but this was the strongest reaction she has had yet.

Then I read a section that dealt with Battle Creek where her mother lived until marrying Kate’s father and moving to Texas. It focused on the work of the Kelloggs in the development of cereal at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (“The San”) where her grandfather was a doctor. She kept talking about “him.” I didn’t know whether she was talking about her grandfather, John Harvey Kellogg (CEO of The San), or W. K. Kellogg (who left the San and established the cereal company). She thought I had known “him.” I told her that her grandfather had died before I was born and that I was a child when the Kellogg brothers died. That didn’t penetrate at all. She kept saying, “And you knew him.” She seemed impressed. I am sure she felt I knew him because I was reading about all three of these men. To her, it probably sounded like I was telling her a story from my first-hand experience.

She finally tired and wanted to rest again. It was only a short time before she started talking and continued for an hour. I made some facilitating comments, but she didn’t appear to need them. She talked about something that is a variation of a topic she has talked about a number of times before. It always involves her, or our, helping people. A large portion of the previous conversations have involved educating women in impoverished parts of the world. This time she talked about a program in which we were already involved. It was designed to provide a broad range of education and job training for immigrants to the United States. She mentioned a selection process to determine those who would benefit most. The training itself was rather comprehensive and dealt with information about US culture, training for job interviews, and assistance in locating job opportunities that would match the skills and interests of the students. I was amazed at the details she brought up and the reasons each of these things was necessary.

The next surprise of the day came as we were about to leave for dinner. Without any prior signs or indications, Kate became very worried about not having delivered something to a man whose name she didn’t know. From what she said, she thought she was to deliver refreshments for a reception of some kind. She couldn’t tell me any specifics, but she became distraught over her failure to do what she had promised. As we drove to the restaurant, she wondered if I might be able to call him and work out a way to get it to him. After parking the car, I pretended to call him and that he had told me that the reception was actually the next day and that she had no reason to worry or apologize. This effort was unsuccessful.

As we walked up to the restaurant, the hostess opened the door and greeted us. Kate tried to act as though nothing was wrong, but it didn’t work. It did begin a process of diversion that got her mind off of what she believed was a failure to deliver on a promise. This process involved our conversation with our server, chatting briefly with a couple we know who sat at the table next to ours, and eating. Long before we finished our meal, she seemed to have forgotten the entire thing.

I had one more surprise at 12:30 yesterday morning when I heard her call me by name. I looked up from the bed to see her standing in the doorway to our bedroom. I quickly got up and went to her. She was very upset. She had gotten up to go to the bathroom, something that is exceedingly rare. To the best of my knowledge, she has never gotten out of bed without my noticing. I got her back to bed and then went to turn off the lights in the hallway. That’s when I discovered she had been walking around the house. Lights were on in two other bedrooms, family room, living room, dining room, and kitchen. She apparently came out of the bathroom and couldn’t remember how to get back to our bedroom and spent an unknown amount of time going through the house trying to find me. The good news is that she was able to calm down once she had located me. Another crisis was over. Our tenth year “Living with Alzheimer’s” is off to quite a start.

Unanticipated Issues

Yesterday things were going well. Kate woke up early, showered and dressed without any difficulty. I was especially pleased because we were going to visit friends in Nashville, and I was eager to eat an early lunch before our departure. We were also early enough to get to Panera for a short time and get back home for Kate to rest another hour.

Lunch went well until very near time to leave when she started looking for her napkin. At first, I didn’t know what she wanted because she couldn’t remember the word for napkin. When I asked if she was looking for a napkin, she said she was. I pointed out that she had put under her plate with her utensils. She didn’t understand and said, “Where is it?” I pointed to it. She pointed to her salmon and said, “This?” I told her it wasn’t and reached across the table to point at it. She didn’t see it. Then I put my hand on it and said, “This is it.” That didn’t work. Then I asked her to pick up her plate. She didn’t understand. I picked it up and put it to the side. Then I showed her the napkin and told her she could wipe her hands with it. That didn’t work either, so I said, “Let me show you.” I got up and went to her side of the table where I picked up the napkin and started wiping her hands. Her mood changed immediately. She said, “I wanna’ get out of here.”

It was a frustrating situation for both of us. I didn’t have any trouble understanding that she was having two problems, both of which are directly related to her Alzheimer’s. One is her vision. The other is her ability to understand directions. I was trying hard not to show my frustration, but I wasn’t successful. As we left the restaurant, she said she couldn’t do anything right. I thought she was upset with me, but it turned out she was only thinking about her inability to follow my instructions. I felt guilty for making her feel that way. After we had been on the road to Nashville about fifteen minutes, she was fine again.

This episode is a good example of how quickly things can change. It is also a reminder of something I already know. I need to be very careful how I respond in situations like this. She is very much aware of her problems, and I don’t want to diminish her sense of self-worth.

A Good Start and Finish

Our routine was altered a bit yesterday. Kate called for me about 9:00. She was smiling when I reached her bedside. She wanted to go to the bathroom. She was confused but did not seem to be bothered. She just wanted my help and accepted it through the whole bathroom routine including showering and getting dressed. It was early enough to get her to Panera for a muffin and get back home just after 11:00. That worked out well because I had asked a church friend to take her to lunch. I had a lunch meeting and needed to leave by 11:30. Kate was tired and wanted to rest a while. I explained to our friend that she had gotten up early and might want to rest a little longer before they went to lunch.

When I got home, Kate was still resting. The friend said that she had tried to get her interested in going to lunch, but she didn’t want to. The friend said to Kate, “I think you wanted to wait for Richard.” Kate nodded. I was surprised because this is someone that Kate likes very much. In fact, everybody I know likes her. My only explanation is that while resting, she completely blanked on who the friend was after being excited about having lunch with her. I know that happens with me. It still surprises me when we have been talking about our  marriage and children and then says, “Who are you?”

It was after 2:00, and I took her to Chick-fil-A for a chicken sandwich. It turned out that she had a hair appointment shortly thereafter. As the stylist walked her to the front to meet me, Kate asked where I was. I stood up to greet her. She was greatly relieved to see me. I have become a security blanket for her.

She rested at home for an hour before we went to dinner at Casa Bella for jazz night. We sat at a table for twelve. She must have felt a little left out. She tried hard to participate. Then she retreated for the remainder of the dinner. The music was good, but neither of us was taken with the singers themselves.

When we got home, it was time for bed. Soft music was playing, and we were both relaxed and happy.