Another Morning of Confusion

At 7:25 this morning, I was taking my morning walk inside the house while listening to All the Light We Cannot See when I heard Kate call my name. When I reached her, I found that she was having a different kind of confusing experience than she had yesterday. It was, however, like several other experiences she has had in the past. She said, “What should I be doing?” Her past experiences were somewhat different in that she has had a sense that she was supposed to be someplace or had specific obligation she had to meet. This time she didn’t mention anything that would suggest that. It was more like waking up and simply not knowing what she should do.

I explained that it was still early, and she had no obligations until lunch. I told her she could go back to sleep if she wanted to. She looked relieved and indicated she would like that. I also mentioned that sometimes she liked to go to the bathroom, but she wasn’t interested. She repeated her question several times, and I gave her the same answer. Then I asked if she would like me to sit with her while she rested. She did, and that is where I am right now.

There was one way in which today’s confusion was similar to that of yesterday. Both days she was bothered more than most days when she is confused, but she was not as disturbed as she can be when she is having an anxiety or panic attack. I am glad neither experience was as severe as it can be; however, it does bother me when she seems at all disturbed. So far, I have been able to comfort her by what I say and the way I say it. Of course, just being present for her seems to make a difference as well. At least for the time being, I am optimistic that I will be able to put her at ease. I hope I don’t have to eat those words sometime in the future.

This Morning

I woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. At 5:10, I decided to get up. I like to get up at 6:00 or shortly thereafter, but I got up at 5:00 or 5:30 most of my working life, so it’s not such a bad thing.

After I was dressed for the day, I put a load of clothes (mostly towels) in the washer and was about to fix my breakfast when I realized I had forgotten to bring Kate’s iPad from the bedroom to charge it. When I walked into the bedroom, I saw that she was awake. I walked over to her and could tell she was having one of her moments of confusion. It fell short of what I would call an anxiety attack but more serious than her usual confusion.

I said, “Good morning. Could I help you?” She said, “I don’t know. Where am I?” I told her I had good news, that she was in her own home where we live. She said, “Huh.” I told her again. She said, “Who are you?” I said, “My name is Richard, and I can help you with anything you need.” She said, “What am I doing here?” I said, “This is your home. You live here.” She said, “What do I do now?” I said, “It’s early in the morning. I think you should go back to sleep.” Once again, she asked my name, where she was, and what she should do. After telling her I thought she should go back to sleep, I asked if she would like me to stay with her. She was relieved to hear me say that and said, “Oh, yes.”

I went back to the kitchen where I poured myself a glass of V8, and a cup of granola, picked up my laptop, and iPad and took a seat beside her side of the bed. I put on some soft music. She was asleep in less than fifteen minutes. I was just beginning to think about going back to the kitchen when Kate said something. I didn’t understand and got up and stepped closer to her.  She pointed to my shirt and said, “Do you want to take that with you?” I told her I did and sat back down. I have no idea what prompted her to ask me that, but she seemed very much at ease. I felt relieved. I stayed a little longer to make sure she was asleep again. Then I moved back to the kitchen. I finished the granola and V8. That will be my breakfast instead of the eggs I usually fix.

At 7:20, I heard Kate’s voice on the video cam. She said, “I wanna get out of here.” I rushed to her bedside. She was smiling. I told her I loved her and she said, “I love you too.” I asked if she was all right. She said she was. Then I mentioned the time and asked if she wanted to rest a little more. She said she did. I told her I would be in the kitchen if she needed me, and I left. It was a dramatic change from just over an hour before, but a change I like to see. Her saying “I wanna get out of here.” didn’t match the way she seemed when I got to her, but it isn’t unusual for her to say that. In fact, just yesterday, she expressed it rather emphatically. I’ll save that for a later post.

Relaxed and Happy, But Confused

After Kate’s insecurity yesterday morning, I wondered what the rest of the day would be like. I’m happy to say that it was a very relaxing and peaceful day. I didn’t get her up until almost 11:15. Like the day before, she got up and dressed rather quickly. She was in a good mood and didn’t show any signs of confusion except for not knowing where the bathroom is located.

As we walked along the sidewalk outside the restaurant where we ate lunch, we passed a group of women who were having lunch after their weekly game of tennis. We see the almost every week and don’t know their names, but we always speak briefly when we are either going in or leaving. Kate was especially friendly. I don’t recall what Kate said, but it was something that I suspect made them wonder a little about her. I thought about giving them one of my Alzheimer’s cards but didn’t. I may do that another time.

When our server brought our drinks, Kate gave her a nice greeting and asked her name. She has done this the past couple of times she has served us. She not only asked but tried to repeat it but mispronounced it. The she asked the server to spell it. I informed the server about Kate’s diagnosis long ago or she might have wondered about her. As it was, I think she felt the way I did and appreciated the fact that Kate was interested in trying to learn her name.

We spent a quiet afternoon in our family room at home. Kate wanted to rest as soon as we walked in. Unlike most days, she went to sleep. I’m not sure how long, but she must have slept at least an hour. I sat across from her looking through a couple of catalogs and checking email. Periodically, I was out of the room briefly while I tended to washing clothes and watering plants.

Kate woke up and started looking at the back yard. From her position on the sofa she can see the tall trees behind our house. As usual, she remarked on how beautiful they are. In most ways, she was very relaxed and seemed perfectly normal. Then she pointed to the back yard and said, “I used to walk all around this place when I was a child.”

As I have noted many times before, she also busied herself by pulling strands of her hair starting at the scalp and moving to the ends when the hair falls from her fingers. She has acquired what I see as a more problematic habit recently. She deliberately puts saliva on her fingers and wipes it on her forehead and, sometimes, her arms. She takes both of these habits very seriously and often wants my attention to watch what she is doing. She believes both of these habits do something good. I’ve never understood what.

Later as I was coming inside after watering plants, she looked at me and said, “You and I went to school together.” I said, “Yes, we did. Do you know the name of the school?” She said, “Let me think.” When she couldn’t guess, I said, “TCU.” She said, “That’s right.” As far as I could tell this was the first time during the day that it was obvious she didn’t remember who I was. Of course, she slips in and out between knowing and not knowing very quickly. She can mention her mother’s name in one moment and ask her name in the next.

She had brief scare late in the afternoon when she came out of our bathroom. I had left momentarily to take a few things to the washer. I heard her say, “Hey” a couple of times before I got to her. She was greatly relieved to see me. Since she has become so dependent on me to tell her what to do or where to go, she is often afraid when she doesn’t know where I am.

It was also a day when, most of the time, she didn’t recognize that she was in our house. That happens regularly in the morning and did yesterday. Throughout the day and into the evening, she said things that indicated she thought she was some place other than home. Interestingly, sometimes she wanted to “get out of here.” Other times she commented on what a nice place it was. As we left for lunch, she said, “I feel really sad leaving here.” I told her we would be coming back after lunch. She felt better. Later as we left for dinner, we had a rerun of the same experience.

All in all, it was a nice day despite her confusion. My own assessment of how things are going continues to depend on how she responds to that confusion. I am able to accept the decline in her memory and the confusion she experiences so long as she is happy. Much of the reading I have done on the topic of caregiving emphasizes the importance of accepting the person for whom you care as she is and focusing on making life as fulfilling as it can be. That makes life better for everyone. I believe it.

Feelings of Insecurity and Appreciation

Yesterday was another of those days when I noticed more signs of Kate’s decline. She was especially dependent and cooperative in getting up and dressing. She was so cooperative that she was dressed and ready for the sitter in half the time or less. That turned out to be good because it enabled us to make a quick trip to Applebee’s for a gift card that the sitter uses to pay for Kate’s meal each Monday.

It was also a morning when she didn’t recognize me as her husband. She didn’t act surprised when I told her. She also didn’t remember her family. As we left the bedroom, I gave her the usual tour of the family photos in the hallway. We also looked at a few other pictures in the family room. As we went to the car, she became teary and thanked me for helping her. She tried to say more, but the words wouldn’t come to her. She suggested that I could say them better. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like, “You want me to know how much you appreciate my help.” She nodded. She started to cry, and we stood a moment in the garage hugging each other. These moments are not unusual. They are times when our hugs communicate our strong feelings for each other, but I always wonder what else they might say. I know that on my part they say, “I know our time is running out. I want you to know that I love you and will care for you all the way.” Is she thinking about the seriousness of her own condition? That she is worried? That she is losing her ability to express her feelings? That she is afraid of the future? I just don’t know.

When Cindy arrived, I told Kate that the two of them would be going to lunch and that I was going to Rotary. She didn’t look uneasy about that, but she did say, “Why can’t we go to lunch together?” Then she gave me a look that suggested she thought I was deserting her. I walked over and gave her a hug and said, “I love you.” She said, “I love you too.”

After getting home, we spent a few minutes looking at one of her photo books. It wasn’t long, however, before she said she was tired and wanted to rest. I left the sofa to her and took a seat in a chair across from her. I put on an album of Barbra Streisand favorites. In a little while, I heard her whimpering. I told her that if I had known the music would make her sad, I would have played something else. She said, “No, I like it.” She wanted me to come back to the sofa and sit with her. We sat there enjoying the music for another fifteen minutes until it was time for dinner.

Today is starting the same way.  While working on this post at 8:00 this morning, I saw that she was sitting up in bed. I went back to her. She seemed to recognize me, but nothing was said to make me sure. I know that she was quite comfortable with me. I said, “I bet you wanted to go to the bathroom.” She said, “Where is it?” I said, “I’ll show you.” I helped her up. She didn’t try to assert her independence. She extended her hands for me to assist her. She continued to hold my hand on the way to the bathroom. She said, “You know, I am sure glad you’re here.” I told her I was glad too.

When she finished washing her hands (arms and face) and brushing her teeth, she looked around for a towel but didn’t see it. I took it from the towel rack beside her and handed it to her. She said, “I’m glad I have you. You always seem to know what to do and what to say.” Then she said, “What do I do now?” I told her it was still early and that she could go back to bed. She asked me to show her where to go and asked me to take her hand.

After she had gotten into bed, I told her I would be in the kitchen and to call me if she needed anything else. She appeared to be uneasy about that and asked where the kitchen was. I asked if she would like me to stay with her. She said she would, so I went to the kitchen and brought my laptop. When I got back, she said, “It means a lot to me that you’re here.” I said, “I think we were meant to be together.” She said, “Me, too.” She followed that with, “What’s your name?” I told her, and then she asked her name. A few minutes later, she asked my name again and where we were.

It could be another day of insecurity, but based on previous experience, she could be quite different when she finally gets up. I am getting a better appreciation of what I have heard from other caregivers about the difficulty predicting what comes next.

Kate’s iPad

Since giving up her computer and then her yardwork, Kate has been dependent on her iPad for all of her self-initiated entertainment. The past several years she has spent as much as eight hours a day working jigsaw puzzles on it. The past few days she has spent very little time with it. The last three nights when I checked the battery level, it was at 88% of capacity or greater. That is the best measure of how little it was used this week.

Some of that relates to her sleeping and resting. Until a year ago, we went to Panera almost every morning. We usually stayed more than an hour and sometimes two hours during which she worked steadily on her puzzles. Now it is unusual for her to get up before 10:30 or 11:00, and we go straight to lunch.

Similarly, she used to use her iPad at home after lunch and often at Barnes & Noble. We haven’t been there in several months. She usually rests after lunch, sometimes as long as two and a half hours. Thus, the sleeping/resting explains why she is using the iPad so much less than in the past, but that isn’t all. She also finds it much more difficult to work her puzzles. She asks for my help significantly more, but she also has more trouble understanding what I tell her. My instructions mean nothing. She is generally more persistent in trying to complete her puzzles, but, increasingly, she just quits or asks me to complete them.

I know she will have to give up the iPad sometime in the future. I just hope she can hold on a while longer. I’m not counting on it, but, perhaps, her photo books and the coloring book may fill in the gap.

More Delusions/Hallucinations

Over the past week or two, Kate has experienced more “delusions” than in the past. I’m not actually sure that is the right word. Most often they involve things like a belief that we are somewhere other than our home, that there are other people in the house, and that she sees people or things when nothing is there. When I noticed that she was about to get up yesterday morning, I went to the bedroom. As I approached the bed, she said, “Don’t touch me.” I thought this might be a time when she didn’t recognize me at all, but then she added, “I’ve got a cold.”

As she got out of bed, she insisted that she do it herself without my help. She didn’t want to hold my hand on the way to the bathroom. Once there she continued to be careful about my not touching her because of her cold. What was especially unusual about this was that she has never before shown that kind of concern about spreading her germs to me. I have always been the one to be concerned about passing along a cold to her or her passing along one to me. I didn’t observe any signs of a cold. I didn’t know if she really had one or if she had a dream in which she had a cold.

After finishing in the bathroom, she went back to bed. It was 8:00. She had plenty of time to get back to sleep before getting up for lunch. When I went back to wake her at 10:45, I found that she was awake. This time she didn’t say anything about having a cold. Neither did I see any signs of a cold during the time she was dressing or as we drove to lunch. I didn’t mention anything a cold during lunch, but I did ask if she was feeling well. She said she was fine and never reported any health problem the rest of the day. I am left to believe that her earlier mention of having a cold must have been the result of a dream.

Three Days in a Row with More Confusion Than Usual

After getting up early and taking a shower, Kate went back to bed yesterday morning. As she had done the day before, she got back in bed after her shower and didn’t want to get up. I was going to my Rotary meeting, and Kevin was taking Kate to lunch as he has done on other visits.

Although she seemed to recognize me when she got up the first time, she didn’t when I tried to get her up later. She asked who I was, and I told her my name and that I was her husband. She didn’t believe me. As I usually do, I backed away from trying to convince her. I decided to focus on getting her dressed. We immediately ran into a problem. She was still undressed following her shower and was uneasy about letting someone she didn’t know help her with her clothes. I didn’t push but continued to talk with her. She asked about her clothes several times. I told her I had them right there on the bed and would help her get dressed. She finally consented. As she was dressing, I told her that Kevin was here and would be taking her to lunch. She didn’t know who Kevin was. I explained, but I wasn’t successful. I told her she would recognize him when she saw him.

As it turned out, I was right. At least she acted as though she “knew” him. That didn’t mean she remembered his name or that he was her son. She did, however, greet him happily. Then for a few minutes she gave her attention to the flowers inside and outside. She followed that by asking his name. Then she commented on his voice. She said, “You sound like a nice guy. I don’t know why I say that. I just sense it.”

We went into the kitchen where I had put out her morning meds. While she was taking them, she asked again about Kevin. I told her that he was our son. She found that hard to believe and asked Kevin. He confirmed what I had said, but she was still skeptical.

When we got to my office where I was meeting a colleague, Marianne, I told Kate I would be going to Rotary and she would be going to lunch with Kevin. She said, “Why don’t you go along with us?” I told her I could have invited her to attend my Rotary meeting but thought she might not enjoy it. She agreed, but she still looked like I was deserting her.

After lunch, we met back at the office and then went home where she rested until it was time to take Kevin to the airport for his flight home. From there we went directly to dinner. Once we were home, she wanted to rest again. She rested until 8:00 when I suggested we get ready for bed. I got the impression that her memory of me as her husband was “on again” “off again” for the rest of the evening, but she wasn’t like she was during the morning. She clearly was quite comfortable with me and showed complete trust in me though she had been suspicious in the morning. I don’t think I observed anything that I hadn’t seen before; however, the depth of her confusion seemed greater than I have noticed before. I think she was quite confused much of the day but still functioning pretty well. She even surprised me on the way home from dinner when she made an observation about the two of us. She said, “When you say silly things, I don’t get mad at you. I know you are just trying to be funny.” She may not know my name or our relationship, but she has a keen insight into my personality. She “knows” me.

A Good Day But a Lot of Confusion

It’s hard to summarize in a heading what yesterday was like. Bare with me as I try to explain.

The day began differently than others over the past few weeks. She has been getting up rather easily when I woke her sometime between 10:30 and 11:00. There have been three or four days when I didn’t have to wake her at all. She waked up on her own at earlier times. In fact, it was earlier enough that we made it to Panera three or four times over the past week or ten days.

Yesterday was different. I was about to get up at 5:50 when she wanted to go to the bathroom. She didn’t display any of the confusion she has on some occasions, but she sounded relieved when she said, “I am glad you are here.” She repeated that a couple of times on the way back to bed. I quickly decided it was best if I got back in bed with her. It was the right thing to do. She was feeling insecure over not knowing who she was, who I was, or where she was. I stayed with her until 6:50. Then I got up to prepare for the day. She was still awake when I left the bedroom. I told her I would be in the kitchen. She was completely comfortable with that.

Before I ate breakfast, she started to get out of bed. I went to the bedroom and found that she wanted to get dressed. It was still early, and I asked if she would like to take a shower. She did. When she was finished, she went back to bed. The fact that she had gotten up and taken a shower so early led me to believe I would have no trouble getting her up for lunch. I was wrong.

We have not been to church in almost a year and had planned to take Kevin with us. To insure that we would be on time for the 11:15 service, I went in to wake her at 10:00. She didn’t want to get up. I decided not to push her. I went back around 10:20. She was firm in her intention to remain in bed. Kevin and I changed our plans for church. I made a noon reservation at Bonefish Grill. Finally, I went back to wake her at 11:00. She still didn’t want to get up, but she gave in with a little encouragement. She wasn’t happy about it, but her mood quickly changed when she saw Kevin as well as the flowers and pictures in the family room.

She surprised me at lunch when she expressed displeasure that I didn’t order a salad for her. I never order a salad for her because she doesn’t enjoy salads. She has never complained before. I offered to get her one or to share mine, but she didn’t want anything but two of my olives.

I wasn’t surprised that she wanted to rest when we got home, but, as usual, she got up rather easily when it was time for us to leave for a live performance of Hello Dolly at one of our local theaters. She did surprise me, however, during the intermission when she struck up a conversation with a man in the lobby. He was standing by the three of us and told us he had first been to this theater when he was a child. Kate asked him what he did. He told her he was a retired radiologist. Kate said, “What’s that?” He began to explain by giving her a tidbit of history including the early experiments of William Roentgen. Kate expressed interest and complimented him about the contributions that he (the man she was talking with, not Roentgen) had made. He tried to play down his own work, but she insisted she accept her compliment. I found it a most interesting conversation. Except for not knowing anything about radiology and x-rays, she seemed quite normal. She was a very active participant in a conversation with a total stranger.

After leaving the theater, we stopped by a pizza place that had been a favorite of our children’s when Kevin would have been as young as two or three. We finished the meal by sharing a piece of cheesecake. Kevin and I didn’t waste any time sampling it. Kate apparently didn’t notice it was sitting in front of us. I put some cheesecake on her fork and placed it on her plate. She still didn’t eat it or acknowledge that it was there. I pointed it out, but she couldn’t understand what I was trying to tell her. She put her plate aside and pulled the plate with the cheesecake toward her. I explained that I had already cut a piece for her. Again, I showed her the fork with the cheesecake on it. She was still confused. After several tries, she finally understood.

When we got home, she asked what she could do. I handed her the iPad and suggested she work on it. She said, “What’s this?” That was not an unusual response. She almost always takes interest in her iPad, but she often doesn’t know what it is. When I mention that she can work puzzles on it, she understands. That is what happened last night. On occasion, she is confused as to what she should do after the puzzle pieces are scattered. Last night was one of those times. I explained, and she went to work. She had a very difficult time. I don’t recall her every having more trouble before. In my effort to help, I may have exacerbated the situation. I was trying to be patient, but I realized the tone of my voice was stronger than usual as I pointed to specific pieces and then to places where they should go. That probably frustrated her even more. I decided it was best if she dropped the puzzles for the night.

Then she picked up a word puzzle book on the table beside her. I noticed that she was holding it upside down. She seemed confused. I turned it right side up. Then she put it aside and picked up the coloring book I had bought her months ago. She has never shown any interest, but I have kept it on the table beside her chair in the family room since then. Once in a while, she picks it up and looks at it. I picked out a crayon and gave it to her. She wasn’t sure what to do with it. I gave her what was an insufficient explanation. Then I decided it was better to demonstrate. I colored a small teardrop object on the page and gave her the crayon. From there she took over and colored for the next twenty minutes or so before it was time to get ready for bed. I was pleased that she was interested and hopeful that she may try it again. That could be a good replacement for the iPad as she loses her ability to work her puzzles. I was also discouraged when I watched her color. She didn’t appear to know what to do. What she colored looked like something that a young child might have done. The most important thing, however, was that she found something she liked.

There are two things I can say about yesterday. First, it was not a good day in terms of Kate’s Alzheimer’s. I don’t remember a day when she has been as confused for as long a period of time. Second, all-in-all it was an enjoyable day. She especially enjoyed the musical. The day was another good example of how mixed our days can be and that the Happy Moments still outweigh the sad ones.