Nothing dramatic has occurred since my entry last night, but I did want to mention a couple of things. First, we were watching Breaking Away via Netflix when she got up to take her medicine. I turned off the movie while she was away. When she returned, I started it again in the place where we were when she left. In a few minutes when we had reached a place that was clearly beyond where I had stopped before, she said, “I remember this part.” I said, “From when?” She looked at me funny as though I had asked a dumb question and told me “right before I go my medicine.”
This afternoon we went to see a movie that had been produced and directed by a man who had grown up in Knoxville but now lives in New York. In part of the movie, it mentioned that he had grown up here and showed pictures of his house and neighborhood that looked very much like a neighborhood near us. After the film, I made reference to this and discovered that she had either forgotten that he was from Knoxville or simply missed it. We had even talked with someone who sat next to us who mentioned that the producer/director had spoken to his Kiwanis club this past Wednesday. He had talked about growing up here and how that related to his adjustment to being gay. Still she missed the fact that he was from Knoxville.
Tonight we went our for pizza. She walked up to the counter with me to pay. We spoke with the owner who was handling the cash register. He said something to her, and she said, “Oh, yes, you told me that last time.” This was her first time to talk with him. This is similar to what she says to me all the time. It comes up a lot when she asks a question that she has asked before; however, she also says it when she hasn’t asked the question before. I think it must be her way of covering for herself.
It is these kinds of experiences that make me think that she is missing much more of what is said in conversations, plays, movies, etc. than one would otherwise suspect.
It has been a while since I have mentioned it, but Kate’s Deja vu experiences have not subsided. In fact, they may be even more frequent now than in the past. When we drive down the road leaving from or returning to our house, she frequently notices people walking or running and says, “Remember him/her.” She is trying to get me to remember the next time she sees them. The same thing occurs in restaurants. Sometimes she sees people in more than one booth or table that she says she sees a lot at that particular restaurant.
It has been a while since I have mentioned it, but Kate continues to have Deja vu experiences. For example, yesterday or the day before, we were driving on our way to church. We saw two women walking on the sidewalk. She pointed out that she has seen them before walking along about “this time.” Of course, it is really doubtful because she doesn’t have a car, especially this time of morning. A little later she saw someone else and said she had seen him before. At Panera in the past few days, she has pointed out people she has seen before. This even happens in places where we have not been before. I never challenge her or tell her she couldn’t have seen them before. There would be no purpose in doing so, and it might hurt her. It is amazing how natural it is to want to correct someone. It requires self-control. Once in a while, I find myself failing in this respect.
These kinds of experiences make it clear to me that Alzheimer’s not only affects the memory but also other aspects of the brain. Another example of that occurred yesterday. When I arrived home, I discovered that she had brought in the garbage bin from the street after the garbage had been picked up. She had left it out instead of returning it to the garage where we keep it. When I looked in it, I saw that she had put yard trash in it, something she would not have ordinarily done before Alzheimer’s.
While at the office yesterday morning, I called our former dentist, Hank Noble, to see if we could get together again. It has been several months since we last did so. We talked about 20-30 minutes and set a day next week to meet for coffee at Eggs Up. I had a feeling that I had gotten the very first time we talked. He is suffering much more than I am. He says he is getting along well but then what he says lets you know he is troubled. He told me that he was having difficulty making himself do little things like write checks to pay bills. Another friend told him that he was depressed. Hank said, “I don’t feel like I am depressed, but I guess that is what it is.” Another indication of his depression is that he said he needs to begin thinking about possible arrangements with some kind of facility for his wife. He said that he hasn’t been able to make himself think about it as though if he doesn’t think about it, it will go away.
He asked how we were doing. When I told him about our having had good trips to Switzerland and New York and that we had gone paragliding in Switzerland, he was amazed. He expressed a touch of envy that we were getting along so well. I will have to be very careful in our future conversations not to make him feel badly about this. I did tell him that our time is coming, that we had been very fortunate, and that both Kate and I often talk about how grateful we are for our circumstances. He reiterated how fortunate he and his wife are that that have the financial resources to provide the care that his wife needs. He has had 24/7 care for 8-12 months or so. His wife can’t walk on her own and cannot feed herself. He indicated how hard it was for him to look across the room at his wife with her head slumped toward her breast much like we envision those in nursing homes. He says he sometimes just has to get up and leave the room. He misses conversation with her. He had told me that the previous time we spoke.
I plan to stay in touch with him even though I don’t feel he is in a position to provide me a great deal of support. I feel I will be able to help him more than the reverse. There is another way to look at it, however. I draw strength from people whenever I am around them (most people at least). It isn’t necessary for him to express any special concern or support for me to benefit or be strengthened. Just having another person to talk with will help me down the line. I am thinking about the time when Kate has progressed much further than she has now. At some point, his wife will pass away. At that point, he may not feel the need to get together.
A couple of different things happened today that point to further declines in Kate’s memory or her general mental acuity. The first occurred this morning in Interlaken as she was getting dressed. She was looking for underwear. I told her that I knew where they were. I went to one of my own packing cubes where I had put about 8 brand new pair just for this event. Unbeknownst to her, I had already put one new pair in her suitcase for her to wear earlier in the week. She thanked me but never asked any questions about why I would have her underwear with my things. In fact, she watched me open the package; so it should have been obvious that they were new. The fact that she wasn’t curious signals further decline in her condition. I have been gradually assuming responsibility for such things over a long period of time. The fact that I was taking care of her underwear just seemed to beg for more suspicion on her part.
This has been a cold and rainy day. The high was around 41 here in Lucerne and Interlaken. We checked into our hotel around 1:45. We had a long lunch in the hotel dining room and came back to the room for a while.
After Kate had finished resting, we started to leave the room to explore the Old Town. As we were about to leave, it started raining again. I asked if she really wanted to walk around in the cold and rain. She said no. She sat down in a chair and picked up a bag that she carries with her when we go out. When I didn’t show any signs of leaving, she asked about taking the suitcases. I told her we didn’t need to take them. This was a sign that she had already forgotten or misunderstood that we were not going out at all AND, furthermore, that it didn’t jell that we had only arrived in Lucerne less than two hours before.
After the rain subsided, we went out. It was cold, and she wanted to stop someplace to warm up. We went into a coffee shop where she got a Coke, and I got an espresso. While we were sitting there, she pointed to a manikin and said, “I remember that before.” I asked where she had seen it before. She said, “the last time we were here.” Then she pointed to a couple of other things she “remembered.” When we left, we walked by some buildings around the lake in the Old Town. She commented on remembering some of them from before. Finally, while we were at dinner, she pointed to two couples at a nearby table and told me she remembered them from the last time.
All of these things together give added weight to my judgment about her decline. It seems like things are moving faster now. She has been in a good humor all day. It has been leisurely; so she hasn’t had anything to frustrate her. We are enjoying ourselves.
Yesterday Kate and I drove to Nashville to attend a performance of Tirandot at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. As always, I was concerned that Kate would not remember to bring things she likes or needs. Such was the case. As she was packing in a rush, she couldn’t find the shoes she wanted to wear last night. I found a pair of black boots that she said would work. It turned out, however, that they are too tight; so walking was a problem. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go, just across the street.
After the opera, she discovered she hadn’t brought anything to sleep in. She asked if I had something. I gave her the dress shirt I had worn to the opera. Interestingly, she brought several pair of hose. She wore 3 pair to the opera to protect her from the cold. We were outside for only a short time; so she was a little warmer than she likes.
We opted for the breakfast buffet this morning. This offered another example of the difficulty she has getting her eyes to focus on the various items she is looking for. For example, she stood in front of the bowls beside an assortment of fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apricots) as well as yogurt. She noticed the fruit and then walked down the buffet looking for a bowl even though they had been right in front of her. She didn’t notice the bowls, but she said she remembered having been here before even though this was our first time at this hotel. Another case of Deja Vu.
Last night at the opera, she asked me to take her gloves because she couldn’t get them in the pocket of her jacket. Now that I think of it, I must have dropped them below my seat because I don’t see them. It is obvious that I don’t do a great job of keeping up with her things. I am finding it challenging to keep up with her things as well as my own.
As soon as we came back to the room after breakfast, she got right in the bed with the covers over her. Over the past year or two this has become a pattern. In a few minutes I will get her up to meet an old TCU friend for lunch.
Just a brief comment today on something I have mentioned before; however, it seems so common now that I chuckle when it occurs. Frequently when I tell her something she says, “You told me that.” Of course, it is quite possible that sometimes she is correct. It happens so often and in instances when I know that it would be impossible for me to have told her because I just learned about it. It makes me wonder if she says this because she forgets so frequently the odds are that whatever I say is something she has forgotten. Another possibility is that it is something akin to a deja vu experience.