A Happy Day

I’m glad I’ve been able to relay so many good times that Kate and I have had since her diagnosis, but you must have noticed that sometime last year I began to talk about things that have been more challenging. These challenges seemed to escalate just before or during our recent holiday season. The good times were far from over, but I have had to work harder at problem-solving. Still, the balance between good times and trying times remains heavily tilted in favor of the good ones. I think that is a major reason for my lack of interest in adding more help, something I could quintuple without its costing me a penny.

There are also a few days that stand out because they are filled with happy moments. When they arrive, I think of each one as a gift. That is what is was like yesterday. It began at 5:15 in the morning. I was awake and considering whether or not to get up. It turned out that Kate was also awake. She moved closer to me and said with a slight chuckle, “Hello, how are you?” I told her I was fine. She reached across my chest, and we spent the next 30-40 minutes just enjoying being close. I don’t know whether she remembered my name or our relationship, but she conveyed her comfort and love that was very deep.

At 6:00, I told her I was going to get ready for the day and have breakfast. Just before 8:30, I heard her say, “Hey.” She often talks in her sleep. I waited a moment to see if she were calling me. She said, “Hey. I’m in here.” I went to see what she wanted. I found that she was quite cheerful. We chatted about ten minutes. I asked if she wanted to get up. She said, “I don’t know. What should I do?” Knowing this was earlier than usual, I told her it was up to her. I mentioned that if she got up, I could give her a blueberry muffin. Her eyes brightened, but that didn’t cause her to bounce right up. We talked a little more. She finally said, “Why don’t I rest a little more and you tell me when I should get up.” I did. Fifteen minutes later, I went back. She was ready to get up. She was confused about the usual things (where she was, where the bathroom was, what the toilet was, etc.) but not disturbed and needed my help with everything. More importantly, she happily accepted my help.

I warmed up her muffin and gave her a side of fresh blueberries as well as a few slices of canned peaches. I fixed myself some coffee and sat with her. She loved her breakfast, and each of us enjoyed the other’s company. When she finished, we adjourned to the family room where I picked up the photo book of Facebook pictures that I purchased two weeks ago. I wasn’t at all surprised when she said she was tired after only looking at a few pages. She lay down on the sofa while I got my laptop and returned to join her a chair across from her.

While she was resting, I received a phone call from a friend telling me about a popular lunch place that was serving takeout. We’ve eaten there before, but it had been a long time. I went to their website to look over the menu. I ordered a turkey melt for Kate and pulled barbecued chicken with a mixed green salad. We went to pick it up. She stayed in the car while I got the food. As I walked in, I saw homemade tomato basil soup and Brunswick stew to bring home as well.

After lunch, we walked from the kitchen into the family room. Kate immediately commented on the spring flowers in the back yard. The azaleas and dogwoods are in full bloom. She delighted in pointing out the things she especially liked. When we finished, she wanted to rest. I walked her to her recliner. She asked if that was where I wanted her to sit. I said, “Yes, and I’ve got your Dr. Pepper right on the table beside you. She was childlike in her excitement and chocked up about my having her favorite drink. Once in a reclining position in the chair, she said mentioned something about her friends. I said, “I hope I’m one of them.” She gave me a gentle and sincere smile and said, “I think you’re going to be.” She paused and added, “What is your name?” I said, “That’s one of the things I like about you. You are so honest.”

The biggest surprise of the day came late in the day after she had rested a long time. She was enjoying the beauty from her recliner, taking in all the spring flowers and new leaves on the trees.. I had been sitting a while and decided I wanted to walk around inside the house a few minutes. She asked me something about it, and I casually asked if she would like to walk with me. I was shocked when she said yes. That was the first time she has done so. She asked where I was going to walk. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity and told her I was going to walk down the street a short way and then come back. Off we went.

I wondered if she would back out before we got to the street, but she didn’t. The walk was short in distance (four houses down from ours), but very enjoyable. She was enthusiastic about everything she saw starting right outside of our garage. It took about ten minutes to get to the street. This continued down the street and back. She was like a little child at circus. As she does inside the house, she wanted to point out everything to me as though I couldn’t see it myself. Thirty-five minutes later, we were back in the house. I considered this quite a victory. I had finally gotten her to walk, and I enjoyed seeing how happy she was. It was a perfect day to be outside, lots of sun and temperature in the lower-70s.

I put on an album of Peter, Paul and Mary while we ate dinner. Kate and I enjoyed hearing so many songs that were popular just before and during the early days of our marriage.

The only rough spot of the day occurred after dinner. Thinking she was somewhere other than home, Kate was ready to leave. I explained that we were home and that we would spend the night here. She accepted that. It wasn’t long, however, before we ran into another problem. She got the impression that people were coming to our house. I mentioned that people were not supposed to gather together like that. She asked why. I told her about the coronavirus pandemic. It was impossible for her to understand. I could see that was a losing cause and tried to divert her. I was successful briefly, but the she would remember again that people were coming to see us. That is when I turned, once again, to music for help.

Most of the music we play on YouTube is either classical or Broadway. Hearing Peter, Paul and Mary during dinner prompted me to see what YouTube had. It was no surprise that there is a lot. The rest of the evening was devoted to PP&M. It was another happy moment and a perfect way to end an almost perfect day.

How Are We Doing?

Over the past week, I’ve received a number of emails and phone calls inquiring about Kate and me and how we are adapting. My answer is that we are “managing” or doing “all right.” That’s different from my normal response of “remarkably well” that has seemed appropriate for so long. The abrupt disruption of our daily routine means we are a little bit “off balance” but on the way to “righting ourselves.”

The most important thing I can report is the past few days have been rather busy for me. Most of that relates to the disruption of our daily routine by the current restrictions under which we are now living. Some of them relate specifically to changes that Kate has made. The latter fall in the category of the common things that happen all the time but seem more troublesome while we are going through an adjustment to being largely housebound. We’ve grown accustomed to being out-and-about. Let me outline a few things that have occurred this week.

This past Sunday, Kate woke up and was frightened. When I said I would like to take her to lunch, she didn’t want to go out because people would make fun of her. She said, “No one likes me.” I tried to reassure her. That didn’t help until I said, “Amanda likes you.” Her eyes lit up, and she said, “Who is that?” I told her she was our server at Andriana’s. That was enough to redirect her attention.

During the week she has been more confused than usual about her food and eating. At Andriana’s, she didn’t recognize or know how to eat her bread. As I usually do, I took a large piece and broke it into pieces and buttered it for her. Then I put the plate with the bread in front of her. She said, What’s this?” I told her it was her bread, and she asked me what she should do. I told her she could just pick it up and eat it. She looked confused. When she finally decided to pick it up, she used her fork for the bread.

After finishing her bread, she put her drink where her dinner plate was to go. When the server brought our meal, I told her I would place it on the table and asked Kate to move her glass so that I could put her plate down. Although I tried several times to explain what I wanted, she never understood me. I had to move the glass.

That is just one of many things she may not understand at a meal. Tuesday night, I prepared shrimp cocktail. She had forgotten what shrimp were and didn’t understand how to eat them. I held one in my hand to demonstrate and explained that she could pick it up by the tail, dip it in the ketchup (yes, I didn’t have cocktail sauce.), and take a bite. She didn’t understand what the tail was and doesn’t see well enough to notice the way I was holding it. I decided leaving the tails on wasn’t a good idea and cut them off for her. Then I told her to pick them up with her fork. She didn’t understand until I did it for her. I had also split a baked potato for us along with sliced apples. She enjoyed them but dipped both in the ketchup.

Two other issues involve her getting seated whether in a chair, the sofa, or getting in the car. It takes much longer (not because of Covid-19) to sit down than one would expect. I need to tell her, point, and put my hands on the chair she is to use. Even after that, she sometimes starts to go to another chair at restaurants. It happens regularly at home when I want the two of us to sit on our sofa. I like her to sit in the middle so that I can sit on the end where I have more light to read the text in her photobooks. We go through a similar I point to the middle of the sofa, walk over to it and put my hand on the middle cushion. Yesterday, she took a seat at the other end of the sofa.

Getting in the car involves a challenge of knowing which side of the car to get in and what to do when she is there. I don’t believe she distinguishes one side from the other at all. I do know that I need to lead her to the passenger side, open the door, and assist her getting in. When I open her door, she sometimes says, “What do I do?” or “I don’t want to drive.” or “You get in first.”

As I’ve said before, these are all little things, but they seem a little bigger now that I am trying to concentrate on managing a new life at home.

So, how are we doing? We are managing, and we will adapt as we have done in the past. I suspect that’s exactly what most of you are doing. We’re going to make it, but I feel for those who find themselves in situations that are far more difficult and serious than ours. We are fortunate that our biggest problems are little ones although that doesn’t count the biggest one of all, Kate’s Alzheimer’s.

Key Events from Yesterday

Kate has never been a breakfast eater. I am. The result is that we have eaten breakfast together only occasionally since we married now almost fifty-seven years ago. That has occurred most often when we were traveling and also periodically attending a monthly breakfast with a group from the Y. She got up early when the children were with us and when she was working, but she would quickly drink a glass of orange juice and eat a cup of yogurt. Now she generally sleeps until time for lunch. On those occasions when she gets up early, we go to Panera where she eats a blueberry muffin. When she gets up, I have already eaten. That came to an end yesterday.

I woke up about 3:00 yesterday morning and didn’t get back to sleep for a long time. As a result, I slept later than usual. I am sure the fact that it was only the second day of daylight saving time was also a factor. At any rate, I got up about 7:15 instead of 5:45 to 6:15 on most mornings.

It was close to 8:00 when I was about to fry a couple of eggs. I heard Kate say something and went to the bedroom. She greeted me warmly, but she was eager “to get outta here.” I told her I would be happy to take her. Normally I would take her to Panera, but this wasn’t a normal day. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I decided to take her to Eggs Up Grill where we could have breakfast together.

I got Eggs Benedict, and Kate had blueberry pancakes. She hadn’t remembered what pancakes and syrup were, but she enjoyed every bite. It turned out to be a very nice way to begin the day. As happens when we go to Panera and back, she never mentioned wanting to “go home” or “get outta here” again (until next time).

Once home, she was ready to rest. I put on some relaxing music. She got on the sofa in the family room and went to sleep. She awoke about thirty minutes before the sitter was to arrive. I asked if she would like for us to look at one of her photo books. She liked the idea, and we sat together on the sofa and started one. It was only a few minutes before she said she was tired. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and we sat there listening to the music.

It was a very peaceful moment until I heard the doorbell ring. I told Kate it was the sitter and that I would be going to Rotary. I knew when I said it that the transition was too abrupt. She sat up straight, crossed her arms and gave me a dirty look. She was more disturbed than I would have expected. Fortunately, when she saw Cindy, she smiled and greeted her enthusiastically. I will make sure to follow my more typical pattern in the future. I like to stay a few minutes after the sitters arrive. I don’t have that much time on days when I have Rotary and will be more careful next time.

On the way to dinner, Kate told me that I take good care of her and continued to express her appreciation during the ten-minute drive to Chalupas for dinner. She emphasized that she could not live without me. I could tell by the way she said it that she understands just how dependent she is.

We had an unusual conversation at dinner. I wish I could tell you more about it. I had finished my meal and was waiting for Kate to finish hers when she started talking about the servers and kitchen help in the restaurants we frequent. This is not a new topic. She often asks me if I would like to have a job doing similar work. She seems to be worried about both the income that people make and the non-financial rewards that accompany this type of work. Her thinking goes beyond restaurants to many other types of jobs.

As she talked, it was clear that she was very relaxed. I think she was just enjoying talking. She failed to complete many of her sentences by saying, “You know” and then moving on. She also referred to “him” or “her” or “they” and “them.” That also made it difficult to understand who she was talking about. The topic also changed several times as well.

I paid our check, and she continued to talk. Several times I asked if she was ready to leave. Each time, she said, “In a few minutes.” I wasn’t able to make much sense of what she was saying, but she seemed happy that I was listening to her. After almost fifty minutes, she finally agreed to leave. The conversation ended after getting up from the table.

Kate continues to  be aware of many things she can’t do. That concerns her. I believe her talking this way was another instance of trying behave like a normal person. Conversations are difficult for her in terms of knowing what to say. When we are with other people, she also has trouble finding an appropriate entry point between the comments of the rest of us. I think the conditions were just right last night. It was just the two of us. We had had a relaxing meal. She was in the mood to talk, and I was a supportive listener. I just wish I could have understood what she said.

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.

A Very Good Week

It was two weeks ago that I described Kate’s sleep issues that kept her in bed all day for three different days. I was concerned about a new pattern that might be emerging. I am glad to report that for the past week she has either gotten up early on her own or rather easily when I have had to wake her. More important than that, she has been cheerful throughout the day. It’s been a long time since I have been able to say that.

Yesterday was another day that I didn’t have a problem getting her up, but it was a day when she was troubled several times with delusions that we were going to be with a group of people she wanted to avoid for some unexpressed reason. When I tried to get her to clarify who she was talking about and what the problem was, she seemed irritated with me and said, “You know.”

We are in Nashville for a visit with our friend Ellen this afternoon. Kate rested an hour after we checked in at our hotel yesterday. When I told her it was time for dinner, she was absorbed by a delusion that a woman had been in our room talking with her about a program to help women. Kate was disturbed that the woman was gone and wanted us to work with her in the program. It took me about twenty minutes to get her ready to leave. She didn’t need to do anything but go to the bathroom, but she was so caught up in telling me about the woman that she wouldn’t get up. Even after we were on our way to the restaurant, she talked about the woman and her project. Despite the amount of time she talked, she didn’t tell me enough for me to understand anything about the program except that it was to help women and that she wanted to be involved. She kept repeating the same things over and over.

This is another case when diversion worked to take her mind off this issue. Once we parked the car and walked into the restaurant, she apparently forgot about it. I haven’t heard another word since.

At 1:30 this morning, she woke up and was confused about where she was. For about thirty minutes, she repeatedly asked where we were. I told her, and she would ask again. Finally, she stopped. I am eager to see what today will be like. She has been awake off and on for almost two hours. She is in good humor although she has had several hallucinations about someone who is here in the room with us.

“Happy Moments” at Unexpected Times

As a caregiver, I put a lot of effort into thinking about ways to entertain Kate. I am often successful. I know that she responds to music and has some favorites to which she is especially drawn. Her family is also important to her. Showing her photos and telling her or reading about them is usually of interest. Taking “tours” of the rooms in our house is also a winner. I feel fortunate to have a toolbox with a variety of things that work. Of course, there are times when I am less successful than others, but there are also times when I don’t have to work at all to have “Happy Moments.” That was true on Monday of this week.

It was about 6:45. I had a load of clothes in the washer. I was looking forward listening to my book while walking, but first, I wanted my breakfast. The eggs were on the counter, and I was about to put the oil in the frying pan when I heard Kate say, “Hey.” I started to the bedroom and found her in the hallway. She had gotten out of bed and was looking for me. Although she seemed wide awake, she wasn’t sure where she was going and wanted my help.

I took her to the bathroom. Like most days, she wanted me to give her directions on everything. Sometimes when this happens, she resists my help. Not this time. She was very accepting but in a very natural way. She didn’t seem especially insecure and expressed no special emotion.

Of all the things I have worried about helping with bathroom activities were near the top of the list. Toileting and showering involve the most personal assistance, and I have resisted diving right in. Thus, it has been a long, gradual process. Yesterday it was clear that we have found our way to a comfortable place for both of us.

Although Kate always seems to enjoy her shower, she usually resists my effort to get her to take one in the first place. She seemed so compliant that I said, “This seems like a good time for a shower. Would you like that?” She paused a moment and said, “I don’t know.” That gave me the opportunity to be more assertive. I said, “I think that would be a good idea. I’ll start the shower for you.” That is all it took.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that once in the shower, she likes me to play an active role in bathing her. That works for me as well since it is easier than giving her instructions, and we can finish more quickly. She plays the role of director, making sure that I haven’t missed any places.

Kate enjoys the drying off process even more than showering. I have learned it is better to begin in the shower. That works better than walking out into a cold bathroom. Then I take her to the bedroom and put her in a chair where we finish up. At this point, she is fully relaxed, and I often joke that she is at “Richard’s Spa.” She often directs me to places that I may have missed, especially between her toes. I rarely get the deodorant on just the way she wants it. She lets me know right away. This part went swimmingly well. She seemed to be luxuriating in being cared for.

As she does on most shower days, she wanted to get back in bed. Since it was still quite early, that was fine with me. I did wonder what she might be like a little later. Sometimes her mood can change after resting or going back to sleep. The whole process of getting her up, showered, and back in bed had been another “Happy Moment.”

As someone who likes to eat very shortly after getting up and dressed, I was ready for my breakfast. She wanted me to stay in the room with her. I asked if it would be all right if I ate my breakfast and then came back. She was fine with that. After eating, I stayed with her until she woke up about 9:00. She was fine except for wanting me to take her home. I told her I would be glad to and had her clothes all ready for her. I don’t often mention it, but we also have many humorous moments. One of those occurred after she was dressed. I got her hairbrush, and as I did, I thought of an old song our grandchildren used to like, “Where is my Hairbrush?” Kate and I always thought it was a funny song as well. I started to sing it. Kate laughed as I forgot the lyrics. Then I went to Google and played the original song. We both got a kick out of it. It’s just one little thing that helped sustain an already good day.

Her eagerness to go “home” made dressing a simple matter. We were at Panera before 9:45. She worked on her puzzles, ate her muffin, and I took her home. She rested less than an hour before I suggested we go to lunch. She was receptive. As we walked out of the house into the garage, we faced one of our few rough patches during the day. It was bizarre. She was disturbed. It was difficult to understand her. It seems she had some connection with a group of people who had killed a woman and that she hadn’t told the authorities. She felt guilty. When I asked for an explanation, she didn’t want to talk about it. Nothing more was said, and, moments later, she was fine. I’ll add this to my list of things I’ll never understand.

We had a nice lunch and went back to the house where she rested for at least two hours. Then I asked if she would like for the two of us to look at one of her family photo books. She did, and we spent almost an hour reading from a book about her mother’s family. I didn’t try to go through the photos. Instead I read the narrative portion that focuses on biographical information about her grandparents and Battle Creek where her mother was born. She loved it, and although we revisit this album frequently, I loved going through it with her. The lunch and afternoon turned out to be another “Happy Moment.”

The rest of the day also went well except for a brief period after coming home from dinner. Kate worked on her iPad for a short time and became frustrated. She reached a point at which she didn’t know what to do at all. I suggested she take a break and get ready for bed. She was happy to do that. Her confusion continued as she took her medications. I gave them to her one at a time, but she didn’t know what to do with them. She started to put the first one in her glass of water. I explained that she should put it in her mouth and then use the water to wash it down. After the first two pills, she caught on. Then I took her to the bathroom and helped her into her gown. Once she was in bed she was quite relaxed.

The day was a good one. It also captures the way we can shift back and forth between good things and trying ones. I am grateful that most of our days include a preponderance of “Happy Moments.”

A Nice Day with a Sad Ending

I am often worried that I will have a problem getting Kate up on days when the sitter comes or when we have some other commitment. Yesterday was one of those. I had planned to attend a luncheon sponsored by the health foundation on whose board I had served. It had been a while since I had attended any of their events and was eager to be there. Cindy, Kate’s Monday sitter, had an opening yesterday, so it was all arranged.

To top it off, getting Kate up was no problem at all. She woke up on her own around 8:30. and wanted me to take her home. That meant getting her ready was easy. We drove over to Panera where I got her a muffin and brought her home shortly before Cindy arrived. As usual, Kate was tired and got on the sofa to rest. She was wide awake when Cindy got here. She greeted her warmly and showed no reluctance to my leaving.

I enjoyed the luncheon. I got to see a good number of people I hadn’t seen in a while and sat by someone I hadn’t known and got acquainted with her. It was a therapeutic outing for me.

Kate was still resting on the sofa when I got home. Cindy said she hadn’t moved since I left. She also went to be early.

I watched some of the coverage of the New Hampshire primary and went to bed later. I know that Kate was asleep at least off and on before then. When I got in bed, I discovered that she was very uneasy. We began what turned out to be a long conversation. She wanted me to help her and asked where she was, who she was, who I was, and who her parents were. She repeatedly asked the same questions over and over again for almost an hour. As quickly as I gave my answers, she forgot them. I spoke to her very calmly and suggested that I would be able to show her some photos that might help her understand. She didn’t want to look at anything then. Throughout our conversation she was very comfortable with me even though she didn’t recognize our relationship. I told her we had been together a long time, and she asked if I were her husband. When I told her, she didn’t express surprise. It was a simple acceptance of what I had said. At one point, she told me that these were important things that she ought to know. I agreed and told her to count on me to answer all her questions.

It was a sad situation and one I couldn’t solve. It wasn’t like some other incidents in which she was frightened or desperately worried about why she didn’t know these things, but she was concerned and felt she should know. Finally, we both thought we should get some sleep, and we did.

Another Good Day and a Reminder of the Kindness of Strangers

As I had hoped, we got our week off to a good start. I didn’t have to struggle with Kate to get her up. When I checked on her around 10:30, she was awake and quite cheerful. We had no trouble getting to lunch and back by the time the sitter arrived at 1:00. Not only that, but Kate was happy to see Cindy and didn’t express any reluctance about my leaving. She was tired and getting ready to rest. When I returned home, she was still resting. Cindy said she hadn’t moved from the sofa the entire time I was gone. She was glad to see me.

We went out for our regular Mexican meal at Chalupas where we enjoyed our meal and conversation. As she does more often these days, she wanted me to sit beside her in the booth rather than across the way I normally do. This was another occasion when we were the recipients of the kindness of strangers. We were earlier than usual, and there were only a couple of other parties there when we arrived. One of them was a young couple seated across the room from us. The man was African American and the young lady with him was Asian. They were almost twenty feet apart, and we never spoke. They left about fifteen minutes before we did. They walked past us, and the man said, “Have a good night.” When it was time for our check, our server told us it was taken care of. I was surprised and thought the restaurant was treating us. That’s when he said it was paid for by the couple who just left.

That is the third time we have had that experience in the past few months. In the other two cases, however, I knew or had a pretty good idea of who the people were. They were people who are well aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s. This time it was a couple we had never seen before, and our server said he had never seen them in the restaurant before.

I wonder what prompted them to do this. I do know that Kate is very slow, and it took a long time for me to help her take off her sweater and then to be seated. The couple may have noticed and thought Kate was handicapped in some way. Our server suggested that not many couples sit side-by-side in a booth unless they are with another couple. Maybe they were taken with an old couple who are still in love. Whatever it was, it made quite an impression on us.

The rest of our evening went well as it usually does. I am glad that we can have days like this even at this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s.

Is It Really Possible to Have a Good Day During the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s?

I am frequently concerned that I paint too rosy a picture of what living with Alzheimer’s is like for us. We, especially Kate, experience challenges, frustration, and stress. I don’t know how we could live with Alzheimer’s any other way; however, I believe it is important to communicate the good things that we can still enjoy. Yes, we can even have a “Good Day” at this stage of the disease. I always feel the need to reiterate that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kate’s memory is better or that she isn’t confused. I mean that we have enjoyed, not just a moment, but the day.

Yesterday was one of those. Several things may have accounted for that. She awoke in a good mood. In addition, we were not rushed at all. Her insecurity is also increasing. She seemed more dependent than usual. Finally, we talked a lot about our relationship and our love for each other.

She was also up early again, and we went to Panera and returned home for her to rest an hour before leaving for lunch. It was a very leisurely morning. We went to the Sunset Café for lunch. It’s a cut above most of the other restaurants we visit and they always save a corner table in the bar for us. It’s a quiet place and seems a little more private because the bar is quite small, only three other tables, and not very active at lunch. The setting makes it easy to engage in conversation. Kate and I took advantage of that. We have been eating there for several years and have gotten to know the hostesses, several servers, and shift managers, all of whom stop by our table to say hello. It provides the kind of social occasion Kate can easily handle.

When we returned home, she wanted to rest and did so for almost three hours before we got ready for dinner at Casa Bella. They were having a repeat of the Broadway program we heard last week, so I thought it might be nice to eat  in the front section of the restaurant away from the music. This is where we had eaten most often before they started their music nights. We have shared happy and sad moments there over the years. Last night was one of the happy ones.

We talked almost entirely about our relationship, our families, and how much we have to be grateful for. We also dealt with how we would feel if we lost the other through death. We do this periodically. Both of us feel we would like to die first so as not to live without the other. I feel good when we are able to talk about these things because I often think about her death and know that the odds of my living without her are significantly higher than the other way around. Of course, she doesn’t know that which magnifies her fear of my dying first and leaving her alone. She is very insecure now. She recognizes how difficult it is for her to do anything on her own.

Some might take this kind of conversation to be sad. It is, but there is another side to it. When we talk like this, we also feel very close. Each of us recognizes the depth of our love for the other in a way that doesn’t occur in the course of our daily routine. Of course, we approach this topic from different perspectives. I have a better idea of what is ahead for her. On the other hand, she is keenly aware that something is wrong with her as well as her dependency on me. I believe that when we have discussions like this we are uniting in a way that strengthens each of us. Her trust in me serves to reinforce my desire to care for her, and she is comforted by my assurances that I will be with her all the way.

It could have been an ordinary day. We didn’t do anything extraordinary. But it was a day in which we focused heavily on what we mean to each other. That made it special. It was a “Good Day.”

Nine Years Ago Today

Most people remember specific dates that represent something significant that happened in their lives. I have a number of those, our wedding date, Kate’s birthday along with those of our children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. We celebrate dates like these, but there are also dates when something happened that we don’t think of celebrating. January 21, 2011, is that kind of date for me. Nine years ago today, Kate’s doctor delivered the news that she has Alzheimer’s.

At the time, the news was devastating, but we made a commitment to make the most of the quality time remaining to us. I had no idea how long that would last. Here we are nine years later and still able to enjoy life and each other. I am very grateful for that. I can honestly say that these years have been among the best of our marriage.

Today, however, I feel other emotions as well. They are more like the way ones I felt when she received the diagnosis. I am just as intent on making the most of our time together, but at this last stage of her disease, I am more than bit apprehensive. I know that we won’t continue to live the way we have the past nine years. We are at the beginning of the stage people imagine when they think of Alzheimer’s. Our quality time is going to be more limited. This doesn’t mean our experience of “Happy Moments” will cease. It is just that they will be different. Even in the past few weeks, I see the challenges increasing. I mentioned a couple of them in my previous post. Another one occurred yesterday.

Kate was just as tired as the previous morning, perhaps even more so. Off and on for an hour and a half, I worked to gently wake her before my efforts met with success. I began with some soft music and gradually changed to more lively music. The first two two or three times I went to check on her, she was sleeping so soundly that she didn’t hear me at all. That has never happened before. My reward was that she smiled when she finally responded the last time I tried.

She was slow to get up and wanted to rest a little longer after she was partially dressed. While she rested, we talked. She repeatedly asked my name and where she was. This was a time when she didn’t remember me as her husband, but she spoke very comfortably with me. She didn’t express any great surprise when I told her we were married, but that didn’t stop her from asking my name.

She was in a good humor and kidded me a good bit. While lying in bed, she wanted us to sing something. I sang Edelweiss, but she didn’t sing along because she couldn’t remember the words. She wanted me to sing it again. I did and then played it on our audio system. That way I could give her the words just before each phrase. She enjoys singing.  It was an unusual and pleasant way to start our day.

It was our day for the sitter. When she arrived, Kate wondered who was at the door. I told her it was “Cindy, your friend who takes you to lunch on Monday.” She didn’t remember her but was very nonchalant in her response. She greeted Cindy warmly and never hesitated about my leaving with her. I didn’t have Rotary yesterday and almost canceled the sitter, but I thought I could use the time. I have also wanted to strengthen the bond between the two of them. I have had the distinct impression that Kate favors the sitter who comes on Wednesday and Friday and has been with since our second week with sitters. I believe that continuity helps and hope we don’t ever lose her.

The rest of our day went well. Kate was especially taken with some YouTube music videos I played for her last night. That took the place of her iPad on which she had started to work puzzles but lost interest. It was nice to see her enjoying herself. She was still awake when I got in bed. We chatted briefly and expressed our love for each other.

I make a point of mentioning the challenges of getting her up, her confusion and failure to remember my name and our relationship along with the good time we had once she was up. This is a good snapshot of what “Living with Alzheimer’s” is like for us. As long as she is happy, we will continue to live well. I hope I am wrong about the changes I believe will occur in the coming year. Despite my expectations, I am very grateful for the good times we have had in the past and feel sure we will have more in the future. We have, indeed, been fortunate.