From Fear to Joy in 60 Minutes

At 9:45 this morning, I saw on the video cam that Kate was awake and went to the bedroom. When I got to her, I discovered that she was scared. It turned out that she had been awake for a while and wondered where I was. She never called for me, or I would have gone to her right away. I also did not detect any movement that would suggest she was at all worried. When I apologized, she said, “Don’t ever do that again.” I told her I wanted her to know that I would never leave her alone and that I wanted her to call me if it happened again. She said, “I didn’t know where you were or where I was or what was happening.” Her memory of this fearful experience lasted a much longer time that I would have imagined. After she was dressed and taking her meds before leaving the house, she mentioned this again. This would have been about thirty minutes later. She said very sweetly, “I know you didn’t mean it, but don’t ever do that again – whatever your name is.”

Before leaving she saw a piece of ceramic tile that one of our grandsons had painted as a marker for our dog Chico’s ashes. We used to keep in a flower bed in our back yard where we had scattered his ashes. She didn’t know what it was, but she thought it was pretty and asked me if she could take it with her in the car. Of course, I said she could. We had enough time to stop by Panera for a muffin before an 11:20 appointment with her ophthalmologist . She asked if it would be all right to take it in the restaurant. I told her that would be fine. We put it on our table.

At Panera we had one of those nice conversations that occur periodically. She was in a very good humor and talkative. We talked about our lives and how fortunate we have been. She again showed how perceptive she can be when she said, “If you are with someone you like, it doesn’t matter where you are.” I agreed. After all, this was one of those moments that are special. We were just at Panera having a blueberry muffin, but it is the kind of moment I will treasure in the days ahead. How grateful I am that this is possible so late in her journey.

Kate’s Intuitive Abilities

I talk a lot about deriving much of our pleasure from Kate’s intuitive abilities. That frequently involves music and our social activities. There are lots of other signs of her intuitive abilities that I don’t say much about. Let me tell you about a few experiences that occurred yesterday.

She got up to go to the bathroom shortly before 6:00. She was especially groggy. I walked with her to show the way. I asked if she wanted fresh underwear. She said she did. Then she walked over to the sink to wash her hands. She turned to me, smiled and said something I can’t quite remember. I know what it meant though. It was “We didn’t envision this when we married.” She not only retained her sense of humor, but she was able to grasp the situation in a way that I might not have thought she could.

As I walked her back to bed, she smiled and said, “Are you havin’ fun yet?” She thanked me as I pulled the covers over her.

Several hours later as I was putting drops in her left eye (her cataract surgery is tomorrow.), she had trouble understanding that I wanted her to tilt her head back to make it easier. She got a little irritated with me. I told her I was sorry, that I was just trying to help her. She said apologetically, “I know you were.” She was sorry for the way she spoke to me. This took an understanding and appreciation of what I was trying to do, and she felt she had hurt me and was sorry.

She was up at 9:30. That gave us time for a trip to Panera for her muffin before lunch. We hadn’t been seated long before she asked my name and hers several times pretty close together. We got into a conversation about our parents, mine as well as hers. That led her to say how fortunate each of us has been, not just in the parents we had but in so many other ways. She began to talk about people who haven’t been as lucky. As she talked, she got tears in her eyes and choked up. She couldn’t continue her thought. She was overcome by emotion. She has never been one to shed tears easily. Alzheimer’s has changed that.

She was finishing up her muffin when I said we would be going to lunch in a while. She said she was full and might not want to eat much. Then she said, “Knowing me, I might change my mind as soon as we are there.” I was struck by that because it is so apt. She frequently says she won’t be able to eat or eat much before going out but changes her mind once we are there. She has remarkable insight about her own personality as well as mine even when she can’t remember either of our names.

She was very talkative at Panera, and, at lunch, we had another great conversation. She (we) talked almost the entire time we were there (almost two hours). Only half of that conversation was about Frank Sinatra. <G> Just kidding, but I didn’t even try to count the number of times she asked his name. One time after I told her, she said, “I don’t know why I can’t remember his name. I ask you all the time.” I said, “But you don’t forget that you don’t like him.” She agreed.

Like other conversations, this one focused heavily on feelings, things that don’t require a memory of facts. Her parents and mine figured in the conversation. We expressed our feelings about them. We are both grateful for our parents and the way we were raised.

One time when our server stopped by to check on us, I mentioned how much we had enjoyed the Chicken Marsala. In a few minutes, she returned with the chef (a woman) who had prepared it for us. We thanked her. She said to let her know whenever we are there and that she would take care of us. Kate and I were both touched that our server thought to introduce us.

After the server walked away, Kate said, “I like you.” Before I could say “I like you too,” she said, “I like you a lot.” That’s when I got to say, “I like you a lot too. In fact, I love you.”

On the way home, Kate kept saying how much she enjoyed the CD I was playing. It is one I bought several years ago in Memphis for $5.00 when we were visiting Jesse and her family. It’s a compilation of songs from a variety of Broadway shows. She likes it so much that it is almost the only one I have played for the past few weeks. I am amazed that she remembers so many of the words, especially the key phrases. I know from things I have read about music and people with dementia, Parkinson’s, or strokes that music can facilitate the words as well as the music; however, hearing her sing the words always surprises me.

An interesting sidelight is that this CD does not provide the names of the singers. Every time a song plays, Kate asks me to tell her who is singing. Each time I tell her I don’t know, and the CD doesn’t give any of the singers’ names. That is something she never remembers, so she asks her question a lot going to and from place to place.

When we got home, I built a fire and we spent the afternoon relaxing. Kate lay on the sofa and frequently talked about the things she could see and liked both inside and outside. As usual, she mentioned the trees that she could see through the skylights. It’s interesting that she responds to the trees in the same way she did before they shed their leaves for the winter. She often says, “I love all the green.” She also talked about the music, the fire, and a painting we had purchased on trip to Quebec City years ago.

The entire day she was especially appreciative, not just for my care for her but for all of her experiences. Her intuitive abilities were not only alive and well but very active.

Feeling Insecure

It has been a year and four months since I first got a sitter to be with Kate for four hours three days a week. I put off making the decision to do this a long time. I was concerned about how Kate would respond. It seemed to me that she felt pretty secure that she could take care of herself and, thus, didn’t need someone to stay with her. When I told her minutes before the sitter’s first visit, she asked me why the person was coming. I told her I would feel more comfortable not leaving her alone. She said, “Oh, okay.” That was it. With only a few exceptions, she has not seemed to mind having a sitter since then. Yesterday was one of those.

I had tried gently to wake her in time for her to shower and dress before the sitter arrived. I didn’t push because I have learned that if she didn’t want to get up, Valorie could take care of helping her. At 11:15, she asked if she could stay in bed a little longer. I told her that was all right.

When Valorie arrived, I went back to the bedroom and told Kate that she was here and that I was going to the Y. She gave me a disapproving look but didn’t say anything. Valorie walked in the room to say hello, and I said my goodbyes.

When I returned four hours later, they were both seated in the family room. Kate was resting with her eyes closed. She didn’t show any sign that she was glad to see me. Valorie got up to leave and said goodbye. Kate didn’t say anything. As I walked Valorie to the door, she told me that she had helped Kate get to the shower and dressed. She said that twice Kate was very abrupt with her and said something like, “I can do that myself.” Valorie said when that happened, she backed off and let Kate do it on her own.

I could easily envision what happened. I told Valorie she is sometimes the same way with me. In this particular case, I believe Kate might have been more demonstrative than usual because she was bothered by my having left her. After Valorie was gone, I went back to Kate and told her I was glad to see her. She said, “I’m glad to see you too.” Her tone of voice led me to translate that to “Boy, am I glad you are here.” We didn’t say anything more at that time.

Later as we were going to dinner, I said, “I really enjoy being with you.” With some emotion she said, “I enjoy being with you too. <pause> I feel comfortable with you. I feel secure that you won’t let anything happen to me. I feel safe.” This is not the first or the second time she has said things like this. I don’t think she is afraid of being the object of an aggressive act by someone. I know that most (almost all) of the time she is unsure of where she is and what is going on around her. I am the constant helpmate for her. She has a feeling of complete trust. When I am not with her, she loses that sense of security. I believe that is especially true when she has a sitter with whom she has spent considerably less time than she has with me.

I have two emotional reactions to the situation. I feel like having a sitter less often. This is a case in which I will let my head take charge over the emotion. In the long run, I am going to need more help from sitters, not less. I think this is just a rough spot in the road. It isn’t one that should alter my overall plan.

The other emotion is a feeling of responsibility. I feel she needs me more now than ever. I want to make sure that the rest of her life is as smooth as it can be. That feeling was reinforced by a brief conversation we had last night.

We went to dinner with a couple we know from our music nights at Casa Bella. We ate at a new German restaurant near their house. We had never been there before, and I believe Kate was a bit uneasy. We got a durprise when we walked in. There is a bell connected to the door of the entrance. It has a surprisingly loud ring each time the door is opened. Kate is very sensitive to noises. (I scared her the other day when I turned on the faucet in the laundry. The sudden noise of the water frightened her.) The bell shook her momentarily. The menu items were very different. She initially tried to read the menu but quickly gave up. She had trouble following our conversation and had to ask questions to help her understand. She often asks me to slow down when I am talking to her. Following three other people, each of whom is a talker, is an impossibility. I really felt for her.

When we got in the car to go home, she said, “Richard, (yes, she remembered my name) I don’t understand what is happening. I’m so confused.” I asked if she could explain a little more. She couldn’t. I told her I wanted to help in any way I could. I reminded her of our wedding vows, specifically the part about “sickness and in health.” I told her I would always be with her. She said she understood that and has never doubted it. I realize, of course, that we attach different meanings to that. I know where we are headed. She doesn’t, but she does know she can count on me. I intend to honor that promise.

Another Example of Kate’s Intuitive Abilities

I’ve written two posts in the last few days that deal with Kate’s intuitive abilities. This is another one. Last night she had an emotional experience that illustrates how powerful those abilities can be. This was far from the first such experience, but it was especially intense and lasted over a twenty to thirty-minute period of time.

It occurred after we returned home from dinner. About two weeks ago, she and one of her sitters had watched the first half of Les Miserables. It had been a while since the two of us had watched it, so I turned on the second half. As on other occasions, she quickly became engrossed. Periodically, I noticed that she was whimpering a bit as she watched. She was also making audible expressions of her pleasure.

Close to the last third of the performance, I brought her meds to her. Then I started to refill the pill holder in the bathroom. I was just about finished when she called my name. It was obvious that she was moved by what she was watching. When I responded, she asked if I could come to her. I went over to her and got down on one knee beside her chair. I asked what I could do for her. She said she just wanted me to be with her. Then she took my hand. I said, “It’s beautiful. Isn’t it?” She said, “Beautiful and sad.” She talked off and on for the remaining portion of the performance.

She thought it was so sad that we have wars. She explained that she believed there are times when war becomes necessary but it is so horrible that so many people have to suffer. She has always been moved by WWII and specifically the Holocaust. She said she couldn’t understand why so many Jews had been killed during the war. She repeated her thoughts for at least the next twenty minutes.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I felt this was a time for comfort as opposed to words. I listened and held her hand and supported her feelings. That continued until the end of the musical. We went to bed shortly afterward.

This experience makes me think about many of the movies we have enjoyed over the past several years. I don’t believe she has been able to follow a plot or understand much of what is going on for at least four or five years; however, that hasn’t prevented her from enjoying movies. For a long time, I wondered how that can be. Then I began to understand that the characters and situations must have communicated some emotional message that she liked. That was illustrated most vividly in several of the movies she has enjoyed during the past year. One was Darkest Hour. In that case, she did understand that it dealt with Churchill and WWII. She was able to connect with the seriousness of the events portrayed as well as the drama conveyed by the acting, visuals, and sound. The other two were documentaries, RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Even without following the story, she was able to get a feeling for both Justice Ginsberg and Mr. Rogers. She easily understood that the films conveyed positive impressions of each one and liked them.

One of the things I have learned since Kate’s diagnosis is that most people think of the last stages when they hear of someone with Alzheimer’s. They don’t imagine that stage is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll be there sooner than I would like. In the meantime, I will continue to celebrate the fact that there are so many things that she can enjoy. Her intuitive abilities are still working even as her rational ones disappear.

Confused But at Ease

Yesterday I decided to let Kate sleep a little later than the past few days. I checked on her at 11:00 and found that her eyes were open. I asked if she would like to get up. She asked me to give her a little more time. I went back in twenty minutes. She was awake. I told her it was getting close to the time we should leave for lunch and thought she should get up if she could. She indicated she was hungry.

I said something about her having slept later than she had during the time Virginia and Ken were visiting. She said, “Who?” I told her again. She didn’t recognize who I was talking about. I said, “Ken is your brother.” There was no sign of recognition. She said, “What’s his name?” I repeated his name. She usually says she likes the name “Franklin.” This time it meant nothing to her. She did ask where he got his name. I told her from his mother and father and that they were also her parents. She wanted know their names. I told her. She wanted me to repeat their full names. She asked me to do it again. She wanted me to say each name (first, middle, and last) slowly so that she could repeat each one. When I had done this, she wanted to know my name. I told her and told her I am her husband. She was surprised. I told her a little bit about our courtship and then our marriage in her home church. She was still puzzled but accepted what I had said.

Two things struck me about this experience. The first is that it’s one more time that it took her a while to acknowledge that we are married. It’s getting harder for her to remember that. The second is that she continues to trust me as someone she knows. She shows no sign of fear. She seems perfectly comfortable with me. I am grateful for that.

All of this must have taken fifteen minutes. She finally got up a little after noon. She took a shower and then got back in the bed. I got her up just after 1:00. It was 1:45 when we left for lunch. Just before leaving, she walked out of the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush in her hand and asked, “Are we going to stay another night?” I told her we were. Then I took them back to the bathroom.

The rest of the day went quite well. I saw no indication that she forgot that I am her husband although she did ask my name a number of times. At lunch she said something affectionate and immediately asked my name. Then she laughed in recognition of how strange it sounded to pair those two things. Twice she mentioned that she remembered coming to the restaurant with her mother although her mother had never been there.

There is one other thing I haven’t commented on before. The restaurant where we eat each Sunday has several prominent photos of Frank Sinatra, and much of their music features him. One of the photos was taken when he was arrested for seduction and adultery in 1938. Kate asked me about the photo the first time she saw it. I explained and also said something about his mob connections. I didn’t think much of it, but every Sunday she asks me who he is multiple times. When I say his name, she always responds negatively. Today, for example, she said, “He’s a rat.” Then she said, “I don’t know why I feel that way.” It’s another good example of how well she can hold on to feelings while she so easily forgets names and other facts associated with them.

I was about to finish this post when I recalled one other example of the power of feelings. Last night I played several YouTube videos of Christmas music when I suggested it was time to get ready for bed. She got up from her chair to walk to the bathroom. As she did, she commented on the beautiful music and how special it was that we could share it together. Then she asked my name. A few minutes later she called me by name. She hasn’t completely forgotten it yet.

When she came out of the bathroom, she said, “I’m glad we came here.” A few minutes later she asked where we are and how I found “this place.” I told her I couldn’t remember. She thanked me for bringing her here.

As I was helping her get into her night clothes, she said, “I wonder what my mother would think of this. <pause> I think she would approve.” Then she thanked me and said, “I don’t know what I would do without you. I mean it. I really don’t know how I could do it.”

All of these things are signs that she is still able to feel, enjoy, and appreciate things. I am grateful. We have made the most of that ability in the past and will continue to do so even as the names and recognition of people and places recedes from her memory.

From Clarity to Excitement to Insecurity to Enjoyment to Confusion

All of us experience moments when we are up and when we are down. Kate sometimes changes quickly from one emotion to another. She hasn’t always been like that. Alzheimer’s is the culprit. Yesterday she went through a series of emotions from the time she awoke until we had gone to bed.

When I went I to wake her, her eyes were open. She was very relaxed. She was enjoying the comfort of a warm bed on a cold morning. As I approached her, she smiled warmly. There was no sign of confusion about who I was. I told her good morning and that I love her. She smiled again and motioned with her hands that she felt the same way about me.

We didn’t have any obligations that required her to get up at that time, but I thought it would be good for her to get up for lunch and take care of a few things before Ken and Virginia arrived later in the afternoon. Often she is resistant to getting up, so I approached this cautiously. I found that for the second day in a row she was very cooperative. We were off to a good start.

Apart from her usual problem with names, Kate seemed quite normal and completely at ease. We had lunch and came back home and relaxed a while. Later we went to Barnes & Noble. Shortly after we arrived, I received a call from Sue Glenn, a childhood friend of Kate’s in Fort Worth. She was calling to check on Kate. It was just over a year ago that we had visited with her and several other high school friends when we were in Fort Worth. We hadn’t spoken with her since a phone call conversation a few weeks after that. I always wonder how Kate will handle phone calls from people she has not seen or talked with in a long time. I was very pleasantly surprised that the call could not have gone better. I told Kate who was calling and handed her the phone. Her eyes lit up immediately. There was a clear sign of recognition. She and Sue chatted almost ten minutes. Kate couldn’t say much with a lot of specifics, but she was able to convey her feelings about her past experiences. I think I derived as much pleasure listening to Kate’s side of the conversation as she enjoyed talking with Sue. I don’t often see such excitement or recognition these days.

We went back home to await a call from Virginia and Ken. After their call, I told Kate they would be coming to the house and then we would go to dinner. Coming off the phone call with Sue, I expected Kate to show a similar reaction. Instead, she felt a little uneasy. She said she was tired and didn’t feel like being with anyone. She didn’t say much more. I thought (and still think) she felt the need to be a gracious hostess and wouldn’t be able to carry it off. I assured her she always did well in social situations and would be just fine. She said, “You promise?” I said, “I promise.”

I am happy to say that I was right. She was herself, and we all had a good time. We chatted a short time before going to dinner. The dinner also went well. Ken and Virginia got a sense of why we like eating out so much. We encountered a couple of people we hadn’t seen in a good while. That added another nice touch to the evening.

Ken and Virginia went back to their hotel after dinner. When we came in the house, Kate was confused about where she should go. She wanted to go to the bathroom and asked where it is. I took her to the one she uses most. It wasn’t long before I heard a loud “Hey.” She didn’t hear me answer and asked, “Hey, where are you?” I said, “I’m in our bedroom.” She said, “Where is that?” By that time, I had walked to her. She was standing in a hallway around the corner from our bedroom. She didn’t know where to go. As I walked her to the bedroom, we passed the open door of the guest bathroom. She looked in and saw the bathroom door to the bedroom was also open. She said, “What’s that?” I told her. She said, “Oh.” Nothing seemed familiar to her.

Her confusion continued after we were in bed. She had forgotten that we are married. This was the second night in a row we have had this experience. Our conversation sounded like a couple that is dating. I said, “I love you.” She laughed and said, “We’ll see.” I said, “Well, don’t you love me?” She said, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I said, “Maybe we should make this a long-term relationship.” She said, “Let’s not talk about this right now.” It wasn’t long before she touched me. Then she touched her lips and blew me a kiss. Shortly after that she put her arm around me and we went to sleep.

Travel

This is Thanksgiving week, and we leave tomorrow to spend the holiday with our son Kevin and his family. As you would expect, Kate and I are approaching this trip in very different ways. This is very likely her last trip to her home state of Texas. I have been thinking about this trip for months. Her feelings for Texas are actually stronger now than they were when she was younger, but one of the things that disappeared with her memory is the ability to anticipate the future. I have been telling her for weeks that we are going to be in Lubbock for Thanksgiving. I’ve heard that the estimated length of time that a person at this stage of dementia can remember is a matter of seconds. As a result, she has no idea that we are going. She will enjoy the visit with family and being in Texas “in the moment” as she does with all her experiences.

There is usually a bit of sadness associated with “last-time” experiences. I think immediately of the time when a child leaves for college or gets married. Parents know that their lives will be changed forever. The sadness brought on by those experiences is partially offset by the pleasure we derive from watching our children take their place in the world as adults. That is very different from the anticipated loss of someone who is approaching the end of life. I derive much pleasure from my recall of our lives together. I believe we have made the most of our time, not only since Kate’s diagnosis but from the beginning of our courtship. We will continue to enjoy life together as long as we are able. I have to say, however, I cannot escape the sadness of these last experiences. I believe that is as it should be.

From Confusion to One of Our Tender Moments

This morning Kate didn’t know I was her husband. I am glad to say that had changed by this afternoon. I don’t mean all confusion was gone but that she at least called me by name and said something about our being married. As we drove to dinner at Chalupas, our favorite Mexican restaurant, she said, “Thank you for being so patient.” That began a conversation (“soliloquy” might be more accurate) that lasted for over an hour in the restaurant. There was much repetition as she said things like, “You are so patient with me.” “I like being with you. It’s not just that you take me places.” “I like the way you treat people.” “What would I do without you?” “You’re a natural caregiver.”

The tenderest moment came as we were finishing our meal. By this time I had reached across the table and taken her hand. She looked at me and said something complimentary. Then she started to say something else and stopped. She said, “No, that’s silly.” I pushed her to tell me. At first, she wasn’t going to say. Then she said, “Would you think of marrying me?” Before I could respond, she said again, “Oh, I know that seems silly.” Then I looked into her eyes and said, “I have a surprise for you.” She said, “What?” I said, “We are married, and I love you.” She was immediately touched and tears filled her eyes. Then I was touched, and here we were sitting in a neighborhood Mexican restaurant, a far cry from a romantic place.

Earlier today I read a tweet by Ann Campanella, author of Motherhood: Lost and Found. She said, “Blessings and loss are so often intertwined in our lives.” I replied that Kate and I frequently have such experiences. Little did I know that we would have one of those tonight. The loss of her not remembering that we are married was overshadowed by her ability to appreciate my caring for her, by her proposal of marriage, and her tender response when I told her we are already married.

A Conversation at Panera

Kate’s being up so early this morning meant that that we also got to Panera early. I think this was the fourth day in a row that she was in a particularly good mood. She clearly recognized where we were as we drove up to the restaurant. When I gave her my hand to help her up the curb to the sidewalk, she didn’t want it. Then she quickly changed her mind, saying, “I didn’t really need it, but it helps.”

As usual, I got her situated at our table and went to the counter to order our drinks and her muffin. When I returned with the muffin, she noticed that I didn’t have anything at my place and wondered why. I explained that I had already eaten an omelet at home. She teased me a little saying, “You just had to have something healthy, didn’t you?” What was striking about this is that, except for lunch, I have only gotten something to eat two or three times in all the years we have been going there. This was the first time she has said anything.

For thirty minutes or so, she worked on her iPad while I worked on my earlier post. Then, I think I said something about her mother. I know that she asked her mother’s name. I told her. Kate said, “She was quite a woman.” and I said, “Your mother would be proud of you. Then she said, “Do you think so?” I said, “I know so.”

I proceeded to tell her one of the things that I knew her mother admired about her, the 19 years she served as the volunteer librarian at our church. As I have done a couple of other times recently, I told her about her work a little like telling a story. She was surprised to know she had served so long. I explained that she had the perfect combination of training, personal experience, and personality for the position and that no one filling that position had had each of those qualities. I told her how well-acquainted she became with the parents and children as well as the teachers and other church members. I also told her about the many people she had helped to find materials for some special purpose. My mention of specific things she had done, jogged her memory a bit. That led to her adding other things she remembered from those 19 years. It was a beautiful conversation, and I loved seeing how good she felt about the contribution she had made. The library really had become a vital place under her direction, and her mother really would have been proud.

Our conversation caused me to reflect a moment. Could memory loss affect my self-esteem? I always try to imagine what it must be like not to have a memory. I do know that Kate has said a few things over the past year that suggest many other people have something about which they can be proud and that she doesn’t. It is easy for me to imagine that if I had forgotten everything about myself, I wouldn’t be able to think of anything that makes me special. I might feel somewhat inferior to other people. This is an aspect of the disease I hadn’t thought about before. Kate hasn’t forgotten everything about herself, but she remembers less and less all the time. I try to bolster her ego in every way I can, but I plan to be more sensitive to this issue in the future. I want her to remember what makes her special.

An Example the Strength of Feelings

Yesterday at my Friday afternoon coffee with Mark Harrington, I said something about Kate’s weakening memory for names. He said, “I’ll bet she still remembers some feelings.” I told him I had seen signs that he is right including her feeling about me as well as other family members and friends. Then I said, “I am sure she would not remember your name if she saw you, but she would probably think you are brilliant.” This morning he dropped by the house to pick up tickets to tonight’s symphony concert. I was outside when he arrived and chatted with him briefly. In a few minutes, Kate came outside. She walked over to Mark and gave him a warm greeting. We talked another few minutes. Then as he was getting in his car, Kate said, “You’re a good guy. You’re brilliant.”

He drove away. Kate and I turned around to walk back in the house, and she said, “What’s his name?” I said, “Mark.” She asked, “What’s his last name?” I said, “Harrington.” She said, “Oh, he’s brilliant.”

When Kate was diagnosed, I had no sense of things like this. They are things I have learned along the way, some by experience but many from things I have read. Either way, I think it is very important for all of us who care for someone with dementia to understand this. It means that even as some abilities diminish over time, others remain in place for a long time.

In our particular case, I am especially glad that Kate’s enjoyment of music doesn’t appear to have lessened at all. In fact, I think it is stronger now than ever before. I wonder if that might not be a direct result of losing some of her other abilities. It could be like someone’s losing her sense of sight but strengthening her sense of hearing. The important thing is to remember that a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean all is lost. If it did, our lives would have been very different.