One of the things I’ve learned about “Living with Alzheimer’s” is that people’s experiences can be quite different; however, there is at least one thing that all or most dementia caregivers experience: unpredictability. One minute Kate is smiling cheerfully. The next she is withdrawn.
Because of that, I am never sure how she will react to a situation in which I would love for her to smile or just hear her say a word or two. With that in mind, I prepared something special for our 60th anniversary last week. I decided to take her out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Casa Bella. We hadn’t been there since November 2020. In fact, we hadn’t been out anywhere in more than two and a half years. Kate was beginning to lose her mobility before that, and she was in bed for so long with Covid that she completely lost it. Since then we have only been able to move her with a lift to get her in and out of her bed and into her wheelchair. Thus, going out to eat requires a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible.
Getting transportation was easy. I simply called the agency that provides in-home care for our retirement community, but I had other concerns as well. I didn’t want to put her in a crowded restaurant, so I made reservations for Tuesday night after Memorial Day when I thought it was less likely to be busy than later in the week. I called the owner of the restaurant and made reservations for 5:00 pm. That’s when they open for dinner. At the same time, I arranged a table in the room where we had often eaten in the past. I also asked our caregiver to stay an hour or two later than usual.
The only remaining concern I had was Kate’s mood. I wanted the experience to be as joyful as it had been on our previous visits there, but I knew there was no way to predict how she would feel or react. Nor was there any way I could ensure that she was in a cheerful mood. As it turned out, everything worked out beautifully.
The day began on a positive note. Kate slept late that morning. She was still asleep when the caregiver arrived at 11:00. I was happy about that because she is sometimes worn out later in the day after waking early.
When I arrived home from lunch, she was resting in her recliner as usual. She smiled when I approached her. I spoke to her for a few minutes letting her know how happy I was to see her. I turned on some “Sing-Along-for-Seniors” music on YouTube. She responded well to that. I sang, but she didn’t. Nonetheless, her smiles and facial expressions showed that she was enjoying herself.
We also had a good experience when we went out for ice cream. She smiled much of that time and responded a little to those who spoke to her – at least more than she usually does. Then we came back to the apartment where we met the driver who would take us to dinner.
We arrived as they opened right at 5:00 pm. The owners were not there, but they had prepared the staff for our arrival. They greeted us warmly and got us settled at our table. Kate and I as well as our caregiver (who had never been there before) enjoyed every minute.
Not long after we were seated, the owner arrived and came directly to our table. We had a nice visit with her. Although I can’t remember what she said, I was pleased that Kate responded audibly to something she said. A little later, her husband also dropped by to say hello. We had a good dinner, but the real enjoyment was being back in a place where we had eaten many meals over a period of fifty years. The bonus was that Kate enjoyed herself the entire time. That made for a very special sixtieth anniversary. I could not have predicted that the day would go so well. I’m already thinking about the possibility of doing this again.