Contrasting Social Situations and Kate’s Response

It seems that Kate’s current behavior is, in part, related to the situations in which she finds herself. Yesterday, she reacted very differently to two social situations. The first was lunch with our senior pastor. As I had done when we met my Twitter friend last weekend, I made sure that she was seated directly across the table from him. He was also good about including her in our conversation. Kate responded accordingly. He and I did most of the talking, but she was also an active participant. Both of us enjoyed our time together. I doubt that our pastor could see much difference in her since we had lunch together two to three months ago.

Last night was an altogether different experience. We went to Casa Bella for Broadway night. We sat at a table for ten, and the talking was louder than usual. Often when we arrive there is only one other couple with whom we sit each time. That enables her to establish a comfort level. Last night, we were the first ones there. Shortly after, the rest of the group arrived. I think this was overwhelming for Kate even though everyone was good about speaking to her.

While we were waiting for our server to bring our meal, Kate started looking around the room. She looked very concerned. She said, “Where did she go?” I said, “Who do you mean?” She said, “The woman who came with us.” I told her it was just the two of us, that nobody came with us. She didn’t seem convinced.

Until the food arrived fifteen minutes later, she was very uncomfortable. She said that she was looking for her food. I told her they were preparing it, and it would be coming soon. She continued to be very bothered and wanted me to speak with the server. At one point, she caught the eye of our server and motioned for her to come to her. Before she could ask about our meal, I told the server we were fine, and she walked away. Kate’s distress continued until the meal arrived. Then she devoted her attention to eating.

On a typical music night, Kate would have loved the music. She did respond well to two or three numbers but expressed little enthusiasm for the overall program. The singers were outstanding, but they sang a lot of Sondheim’s music. It was not as melodic as she likes. She was glad when we left.

The whole experience made me wonder what the future holds in terms of our attendance at these music nights. They have played an important part in our lives for the past six or seven years. Last night, she did not enjoy herself the way she has in the past. She seemed to be bordering on causing a scene because her food had not arrived when she thought it should. I’ll just have to play this by ear in the future. If we are going to continue sitting at a large table, I may experiment by getting a table for two. Crowds appear to be a growing problem.

Mood and Conversation

In my previous post I commented on Kate’s less-than-cheerful mood and a change in her conversation. She just hasn’t been talkative lately. That changed yesterday. I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but I can’t. All I can tell you is a summary of what happened.

She was up about 7:30 and went to the bathroom. This was a day when she wanted to express her independence. She didn’t want my help. I walked her to the bathroom. Then I went back to the kitchen where I could watch on the video cam to see when she had finished. After a while, I hadn’t seen her and wondered if she had come out without my noticing. Then I heard the shower. I was happy about that since she was due for one. I also knew that she would want to return to bed afterwards. That would give me a little time to take care of a few things I needed to do. It wasn’t too long before she was in bed again.

From past experience, I knew that she could easily sleep another couple of hours, but I kept checking the video cam. (In case you wondered, my iPad with the video sits to the right of my computer.) At 10:45, she had shown no sign of getting up. I went back to wake her. When I approached the bed, I saw that she was awake and asked if she would like me to take her to lunch. She gave me a confused looked as though she wasn’t sure who I was.

When I sat down on the bed, I said, “I’d like to take you to lunch.” She said, “Where are my clothes?” I always put them on the chair about three feet from her side of the bed, but she can’t remember. I pointed and told her where they were. Then she said, “What do I do now?” I told her she should get dressed. As I helped her into a sitting position, I noticed that she looked frightened. She said, “I sure am glad to see you.” On one or two other occasions, she has been awake but didn’t get up because she didn’t know what to do or where she was. I quickly assumed (correctly) that was what happened this time. She was shaking as she talked. She said, “I didn’t know what to do.” Then I felt terrible for not checking on her earlier, something I will watch more carefully in the future. I apologized and told her how bad I felt. When I did that, she immediately tried to ease my guilt. She said, “Well, it’s going to be all right now? <pause> Isn’t it?” I nodded, but she wanted me to be more affirming and again said, “Isn’t it?” I assured her it was. She still appeared to be shaken by the experience.

Unlike her earlier desire to assert her independence, she wanted me to guide her through every step she needed to take to get ready. She was too emotional to think straight about everything she needed to do. On a normal day she has difficulty, but the emotional experience she had had exacerbated the problem. Several times she reiterated how scared she had been.

On the way to, during, and after lunch she was quite talkative. While we were eating, we had a conversation similar to one I reported on a couple of weeks ago. The first one involved Christopher Columbus. She asked who he was. I tried not to get into anything too overwhelming for her to understand. She asked questions about everything. That meant it did get too complicated for her, but she was still eager to know more. I had to repeat just about everything two or three times without her ever getting it, but she was interested anyway. Somehow the conversation drifted to food that was in the New World and introduced into the Old. I Googled a list of such items and read them to her. She was like a little child discovering something she had never thought about. She couldn’t believe they didn’t always have things like potatoes or corn in Europe before then.

The next topic was World War II. She started this one when she brought up the topic of discrimination. I mentioned the Holocaust and Hitler. We didn’t get too far on that one because she got too emotional. She was both interested and shocked. She is more emotional now and starts to cry at both happy and sad things she hears about.

We got home a short time before the sitter arrived. I didn’t tell Kate that Mary was coming. I just let her in. Kate welcomed her. I told her I was going out for while. She said, “We’ll be fine.” Once again, I left with a good feeling. When I returned, they were sitting in the family room talking happily.

After Mary left, we went to dinner. When we returned home, we sat down in the family room. Ordinarily, I would watch the news while she works on her iPad. She had been in such a good mood that I didn’t want to break it by watching the news. I turned on a Barbra Streisand album as Kate started to open her iPad. The first song I selected was “Send in the Clowns.” It has always been a favorite of hers. Instead of working a puzzle, she put the iPad down and just listened. Then I to selected a number of others that I knew or thought she would like. We sat there together for an hour just enjoying the music. She loved it. I did as well, but the real treat was sharing such a happy moment together. I feel fortunate that we can have moments like these, especially this late in her disease.

Examples of Kate’s Intuitive Abilities

Kate continues to amaze me with her intuitive abilities. For example, today as we walked from the car to the restaurant for lunch, she said something to which I responded differently than she expected. She was surprised, and I said, “You mean you think I’m predictable?” She laughed and said, “Are you kidding?” I don’t know that predictable is quite the right word, but I do have rather predictable patterns. She regularly makes comments about my personal quirks/behavior, and she is always right even when she can’t remember my name or who I am.

Another incident happened after we returned home. It was preceded by my playing an album of choral music that she likes. Sometimes she likes to sing along with the music though neither of us can remember all the words. One of the songs on the album is “Comin’ through the Rye.” She wanted to sing it, but we couldn’t make out enough of the words. At home, she wanted us to sing it. I told her I would have to look up the lyrics. When I did, I found the original Robert Burns poem on which the song is based. Of course, it had the Scottish expressions. That didn’t work. She asked me to sing something else. Without thinking, I started singing “Amazing Grace.” We sang a few bars before she said, “That doesn’t sound very appropriate.” I felt the same way. It just popped in my head, but it didn’t seem like the most appropriate song for us to sing at that moment. Now, I’m glad I did because it shows how sharp she can be when it comes to her intuitive abilities.

A Day of Ups and Downs

Kate’s confusion in the morning continued yesterday. The good news is that she wasn’t at all irritable. She just didn’t know who she is, who I am, or where she was. She was sleeping very soundly when I went to get her up. I really hated to wake her, but I knew we needed to get to lunch and back before her massage at 2:00. I wanted to allow plenty of time to avoid rushing her.

As I expected, she didn’t want to get up, but she did so very cooperatively. She was confused. She looked out the bedroom window as she does each morning and didn’t recognize where she was. Then she said, “Who are you?” I told her I was her husband. She was puzzled. I didn’t try to explain. I simply suggested that she take a shower and that we could look at some pictures I thought would help her. Again, she was cooperative.

She wanted to rest a while after her shower. That is not unusual at all. We had time, and I told her to go right ahead. After thirty minutes, I went back and helped her dress. When she was ready, I took her to the family room and showed her the “Big Sister” album. She immediately took to the cover photo of her and her brother. I asked if she knew who they were. She pointed to her picture and said, “Me.” She also recognized her brother. I find it amazing how a photo can begin to bring back memories. It is something that her intuitive abilities enable her to do. We opened the cover and looked at the first few pictures. She connected with them very quickly. Her sense of confusion was lifted.

I suggested we go to lunch and come back to spend more time with the album. She asked if she could take the album with us. I told her she could. When we got to the restaurant, she asked if she could take it inside. As I was about to suggest that she leave it in the car, she said, “Maybe I should leave it here.” I told her that sounded good to me.

It’s been over a month since Kate’s cataract surgery. It has definitely improved her vision – at least in some ways. I notice that she tries to read more than she did before. By “read” I mean to read a headline in a magazine or signs she sees wherever we go. Occasionally she makes an effort to read an article in a magazine, but the font is almost always too small for her. The major problem is not her eyes. It’s her Alzheimer’s. That was evident at lunch when I asked if she was going to eat her sandwich. She said, “Where is it?” This, too, is not unusual. She frequently fails to notice food that is on her plate. Once I pointed it out to her, she took a bite and put it down. A few minutes later when she hadn’t taken another bite, I asked if she wanted the rest of her sandwich. She asked me where it was. I believe part of the problem has nothing to do with her sight. I say that because she seems to locate most of the fries. I notice something similar when she has salmon and sweet potato fries at the Bluefish Grill.

It was noisier than usual at lunch. We were seated near a group of twelve on one side and eight on the other. Noise always bothers Kate. She was especially sensitive to that yesterday. She was in a generally good humor but annoyed by the chatter coming from both directions.

When we got home, we had about forty minutes before we needed to leave for her massage. She wanted to know what she could do. I suggested we sit on the sofa in the family room and go through the “Big Sister” album. She enjoyed that a lot but needed help identifying everyone. I think most of the problem is that people don’t look the same in photos taken at different times. Her Alzheimer’s also plays a part. For example, in a picture of four people standing side by side, I could help her identify the person on the extreme left. Then I would tell her the name of the person standing next to him. She has a tendency to skip that person and see the person to the right of him. That occurred several times even when I had my finger on the photo of the person. It’s not something I can understand. I just know it happens.

It wasn’t long before it was time for Kate’s massage. I left her there while I waited at Whole Foods which is a couple of doors down from the spa. When I went back to get her, she was sitting in a chair in the waiting room. She said, “Boy, am I glad to see you. Let’s get out of here.” It is always hard for her to explain how and why she feels a certain way, but I gathered that she was very confused about the whole process. She didn’t know what was going on when the therapist put her hands on her. I hadn’t thought about this before, and she has never acted this way before. She probably didn’t remember what it is like to have a massage. In addition, the therapist was someone she had not seen in quite a while. I am sure everything seemed strange to her even though I have been taking her twice a month for about three years. She has never expressed any enthusiasm about her massages, but I thought they must be enjoyable. Now, I am reconsidering. I think I’ll try one more time. If she isn’t happy with that, I’ll stop taking her.

The rest of the day went well. When we got home, we picked up her photo album again and looked at it until it was time for us to leave for jazz night at Casa Bella. We have heard the singer and the woman on the keyboard many times over the years. They are well-known locally and around the state. It was a very good evening. Kate had trouble hearing and understanding a lot of the conversation, but we were sitting with the same couple we’ve been with since the music nights began. They operated the restaurant for many years until they turned it over to their daughter and her husband. Shortly after we were seated, Kate said, “What’s the name of this place?” I told her and then said, “And this is the daughter of the woman who started the restaurant.” Kate had, of course, forgotten that as well. It was not an uncomfortable slip since the couple are aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s and have been very supportive of her.

We got home a little later than usual, and Kate went to bed right away. It was a day of ups and downs, but it’s always good to end on a high note. We did.

Social Engagement and Music

I have often expressed how fortunate Kate and I have been. We’ve not had to face some of the problems that others encounter. Social isolation is often a problem for couples living with Alzheimer’s. That has not been an issue for us. It is true that we don’t attend many events that keep us out past 9:00, but in other respects we still get around. I’ll never know if that has played a role in Kate’s doing so well. I do know it has helped us maintain the quality of our lives.

Wednesday night we had dinner with friends we originally met at Broadway night at Casa Bella. We’ve gotten together with them for dinner a number of times in recent months. Kate and I have enjoyed their company. We always have a good time.

Yesterday we had lunch with a church friend. He and Kate became friends when she was the church librarian. His wife died about four years ago. She had Alzheimer’s, and he has been very sensitive about our situation. He stays in touch by phone, but this was our first time to have a meal together. We talked about our getting together again and look forward to that.

It was Opera Night at Casa Bella last night, and we had an especially good time. A new couple joined our table, both church friends. The husband is a professor of voice at UT. The two singers were students of his, both working on their PhDs. There were a number of ties that made it an interesting evening. Our church friends also knew the couple we sit with. For many years, they had been neighbors. The music was also outstanding. Kate and I first heard the male singer when he was an undergraduate four or five years ago. It was amazing to see how much he has improved since that time. The soprano was someone we remembered having sung in our church choir several years ago.

I was pleased to see Kate insert herself into the conversation, but I felt she was just on the edge of doing it inappropriately. We had an active conversation. That can be difficult for her. She handled it well. We have come to know (at least recognize) many of the people who attend. As the crowd gathers, people “greet and meet” those already there. Some of them are aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s and are especially attentive to her. I like that because large groups are challenging for her.

As we left, Kate was on a high. She loved every minute. As we talked about the evening on our drive home, she expressed how much she enjoyed herself. She said, “I’m so glad we enjoy the same things. It wouldn’t have been as much fun without you.” I told her I felt the same way. She mentioned how much we have in common and that we were “on the same wave length.” Then she said, “And what’s your name?” I told her. There was a pause in our conversation for a few minutes. Then she said, “I’m glad we came.” I knew immediately that she thought we were in Texas. I said, “Me too.”

When I turned into the driveway at our house, she said, “I like the place where we’re staying.” After we pulled into the garage, she commented on what a nice garage it was. Once inside, she needed me to guide her to our bedroom and bathroom, but I didn’t hear anything more that suggested she thought we were in Texas. That is becoming more common these days.

A Special Moment Last Night

Before going to bed last night, I put on several YouTube videos. One of them was Andrea Bocelli singing “The Lord’s Prayer.” Kate was immediately engaged and put down her iPad to listen. The next one that came up was Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home.” The YouTube algorhythm must have selected it because it is a prayer from Les Misérables. I was seated in the chair by my side of the bed while she sat in a chair on the other side. I looked over at her and saw that she had closed her eyes and put her hands together in front of her in a praying position. She was fairly still, but I could see some physical responses in rhythm with the music. She was hanging on every word he was singing. She loves the highest note on the final word when he ends with the plea “Bring Him Home” (as does everybody else).  Before he got the word out, she was already mouthing it silently. She, too, was praying. I was touched. Music is bringing her so many special moments.

A Very Good Day

About 7:30 yesterday morning, the video cam alerted me that Kate was getting out of bed. I went to the bedroom and walked her to the bathroom. At first, she took my hand but then felt secure enough to walk without it. She did need me to show her the way. When she came out, I asked if she needed fresh underwear, and she did. I helped her with that, and she got back into bed. As she did, she looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you have to do all this for me.” I find it very touching when she says things like this. It makes me wonder just how much she senses the seriousness of her situation. It is clear that she recognizes she has a memory problem and that she is dependent on me. She almost never displays any sense of anxiety or distress; however, I do sometimes think that she recognizes that something is wrong with her. Later in the morning she said something else that struck me the same way.

I thought she might sleep until I woke her around 10:30 or 11:00. I was quite surprised when she had gotten out of bed at 9:30. I went to the bedroom and helped her get dressed, and we were at Panera before 10:00. This was the first time we had been there before lunch in quite a while.

It was a day when she had a lot of questions. They were all the usual ones, just asked a whole lot more. She had other questions as well. Instead of being bothered by her constant questions, I found that we had a good conversation. It was a time when she seemed eager to learn things that she had forgotten.

It began as she was working a puzzle of a picture of colorful tulips in The Netherlands. She turned it around for me to see. I said, “It reminds me of the trip we took during the tulip season.” She said, “How could we afford that?” I told her that we both had been working and had saved our money for the trip. She had forgotten that she worked and asked me what she did. That led me to tell her about her majoring in English and teaching English for three years and becoming a school librarian after getting her second master’s degree. She was quite interested and, at no time, did I sense that she remembered any of this.

The conversation took various turns as she asked questions that redirected me from one thing to another. She asked me to tell her about her parents. She continues to hold strong feelings (all positive) about them, but almost never recalls their names. She didn’t yesterday, but she sometimes asks me if I knew them.  As the conversation moved along, she asked where we were. I told her we were in Knoxville, Tennessee. She asked me to repeat it slowly two or three times.

Then she said, “I’m smart, you know, but I’m stupid.” I was surprised and asked what she meant. She said, “Forget it.” I told her I really wanted to know. Then she said she didn’t know what she meant. I asked myself, “Could she maintain a long-term sense that she is smart but recognizes how bazaar it is for her to repeatedly ask questions about things she should know?” I would love to know exactly what she thinks and feels.

We went back home for a short break before going to lunch with our pastor. This, too, was quite a good experience for both of us. He and I did most of the talking, but Kate also enjoyed it. His daughter is an undergraduate looking at a possible career in neurology. We talked a lot about the brain. I am sure much of this was puzzling to Kate, but many of the things we said involved music and its effect on people with Parkinson’s and other brain issues. There were plenty of things that she could appreciate even if she didn’t fully understand.

Kate  had a massage at 3:00, and we went to Casa Bella for opera night at 6:00. Last night’s program and musicians were especially good. Kate loved the evening. What a nice day we had. Who would have guessed this would be possible eight years after her diagnosis? Her rational abilities are very weak. But her senses are still working. They provide great pleasure for both of us.

Making Progress?

Kate was getting up on her own about 11:45 yesterday when I saw her on the video cam. I went to the bedroom and asked her how she was feeling. She looked puzzled and said, “Why do you ask?” I don’t think she thought she was sick. In fact, over the past nine days she has only recognized that she coughed and had to blow her nose and that, of course, only in the moment they happened. I had told her she had a cold, but she never remembered it. Day before yesterday, she definitely felt sick. That was when I heard her wheezing. I don’t believe she has had a conception of her being sick over a few days.

The good news is that I listened for her wheezing and didn’t hear anything. Then I asked her to take a deep breath and blow out through her mouth. She did that a couple of times. I still did not hear a wheeze. That made me feel a lot better. I didn’t want to see this advance to pneumonia. Of course, both of us have had the pneumonia shots, but we all know they don’t always work the way they are supposed to. Like many others, we had a light case of the flu last year even though we had the flu shot.

In addition to not wheezing, it was a good while before she coughed after getting up. Excluding her Alzheimer’s symptoms, she also seemed more normal. When I walked in she said, “Are you my daddy?” When I told her I was her husband, she couldn’t believe it. I decided it was best not to go into an explanation and suggested she take a shower. She asked where the bathroom was, and I took her. She took a long shower, dried off, and got back in bed.

After I got her up and helped her dress, she seemed fine. She wasn’t coughing. I decided to go out to lunch When I backed he car out of the garage, she coughed several times. Then I had doubts about going out. When she stopped, I decided to go ahead. Except for a couple of briefs coughs, she was fine at lunch.

Several times she asked where we were. Of course, she has been doing that for a long time. Now there is a new twist. When I tell her we are in Knoxville, Tennessee, she often asks, “What is Knoxville?” Then I explain that it is a city and that Tennessee is the state. It is only in the past few months that she has commonly asked this. It is another sign of the subtle changes that are constantly taking place. Mixed with her questions about our location, she also thought at times we were in Fort Worth. I suspected this on the way to lunch. She commented on remembering many things she saw along the way.

We came back home after lunch. When I got out of the car, she asked if she could help bring things in. I am sure she thought we were traveling and needed to unload the car. I told her I could get everything. Let me digress a moment.

(This is something new that I have mentioned before. Over the course of her Alzheimer’s, she has rarely asked if she could help me. In the past few weeks, she has asked if she could help me fold and put up the laundry, unload the dishwasher, and now unload the car. I also mentioned in a previous post that the other night she asked if there were anything she could do to help me. In that case, she was worried that I was carrying a heavy load and wanted to ease my burden. These may seem like very little things, but they are totally different from the norm the past ten years or so. She was letting me do things even before her diagnosis.)

She said she was tired and wanted to rest but brushed her teeth first. After brushing, she walked back to me in the kitchen. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to know what she could do next. That is a very common thing for her to do. I gave her the iPad and said she could sit in the family room and work puzzles, and I would be there in a minute. I went back to my computer. When I had finished what I was doing, she was walking out of the family room to the back of the house. I don’t believe she even sat down to work her puzzles. Shortly, I went back to one of the guest rooms where she was resting on the bed. She has definitely been more tired since catching her cold.

About two hours later, she came into the kitchen with her iPad under her arm and stood beside me. She didn’t say anything. This, too, is a very common experience. I knew that meant she wanted to get out of the house. We went to Barnes & Noble. We had been there fifteen minutes when Kate looked up at me and said, “I forgot they had this here.” I said, “What do you mean?” She pointed to her iPad and the puzzle she was working. By now I shouldn’t be surprised that she doesn’t recognize her own iPad, but I am. This was one of those times. I wonder what could have made her think it belonged to Barnes & Noble. This is similar to what frequently happens in restaurants. As we are about to leave, she often asks if the cup or glass is hers or belongs to the restaurant. It always makes me think about how she perceives the world. I simply can’t imagine how confusing for her it must be not to know where she is, what is hers, where we are going, and what she is supposed to do. There is so much I don’t understand. No wonder she gets confused.

We had another beautiful end to our day. I had chosen a YouTube video of choral music. In its cycle from one video to the next, we landed on a series of videos by a church choir. I didn’t see any identifiers as to what church or where it is located. I will have to check today. I do know that Kate was taken with everything they sang, and almost all their music was unfamiliar to either of us. She didn’t want me to stop the videos to go to bed. Finally, I turned them off and help her get ready to bed. I had to assure her that this was not a live concert we were watching, and we could pick where we left off tonight.

A Late Start, But A Great Finish

As I had expected, Kate didn’t want to get up yesterday when I left her to attend my luncheon. I had prepared the sitter that she might want to sleep much longer. I even mentioned that if they were just getting to Panera for Kate’s lunch around the time I was to return home, I would meet them there. What I didn’t expect was to find that Kate was still sleeping soundly when I got to the house a few minutes before 2:00. The sitter told me she tried to get her up three times. Each time Kate said she wasn’t ready to get up.

After the sitter left, I went to the bedroom and sat down on the side of the bed where Kate was sleeping. She opened her eyes and smiled. That was a good sign. I asked if she were ready for lunch. She said, “What do you want me to do?” I told I thought she should get dressed and let me take her to lunch. She got up without any coaxing. It was a little after 3:00 when we left. I decided it was too late for lunch and went to Barnes & Noble where she got a muffin.

We arrived there close to 3:30. After sitting down at a table, Kate asked me at least four times in a short period of time where we were. She had done the same thing a couple of times in the car on the way there. It wasn’t long before she said, “Don’t play games. Are you going to tell me where we are or not?” Of all the times she has asked something over and over, she’s never said that before. That didn’t end it, of course. Within a few minutes she asked again.

Knowing that the muffin wouldn’t hold her long, I decided to leave for dinner before 5:00. This would not have been the first time we have eaten so early. (I remember growing up in West Palm Beach. We used to joke about all the old folks who came down from the North to spend the winter. There were lots of restaurants who catered to them and had early bird specials that drew large crowds. Now I understand a little better why they ate so early.) I think it makes sense for us to get back home early. Kate seems to go to bed earlier when we do that. I like to think that it keeps her from sleeping so late in the morning, but I’m not sure that works at all.

Our day ended very much like the day before. I watched the news while Kate worked on her iPad. Once again, she was struggling to understand how to work her puzzles. I fear that she may lose this ability far sooner than I care to believe. When I saw her put down her iPad in frustration, I walked over to her. She said she was tired and thought she would get ready for bed. I got her night clothes for her and went back to what is becoming our best friend, YouTube. I began with a video of Renee Fleming singing an aria from the opera Norma. Neither of us has seen the opera. Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard the aria. I discovered it while browsing YouTube for something new to watch. It is a beautiful aria, and Kate was mesmerized. She didn’t get out of her chair until it was time for bed. We watched a pot pourri of music videos before then. After Renee Fleming, we watched a beautiful choral rendition of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio.” We followed that with music by The Piano Guys, The Tabernacle Choir, and an orchestral flash mob playing “Waltz of the Flowers” in a shopping center in Israel. This brought back memories of my childhood. I loved it the first time I heard it in the sixth or seventh grade. I can’t tell you how engaged Kate was during all of them. She was more emotional than usual, at times bordering on tears. The last video was The Tabernacle Choir singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It had quite an impact on Kate. Ten minutes afterward she still shed a few tears.

Because music has been so important to me, I have taken great pleasure in Kate’s enjoyment. It’s not that she hasn’t always liked music. It has played a big role in our marriage. Alzheimer’s seems to have enhanced both the impact of music and the breadth of types of music she enjoys. She doesn’t like everything. She is actually bothered by most of the music we hear in restaurants, but that leaves us with a broad range of music that we both like. With her memory loss, conversation is difficult. But it is a real joy to sit with her in our own house listening to music together and being as moved as we would have been in the grandest concert hall. These are moments I will cherish in the days ahead.

The Sitters, Music, and YouTube

What Kate and the sitters do has changed since I first engaged them a year and four months ago. That was a time when Kate and I were accustomed to going to Panera more frequently. We went almost every morning and some afternoons. When I arranged for a sitter, I bought a Panera gift card and told Kate and the sitter that they could go to Panera anytime they wanted. I remember how Kate’s eyes would light up when I said that. She looked at Panera as an outing. That was true even when it was just the two of us. With the sitter, I think it was also a way of breaking up the time until I returned.

That worked beautifully for almost a year. It began to change when Kate started sleeping later, and we weren’t going to Panera as often. I might have guessed that would make an afternoon trip even more appealing, but it didn’t. Like many things, I am not sure why. When I returned home, I often found that Kate was resting or had rested a lot while I was gone. That bothered me because I felt she wasn’t getting enough stimulation.

At the same time, I was looking for other ways to entertain Kate in the evening when we returned home from dinner. Our regular routine was for me to watch the evening news while she worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. I wanted her to have something else to entertain her, especially since she was beginning to have difficulty working her puzzles. I bought about ten DVDs of musicals that I thought she might enjoy. We would watch about an hour a night. Watching musicals like Les Misérables and Fiddler on the Roof could easily take us six nights. Kate loved it. She clearly has favorites. We watched Les Misérables seven times in one seven-week stretch last summer.

As I became more concerned about Kate’s time with the sitter, I decided to try the DVDs when the sitter was here. That also worked well. It was entertaining for both Kate and the sitter. I liked the idea of their engaging in something together even if it was a passive activity.

Gradually, I expanded the musical performances we watch at night by going to YouTube. Their selections are endless and growing all the time. The key is finding something that Kate will enjoy. During the fall, that meant a lot of Christmas music. I also discovered that The Tabernacle Choir seems to have one of the largest libraries of music videos. There are plenty of others as well. I often search for a particular singer, for example, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, The Three Tenors, etc.

My next step was to set up the YouTube videos for the sitter and Kate to watch. That has also worked well. One time during the Christmas season, I had set up one of the Christmas videos by the Tabernacle Choir. It was about an hour in length. I told the sitter she could turn it off at the end of the program. I also mentioned that if she didn’t, it would continue with other videos. When I got home four hours later, they were still watching Tabernacle Choir videos. They hadn’t stopped the entire time I was gone. They were both happy.

Since then I have been preparing something for them to watch at least once a week, sometimes more. Yesterday was one of those days. I selected a Bill Moyers documentary about the hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was about an hour and twenty minutes. As I have done before, I told the sitter that she could turn off the TV after the program was over or let it roll over to other videos. When I got home, they were both still watching the videos. “Amazing Grace” was over long before. They were now watching musical flash mobs. This is something I hadn’t thought about. If I had, I would have probably searched for them. Instead, they had simply come up according to the algorithm used by YouTube.

Mary told me that Kate rested a couple of times during the videos but kept coming back. I suspect that was a result of her liking some more than others. The important thing is that I have found a source of amusement for Kate apart from her iPad. The bonus is that it also helps her pass the time while I am gone. At the moment I am not planning to have a video every time the sitter comes, but once or twice a week might work well.