Not Everything Has Changed for Us

NOTE: The following post was uploaded shortly before all restaurants in our area were closed. We will be eating at home with takeout from a few restaurants and meals prepared at home for the others.

As I write this post, the world is trying to adapt to significant changes related to the Coronavirus. WHO has declared a pandemic. Colleges and universities are extending spring break or cancelling classes for the balance of the semester. The NBA suspended its season. March Madness is off. Disneyland and Disney World are closed. And millions of people in the US and around the globe are making their own personal adjustments to the threat of Covid-19.

Kate and I are making our own changes. That is not new for us. We’ve been doing that for the past nine years since Alzheimer’s entered our lives. The fact that we eat out for both lunch and dinner every day is of special concern, however, and I am looking at that very carefully.

Getting food is not the problem. It’s the fact that we eat out for all our lunches and dinners. Of course, I can prepare meals at home or have them delivered, but that requires a life change that has been critical in our minimizing the impact of Alzheimer’s. It has helped to keep us from feeling socially isolated. It’s a change I don’t want to make, but we have made many changes already and have adapted well. I believe we will do the same this time.

That prompted me to think about some of the previous changes we’ve made. Kate gave up her position as our church librarian even before the diagnosis. She knew she wasn’t handling the job (even as a volunteer) the way she felt she should. I began a phased-in retirement to take care of her. Kate replaced her responsibilities with the library by working in the yard and working on a family photo book on her computer. Early on, I became the sole driver when Kate had an accident that totaled her car. I took over management of the household. I cut back on my volunteer activities at church and in the community. We discontinued international travel. We stopped making our annual trips to Chautauqua. We gave up all evening events except our music nights at Casa Bella that begin at 6:00 and end between 8:15 and 8:30. Kate had pruned the shrubbery so severely that many died and others didn’t have anything left to prune. She lost the ability to use the computer. That left her with the iPad that she has used so much until recently. Now she is having great difficulty working her jigsaw puzzles. We stopped making trips to see our children and grandchildren. Movies used to be an important source of entertainment. We saw only two last year, and Kate only enjoyed one of them.

Eating out has helped us maintain our quality of life. I am not yet planning to stop, but I do want to be prudent. Friday afternoon I made an unusual trip to the grocery story. Typically, I go once a week to buy eggs, V8, and bananas for my breakfast as well as a few other incidentals. Friday’s trip was for some frozen items as well as assorted foods that I can prepare at home. I didn’t buy a lot. I just wanted to make sure we have enough food for several days. During that time, I will reassess the situation and make further plans. I believe the probability of receiving or passing the virus is greater at some restaurants than others. We ate lunch at Applebee’s on Friday. No one was there when we arrived. Only three tables were occupied when we left. Bluefish Grill has very few customers for Saturday lunch, and they are spread out. That was true this past Saturday. Our Sunday lunch place seats almost 200. I counted thirty while we were there yesterday. Unfortunately, our regular music nights at Casa Bella appear to be the biggest threat. The crowd numbers about sixty in close proximity. The same is true for our regular pizza place.

We ate at home the past two nights. Saturday, I cooked boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a tomato sauce with Italian seasoning. Kate is not a vegetable eater, so I served fresh fruit salad with blueberries, bananas and apples. Last night, I added bouillon to the leftover thighs and sauce and made a soup. We had a very pleasant time both nights. In a way, sitting down at our own table was almost like a treat.

Looking ahead, I see a downside that I will have to address. Cooking adds a new element of stress. I have only so much time for all my activities, most of which involve caring for Kate. I skipped the Y on Friday to grocery shop. The preparation of a meal as well as the clean-up afterwards takes time I could do other things. This is a little thing, but I am reminded of why I was initially motivated me to eat out in the first place. It was only later that I came to realize its social benefits. I believe one reason I have been able to manage stress as well as I have is that I have worked to minimize the things I have to do on a daily basis. Cooking our meals is not something to which I look forward. I am going to assume this will be temporary, and plan for to eat out less. We have adapted before. We will continue to do what we need to.

As I think about all our changes, I have to say that one very important thing hasn’t changed – our relationship. What I mean is the feelings that Kate and I have for each other have remained strong. I would say even stronger than before Alzheimer’s. Each of us places more value on the other and recognizes it.

Kate may not always remember my name or that I am her husband, but she continues to feel comfortable with me. She is especially insecure now and looks to me for help with everything. Interestingly, she has called me by name more often in the past few weeks or months than she has for a year or two. I think that is a case of “reflexive memory.” She calls my name most when she needs something, and that occurs more frequently now. The name just pops out. At other times she asks my name. It often happens while riding in the car, eating a meal, or when she wakes up in the morning. In moments like those, my name and relationship have slipped away. I imagine she is thinking, “I know this guy, but who in the world is he?”

She continues to be very appreciative. Two nights ago, as she was getting in bed, she thanked me for taking care of her. For a moment she was emotional and started to cry. She said, “You have such a load on you.”

She also likes to be with me. We share many tender moments in which we express our love for each other even when it doesn’t involve words at all. Sometimes we just sit side-by-side with my arm around her listening to music. Other times, we just hold hands. We don’t always need to express our love in words. I didn’t imagine it would be like this at the time of her diagnosis. That’s just one more reason I say we are fortunate. I am grateful.

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.

Reflecting on Our “Good Days”

At this stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I think a lot about the amount of quality time we have left. I don’t mean that I bask in sorrow. I don’t, but I recognize she is in the last stage when we are likely to make more adjustments to our lives than we have done before.

At the moment, however, I am particularly struck by the “Good Days” we have. It not only surprises me; it keeps my spirits up. We had two of those days this weekend. I would like to be able to take credit for them, but I think the fundamental cause was Kate’s mood. She was in very good spirits both Saturday and Sunday.

I might also expect that her good mood was accompanied by a lack of confusion, but that isn’t so. Saturday, she appeared to be rather clear-headed except for wondering where she was. I don’t recall her asking my name. That happens off and on. Sunday morning, she was very confused. She didn’t know my name or hers and couldn’t remember them well enough to repeat them. What made me feel good was that she didn’t seem disturbed at all about not knowing. I am thankful that is typical.

In addition to her good mood, our time together seemed special. Our obligations were minimal. The only official commitment was our dinner reservation Saturday night. She was up earlier than usual both days. We didn’t have to rush. That kind of schedule is the best for her and, thus, for me as well.

We also had a couple of special moments on Saturday. Both occurred after resting in the afternoon. One of those was my reading her a portion of a book about her family’s wedding veil. I’ve read it to her multiple times in recent weeks, but she is always taken with it. She did get tired and wanted to rest before we got well into it.

The second experience was after her second rest. She commented on a few things in the family room that led me to suggest that I show her some of the other rooms. On the way to the back of the house, we passed several photos and stopped to look at them while I told her a little about each one.

The next stop was our guest bedroom. Of course, she had no recollection of it at all and liked what she saw. She got tired of standing and asked if she could sit in a rocking chair. I saw a photo album of our children during their earliest years. We spent quite a while looking at it and never got to another room.

When we finished, it was time to get ready for dinner. This was the only moment in the day that could have become a problem. I had planned a nice Valentine’s dinner at one of the restaurants we usually visit for lunch. I suggested we change clothes and had picked out exactly what I wanted her to wear, but she didn’t want to change. I told her we were going out for a nice dinner, and I was going to put on something a little nicer. She was fine with that but wasn’t going to change. I didn’t push her.

A few minutes later after I had changed, she asked what I wanted her to wear. I told her I would get something and brought her the clothes I had picked out. She had apparently forgotten the conversation we had just had a few minutes before. I helped her change, and we were off.

The dinner itself went as I had hoped. We were welcomed by the manager, our server, and another server who sometimes works as a hostess. They had selected a corner table that was perfect for the occasion. The meal itself was quite good. In addition, a couple we know from our music nights at Casa Bella were seated at the table next to us. I don’t recall our talking about Valentine’s Day at all or anything else especially romantic. We just had a good time together.

Kate was up early Sunday morning. We spent a little less than an hour at Panera before returning home where she rested an hour before leaving for lunch. The restaurant was unusually busy. Consequently, it took longer to be served, but we had a good time. I haven’t said anything in a while about her asking Sinatra’s name when she looks at his mug shot, but that hasn’t let up. She is well-aware that she repeatedly asks and wonders why she can’t seem to remember it, but she doesn’t appear to be very disturbed.

She rested after we returned home with music playing as usual. She awoke about an hour before dinner. I suggested we take a look at a few things around the house. We began with some photos in the family room. As often as she has looked at them, I am amazed and happy that she enjoys them just like it was the first time to see them.

From there we went into the living room and dining room where I showed her a number of things that came from her parents’ home. I enjoy telling her the stories behind each of the items, and she was entranced. It was another special moment.

We are both fortunate that repetition has not diminished the pleasure for either of us. She can’t remember, so it is always new. I like telling her things she can’t remember and seeing her reaction as I tell her. I read a lot about other caregivers’ experiences and know that many of them are bothered by so much repetition. I wish I knew how to help them. My experience is different. Whatever the reason, we have been able to maintain a relationship that has been important in helping both of us adapt to all the changes we have had to make. She feels dependent on me and is normally responsive to the things I want her to do. I want to deserve her trust and work hard to make her life as happy as I can. One of the ways I can do that is to answer her questions and do the things she enjoys so much. I believe each of us loves the other more now than at any other time in our marriage. I think that carries us a long way.

I continue to be mindful of the pleasure she and I can experience through her intuitive abilities. I like to think this is something from which other caregivers could benefit to make their loads lighter. At the same time, I recognize the likelihood that many of them are facing other challenges that we have not faced. Among those would be health and financial constraints. I feel for them and am grateful that at this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I see little, if any, loss of pleasure that comes from music, beauty, and associations with family. How long will this last? We will see. I am hopeful that it will continue for some time.

No “Sleeping-In” Yesterday

Following two consecutive days of not wanting to get up, Kate awoke early yesterday and wanted “to get out’a here.” Except for believing she was in an unfamiliar place, she was in a good mood. For me, one of the good things about her wanting to get away is that it makes it easier and faster to get her up and dressed. We were at Panera before 10:30. She worked on her iPad but focused mainly on her blueberry muffin and wanted another. I told her we would be going to lunch in thirty minutes and asked if she could wait. She was agreeable.

The afternoon was our usual one. She rested a couple of hours. Then I suggested we look at a photo album of pictures taken when our children were pre-school age. We did that for a while before our daughter called. We had a nice conversation and Kate handled it well. After the call, we returned to the photo album, but Kate wanted to rest a little longer.

When I suggested our going to dinner, she didn’t hesitate getting up. That is normal. I don’t recall her ever having trouble getting up after resting in the family room in the afternoon. I wish I could say that about the morning when she is in bed.

She was confused about where she was as well as who I was but wasn’t disturbed. She asked my name and asked if we would be coming back for the night. She also said a few other things that made it clear she thought we were in someone else’s house.

At dinner something came up that made me mention our marriage. Kate was shocked. I was surprised at her reaction because we had been talking so comfortably about our relationship. It wasn’t simply that she was shocked. She couldn’t imagine how it was possible that she could have forgotten something like that. Fortunately, I was able to divert her attention. She was fine after that, but I felt bad. I intend to be more careful about that in the future. I think I have been unconsciously trying to keep that memory alive. Now I am beginning to believe that it may be time to let it go. I’ll just assume that she doesn’t remember and not try to remind her. There are enough incidental reminders when we browse through her photo books and interact with other people.

We had one of those middle-of-the-night incidents at 1:30 this morning. I woke up as Kate sat up on the side of the bed. I got up and went around to her side to help her up. She seemed wide awake and cheerfully greeted me like someone she might have recognized but not known. It wasn’t long before she said, “Who are you?” I told her my name but said nothing of our relationship. She didn’t ask.

I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom. She didn’t. She asked about “the others.” I told her we were the only ones “here.” She seemed surprised but didn’t question me. I asked again if she would like to use the bathroom. She asked where it was. I told her I would show her. We usually hold hands, but she didn’t want to this time.

When we reached the bathroom, I stepped in and turned around to direct her to the toilet. She showed no interest in coming in. Instead, she was obsessed with what time she should “be there.” I never found out where “there” was, but it was important to her. I told her she didn’t need to be there until “1:00 tomorrow.” She was surprised and asked about today. I told her it was the middle of the night and that she would need her sleep to be ready for tomorrow. She went back to the question “What time do I have to be there?” We went through a repetition my standard answer and her standard question. A couple of times she asked what time she would have to leave, but her emphasis was on what time she had to be there. She couldn’t remember and kept asking.

Finally, she used the toilet. When she was finished, she noticed two pictures on the top of a nearby cabinet. One was a photo of my mom and me. She pointed to my mom and wanted to know who she was. When I told her who she was, she said, “I remember her. She is very nice.” Then she asked about my sister. I don’t have a sister but said she was fine. Then she said my sister was very nice and that she liked her. Before getting back to bed, she commented several other times about my mom and sister and how nice they were.

Once in bed, she was still wide awake for a short time. I tried not to encourage much talking, and she soon drifted off to sleep. She is still sleeping as I finish this entry. On the video cam I just saw her moving a few minutes ago, I will check on her and see if she is ready to get up. That would be nice. I don’t have Rotary today, and the sitter is coming at 1:00 rather than noon. If she gets up soon, we would be able to have lunch together. That would be a good way to start the week.

Yesterday Afternoon and Evening

I am glad to report that the afternoon and evening went quite well yesterday. Kate got up from her late-morning rest and we had a very nice lunch and made it back for her 1:30 hair appointment without having to rush. Leisurely going about our daily activities works best for both of us.

We were back home before a big rain storm hit the area. It was so bad that I called the restaurant to make sure the program was still on for the night. It was. I told the woman on the phone that we would come if the rain slackened; otherwise, we would stay at home. As it turned out, the rain was lighter and we went despite the nasty weather conditions. It turned out to be fine. The crowd was a little lighter, but the program was excellent. Kate sat beside the 95-year-old woman who used to run the restaurant before her daughter took over years ago. Another couple we had not met before sat across from us. Kate didn’t participate much, but I don’t think she felt left out. We both enjoyed the evening.

During the afternoon and after we returned home, she was talkative but seemed to have more trouble expressing herself than usual. She talked for an extended period before dinner. I don’t even remember what she talked about. That may have been because I couldn’t understand her. She used a lot of wrong words and often acknowledged it. In addition, her comments were filled gestures, “You knows,” and vague words like “things,” or simply “da, da, das.”

The other talkative period lasted approximately thirty minutes as I was trying to get ready for a shower. Everything had been going smoothly. She had been in a cheerful mood the whole day. That continued as I started helping her get ready for bed. We got to the part where it was time for her to remove her pants, and she refused. I explained that she hadn’t put on her nighttime underwear. That had no impact. I tried to gently coax her and finally said something that changed the tone of our interaction. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I apologized and suggested we step back and think about our relationship. I conveyed my love for her and mentioned that we have always respected each other and that my only desire was to help her.

She immediately changed her tone of voice and began a lengthy conversation (soliloquy). She started talking about our relationship and how much she appreciated what I do for her. Then she began to talk about how we could help a boy in need of something. I only picked up that he had a sister but little else. It was impossible for me to understand. All I can say is that she talked for thirty minutes and was strong in her belief that she and I together would be able to help him.

A Day of Surprises

After the experiences of the past two days, I was hopeful that yesterday would be better. Before telling you about it, I’ll “cut to the chase” and let you know that it was better in that she was able to get up and out during the day. I don’t mean to say that Kate failed to show any of her recent symptoms. In fact, it was a day of multiple surprises.

It started early. I awoke at 4:15 to go to the bathroom. After I returned to bed, Kate was cold and needed help getting the covers over her. I got up and took care of it. She chatted a little while. I must have been awake thirty to forty-five minutes. At 6:00, she wanted to go to the bathroom. Normally, I would have gotten up after getting her to bed again, but I decided to rest a little longer. I slept until 7:15.

About 8:30, I noticed on the video cam that she was getting up. I got to her and found that she seemed groggy but otherwise quite normal. She responded to me as though he knew me as her husband, but she wanted to go home. I helped her to the bathroom. She was a bit unsteady and very insecure, actually frightened that she might fall and wanted to hold my hand. Once in the bathroom, she said, “Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me.” I said, “You think something’s wrong?” She laughed and said, “Well, I think everybody wonders that.” I was glad that she said this in a way that convey no sense of concern or anxiety. She was simply being candid and then making light of it.

After she was dressed, she asked if she could lie down again. I suggested we go to the family room so that she could use the recliner. She has increasing difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position. The recliner makes that easy although it scares her. I thought she might go back to sleep for a while and did not want to experience yesterday’s problem. I went to the kitchen and got her a breakfast bar. Most of the time when she rests I play music that is especially relaxing. I was glad that I did something different. I played albums of My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, and Sound of Music. She remained awake through all of it.

About 45 minutes before I wanted to leave for lunch, I asked if she would like to look at one of her photo books. She did, and we spent only a few minutes before she said she wanted to lie down on the sofa and rest. I got her up after thirty or forty minutes without a problem. She was ready to eat.

She was very talkative in the car and at lunch. She was so talkative that I didn’t play any music going to or coming back from lunch. I didn’t always understand what she was talking about, but much of it involved her feelings about our marriage.

She rested, but did not sleep, for almost three hours in the afternoon. I played music, but she was especially taken with the house, especially the family room where we were seated and the trees outside. This was the first time I recall her expressing enthusiasm for the branches of trees without their leaves that make up most of the trees on our neighbor’s property behind our house. She asked me a number of questions that made it clear that she had no idea it was our house. I didn’t correct her.

Something unusual happened late in the afternoon. I had asked if she would like me to read to her. She wasn’t enthusiastic, but I suggested I read The Velveteen Rabbit and told her I would stop if she wasn’t interested. I read for about five minutes. She wasn’t paying attention. I asked if she wanted me to stop. She did and said she wanted to talk with me about something serious. The expression on her face also conveyed an even more serious issue was confronting her. It turns out that she was very concerned about her mother who died fourteen years ago. Kate wanted me to know that she was thinking of moving to Fort Worth to take care of her. Although everything she said was rooted in a delusion, I was astounded by the rational way she approached the topic. She talked about her various options and why they wouldn’t work. She said her mother had many friends who could help but outlined reasons that would not work. Then she talked about paid caregivers and suggested they would never deliver the kind of care she could provide. She also talked about her mother’s condition and noted that sometimes she was rather “clear-headed” (I don’t remember the exact words she used.) and other times she wasn’t. The mentioned the nature of the mother-daughter relationship that would enable her to provide better care than anyone else.

She talked continuously for a good thirty to forty-five minutes. Most of that time she did not realize she was talking to me. I got the impression she thought I was in another room and would be back soon. Several times she mentioned that she would need to talk with me about a possible move to Texas. I was eager for us to leave for dinner so that we could get back for the Super Bowl, but she kept on talking.

(My interest in watching the Super Bowl is another surprise of the day. Although I have caught a few portions of a couple of games this season, I haven’t watched a pro game all season. I am, however, aware of the success of the Chiefs’ quarterback, Mahomes, and have been impressed that a man as young as he is could attain such stature so quickly. I think, however, that the real reason I was interested was that I just wanted to relax and amuse myself for a short time.)

I was finally able to stop her by suggesting we talk about this over dinner. She accepted, and we went to Panera. It was close, and I figured we could get back in time for the game. During the short car ride to the restaurant and at the table before we got our food, she continued to talk about somebody she thought had been at the house and was going to meet us at Panera. Her attention was diverted when we got our food, and I didn’t hear anything more about the issue.

Another problem developed as we left the restaurant. Although she had been getting along pretty well, she was still a little unsteady on her feet. She wanted to take her drink with her. As we walked out to the parking lot, we had to step down from a curb. Normally, I use two hands to help her, but I had her drink in one hand. As she stepped down her weight shifted, and she lost her balance and fell. Fortunately, it was a gentle fall. The problem was getting her up. At first, I tried to lift her from the front. That failed miserably. Then I got behind her and put one arm under her right arm and the other under her left arm and lifted. Success.

The day was not over yet. Once we were home, it looked like things were moving smoothly. She wanted to get ready for bed. I wanted to watch the game. I got her to the bathroom and had her toothbrush ready for her. After that, we ran into a problem. She forgot to brush her teeth and got in bed. She hadn’t taken her medicine or put on her nightgown. That was a time when she wanted to work on her hair. I suggested that she get her teeth brushed and put on her nightgown. Taking her daily medications is becoming more difficult. She often drops them. Sometimes she puts them in her mouth but doesn’t swallow them. I have to monitor this carefully and give her one at a time. Something I did or said caused her to be angry with me. She told me to shut up, and I did something I had never done before. I very gently said, “I love you, and I know you didn’t mean to say that. We’re both frustrated, but we need to respect each other.” She followed that by speaking back to me in the same tone of voice and agreed that we do need to respect each other. She went on to say that sometimes it seems like I am trying to control everything she does. I was somewhat startled by the rational, honest and loving way she responded. Getting her ready and into bed was easy after that.

It was halftime at the game. I took my shower and left the game on. When I came back the second half was about to begin. I sat down to watch. A little later, Kate said something like, “Wow, this is really something.” I thought she must be dreaming. When I looked, I saw that she was sitting with her head elevated and looking at the TV. I asked if she was enjoying the game. She enthusiastically said yes. I know she had no idea who was playing nor could she follow what was happening. I don’t know why she seemed so engaged with the game. Could it have been an effort to connect with me in a positive way after the tiff we had earlier? Was she trying somehow to relate to me? I don’t know. Her response to the game was certainly unusual.

That wasn’t the last of the day’s surprises. After the game, I got in bed and moved close to Kate. She was still awake and seemed concerned. I said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I don’t know. I’m scared.” I remained close to her and tried to comfort her. This had to have been one of those times she was disturbed about not knowing anything, but the only thing she said that would suggest that was asking who I was. I gave her my name and told her I wasn’t sure what was wrong but that I would always be with her and that the two of us together would be able to handle anything that comes up.

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.”

Increasing Dependence

I have often commented on Kate’s dependence on me with respect to finding the bathroom, the full variety of bathroom activities, dressing, and helping with most other activities of daily living (ADLs). That continues, but I have observed other ways in which she is dependent. I’d sum it up by saying they involve my being a security blanket.

I mentioned one of those in my previous post when she didn’t want to go to lunch with the friend I had asked to take her. She has been to lunch with her on a number of occasions before and after her diagnosis, and, yet, she wouldn’t agree to go with her yesterday.

Yesterday she had a similar experience with the sitter. This one was with the sitter who has been with her more than two years. Kate wanted to rest after lunch, just fifteen minutes before Mary arrived. That’s not unusual. When I returned four hours later, she was still resting in her recliner although awake. I asked Mary if she had been there the whole time. She had. Mary said, she has encouraged her to get up, but Kate didn’t want to.

After Mary left, she asked me to show her to the bathroom. As we walked hand in hand, she expressed her feelings more clearly than she usually does. She conveyed that she liked Mary, but she said, “It’s good to be with somebody you really know.” She was relieved that I was home. When we reached the bathroom, I started to leave. Then she asked me to stay in case she needed help with anything. I frequently sense that she is at ease with me even when she doesn’t know my name or our relationship. This time, however, it seemed like she both knew me and that she was very grateful I was home.

As she finished washing her hands, I started toward the kitchen. When she came out of the bathroom, she didn’t see me and called to me. I went back to her. She was so relieved when she saw me that she was almost in tears.

We went to dinner at a nearby pizza place. Before I stepped away from the table to pay for our meal, I told her I was going to pay and would be back. I know she can’t remember, but there was no one ahead of me. In addition, The check out wasn’t too far from our table, and she has never been uneasy before. As I approached the table after paying, I saw that she had a worried look on her face and was looking all around for me. When I walked up to her, she said, “I am looking for my husband.” When she looked more closely, she recognized me. Again, it was an emotional experience for her.

Here is my own interpretation of what’s happening. She is sinking deeper into a state in which she can’t remember anything. That makes her afraid. I am the one who is most often with her and helps her. Of course, we also have a bond that is very strong after fifty-six years of marriage. When you put these things together, it’s not difficult to see why she might feel dependent. This has an advantage with respect to helping her with so many things. She still likes to retain some independence, and I think that is a good thing. Normally, however, she is usually receptive to me help. That makes caring for her much easier.

Continued Mixture of Confusion and Happiness

Yesterday morning as I was taking my walk around 7:20, I heard Kate scream. I went to the room. She was upset but not as much as I would have expected from her scream. I am guessing she must have had a bad dream because she acted like she wanted to go back to sleep. I asked if he would like me to stay with her. She did, and I remained in the bedroom for about thirty minutes. Then I continued my walk.

She quickly went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 10:20. At that time I heard her say, “Hey.” Her voice was soft, and I wasn’t sure that I had heard her. When I reached her, she confirmed that she had called. We talked a few minutes, and she seemed all right. Like the day before, I soon learned that she was confused. Before getting out of bed, she said, “Who are you?” I gave her my name told her that I was her husband. She reacted strongly to that, and I said, “I am a good friend, and I can help you with anything you need.”

We walked to the bathroom, but she was a little uneasy with me when she used the toilet and when she showered. She was resistant to my helping with her shower. She said, “Don’t ever tell anyone about this?”

The shower turned out to be good therapy. She enjoyed it and said she felt better when she got out. She was still guarded. She was comfortable enough to let me help, but she was also trying to keep her distance from me. A funny thing happened as I helped her dry off and get dressed. As she often does after a shower, she wanted to lie down on the bed. Then she surprised me by saying, “Don’t forget my (unclear, couldn’t think of the right word).” She pointed to her toes. She had already run her fingers in between each toe. Now she wanted me to do it.

When we left for lunch, she seemed quite comfortable with me, but I don’t think she recognized me as her husband. During lunch, I eased into some comments that would suggest we had known each other a long time. Our server told us she would be leaving to spend a semester in Berlin. I mentioned that we had visited there and that she would like it.

When she stepped away, I talked to Kate about some of the places we had traveled. I deliberately failed to mention our marriage. She seemed to accept what I said without any concern or confusion or fear that she didn’t remember these experiences. At little later, I mentioned that our son was planning a trip to see us. She seemed fine. I never asked if she knew I was her husband.

We had a very brief sad moment in the car on the way home. We had stopped at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. As I came to the exit from the parking lot, she saw a stop sign. She tried to read it but couldn’t. I told her it said, “Stop.” She said, “What’s that?” I explained. She looked sad and said, “I don’t like to be a ‘duppy.’” She meant “dummy,” of course. I said, “You’re not a dummy.” You’re a smart gal.” She got excited and said, “Hey, and I didn’t even pay you to say that.” It’s been almost nine years since her diagnosis. She forgot a long time ago that she has Alzheimer’s, but she still knows at this late stage that she’s “not right.” She wants to be but can’t. That’s sad.

That moment really was brief. It lasted only minute. When we got home, she rested for a couple of hours in her recliner. As usual, her eyes were open off and on. I’m not sure how much she actually slept. I do know that she was quite calm and seemed happy. Halfway through her rest, I asked her if she was relaxed. She was. I told her I was as well.

A short time later, she accepted my offer to read something to her. This time I chose something different. I picked up the photo book that she and her brother had made in the early days after diagnosis. It focuses on her mother’s family who lived in Battle Creek. At the end of the book there is a section that focuses on the Kellogg brothers, Battle Creek as “Cereal City,” and the Battle Creek Sanitarium where Kate’s grandfather was a doctor. I read for about forty-five minutes. She was interested and asked me to re-read much of it as she tried to take in all the information. It had been a long time since I had read it, but I will put this on my list of things to read more frequently.

Our dinner and time at home afterwards were good as usual. With all the changes that are going on, I still find that afternoons and evenings are the most predictably good times for us. That’s a nice way to finish the day.

An Example of Kate’s Insight

Kate and I had an unusually good time at lunch yesterday. I commented on how relaxed she looked. She said she was, and I told her I was as well. Then I said, “I think that’s because we didn’t have to rush to get here.” I went on to say that I like to be punctual and am least relaxed when I am pressed for time. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but here is the meaning. “I like it that when you are in a hurry. You try not to make me think you are.” She knows me pretty well. Alzheimer’s hasn’t taken that away.