A Day of Anticipation That Ended in Disappointment

Yesterday began with a meeting with the owner of the new (to us) agency that is providing the help this week and in the future. This will be in addition to the three days a week now covered by our current agency. We had a good meeting. I feel very comfortable with them. That is especially true after my interaction with three of his staff last week. He was here about an hour. During that time, I gave him background on Kate and showed him the key areas of the house with which he and his staff should be familiar. He had a CNA prepared to be at our house at noon, but we decided I should call him as soon as I heard that Kate was being released. The nurse and the CNA were to head to our house for a brief orientation and to be present to greet Kate upon her arrival.

In the meantime, that gave me time to make a few preparations. When Kate’s mother lived with us, we had bought a steel ramp that we used to make it easy for her CNAs to get her down the two steps from our family room to our patio. Her mother passed away in 2005. It has been stored in our garage since then. Although it is very heavy, I was able to slide it across the floor of the garage and lift it in place on the top of two steps into the house.

Word about Kate’s hospitalization had gotten around, and I received a number of phone calls and emails offering support. This is the first time I have ever been in this position. I quickly learned something that I had only thought of before when it was someone else in our position. Some people hesitate to call because they may catch me at a bad time. My personal feeling as a recipient of such calls is that they are welcomed. I did have to cut short two or three when I received a call from the hospital or someone else with whom I was coordinating Kate’s return. I found the conversations themselves to be therapeutic. They also filled my day as I was somewhat nervously, but eagerly, waiting to see Kate for the first time in six days.

Shortly after 3:00, I received a call from Kate’s doctor at the hospital. She began by telling me it was her first time to see Kate and was trying to get a clearer picture of her “baseline” before COVID. I filled her in on the fact that she had been declining recently but had been able to stand and walk and was eating well. I explained that COVID had pushed her over the edge, and she had been very weak.

Then she told me that one of the things they had been monitoring involved a measure of muscle tone or strength. I wasn’t too clear on this, but it related to her ability to walk.  The measure had gone up to 700 from 200. The doctor thought it might have something to do with hydration. Kate has been on an IV to keep her hydrated, but she pulled it out the night before. They want to try again and see if they can improve the numbers before releasing her. She went on to convey that she didn’t want my expectations to be too high for her immediate recovery.

This was a gut-wrenching way to end a day of anticipation of Kate’s being back home with me. Perhaps, I will get better news today.

Mixture of Positive and Negative Experiences

About 10:00 yesterday morning, I heard Kate say, “Hello.” Via my web cam, I could see that she was sitting up in bed. When I got to the bedroom, I found she was in a cheerful mood but was having another delusion. The only thing I could understand was that it involved teaching in some way. I listened to her for almost thirty minutes before seeing if she was ready to get up. She wasn’t and let her lie down and told her to call me if she needed anything.

At noon, I checked to see if she was ready to get up. I was careful not to move too quickly so as not to cause her to resist. I was able to get her up and to the bathroom where I encountered my first problem. She wouldn’t sit on the toilet. I shifted gears and told her she could brush her teeth. When she finished, I tried again to get her to use the toilet. That didn’t work, and I took her back to the bedroom to help her dress.

When I asked her to take off her soiled underwear, she refused. She wanted to know why. I explained that she needed to put on clean underwear before getting dressed. She never agreed. Then she wanted to lie down. I decided the break might be a better. If she could rest of sleep a little longer, she might respond differently when I tried again.

That worked. I was able to get her up at 1:30. I didn’t have any problem getting her to the toilet and dressed. She was in good humor at lunch. After lunch we spent the balance of the day until time for dinner looking at her photo books. It was a very bright spot in our day.

This is not to say there were no problems. I don’t think I have adequately conveyed how difficult it is for her to understand instructions and explanations or the seriousness of her vision problems. When I gave her a sandwich and a cup of apple sauce, she didn’t know what they were or what she was to do with them. My explanations were only minimally effective. I was only able to get her to eat her sandwich by picking it up and putting it to her mouth. It was similar with the apple sauce. In that case, she only ate what I spoon fed her and nothing more. Part of the reason is that she doesn’t remember what is in front of her, but it also relates to not seeing it.

We ate out for dinner. After parking, she didn’t want to get out of the car to enter the restaurant. She didn’t respond with a verbal refusal but a passive aggressive one. She just sat in her seat while I held the door open with my hand extended to assist her. It took my repeated encouragement to get her to step out.

As we entered the restaurant, we turned to the right to walk past a line of booths. I had already turned down a seat at one of them because there is a step up of about four inches. When I can, I try to avoid things like that because Kate can easily trip. I didn’t think about a problem as we turned to follow the hostess to our table. Her right foot hit the corner of the first booth, and she screamed. She wasn’t in danger of falling, but she was frightened and definitely got the attention of those in the dining room.

We did not have our normally pleasant dinner. She was rather subdued and out of touch with what was happening around her or in front of her on the table. As I always do, I buttered her bread and placed it in front of her. When I saw that she wasn’t eating it, I asked her about it. She couldn’t see the bread on her plate. Similarly, she didn’t begin to eat her food after it was delivered. I had to feed her several bites of her entrée  to get her started. We haven’t been eating many desserts lately. I decided she might need a treat and ordered one. She didn’t know what to do with it. Again, I had to feed her the first couple of bites. She expressed no pleasure and ate very little.

Once we were home, I gave her a photo book to look at while I caught some of the evening news and then my shower. She took interest and spent almost an hour looking at it. She was confused, however, and asked me to help her understand it when I got out of the shower. I told her I would be happy to do that.  After my shower, I suggested she get into her night clothes and the two of us could look at it together.

She was cooperative. I don’t think that had anything to do with my telling her I would look through the book with her. I think I just hit her in a cooperative moment. We spent about thirty minutes looking at the book. Like our afternoon, it was a Happy Moment together. When I suggested we go to bed, she accepted without a problem.

Sunday: The Story Continues

Sunday morning began with another challenge. I keep my iPad beside me at my desk in the kitchen. It is connected to a camera in the bedroom. About 8:45, I noticed that that she was sitting on the floor beside the bed. When I reached her, I found that she was relaxed and fine. She apparently had slipped out of bed while sleeping. (Recently, she has been moving around on the bed a good bit. When she gets in bed, her head and shoulders are in the right place, but her feet often hang over the edge. I move her legs over, but she invariably moves them back. I have been concerned about her falling out and have ordered a bed rail that is supposed to be delivered today.)

I immediately recalled her fall several weeks ago. That one required my calling 911 to help get her up. This time she was in a better position, sitting up with her back against the bed. It was easier but took 20-30 minutes. I put an ottoman in front of her. With a lot of coaching, I got her to put her arms across the top of it. Then with my arms under her arm pits I lifted her while she got her legs in position to stand.

I was able to get her to the bathroom and dressed, and we left for lunch about 11:45. Lunch went well, and we got home just before 2:00.

She wanted to rest and did so for almost an hour. Then she started one of her long conversations, much of which I couldn’t understand. It involved some kind of project she was working on. It’s not that I can’t understand many of her words. It’s that she mixes incorrect words and sometimes unintelligible words. The conversation lasted almost an hour and a half.

I finally distracted her by putting her robotic cat in her lap. That entertained her until we began a Zoom call with our son. That went well. As I did on our previous call, I left for 5-10 minutes while she and Kevin talked. I hope to do that in our future calls as well.

It was time for dinner after that, and we got a takeout meal. She was quiet during most of the meal but started talking about a project in which she was working. It involved helping people with something I couldn’t figure out. She was so wrapped up in this that once again, I could not get her interested in changing into her night clothes and going to bed.

I needed to take my shower, and she came into the bathroom twice to get me to come to her and continue our conversation. I told her I would come as soon as I got out.

After my shower, I was still unable to interest her in getting ready for bed.

Around 8:45, I went to her  where she was seated on the love seat in the family room. I spoke to her as though our earlier conversation had never occurred. I was cheerful, took a seat beside her, and told her I was going to read a book I thought she would enjoy. She surprised me by sitting down to listen as I read The Velveteen Rabbit. It wasn’t long, however, before she picked up one of her photo books. I told her I would read that as soon as we finished TVR. She reluctantly accepted that.

I had just started reading again when she began to look for something else to amuse her. I got the robotic rabbit. She was interested for a while but then looked for another distraction. I gave up on reading and told her it was time for bed. I told her I was going to the bedroom and invited her to come with me. She said, “I’ll just stay here a while.” As I left the room, she was talking as though another person or group of people were with her. She talked constantly after I left. I went in twice to see if I could get her to come back to the bedroom. She was very calm and said she would just stay there.

Shortly after 10:00, I wasn’t sure how much longer she might stay up talking. I remembered having a partial prescription of Trazadone. She had taken it for several years to help her sleep. With her doctor’s approval, I discontinued that in the spring. I decided to give her half a tablet and went to bed. I set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes. It went off at 11:00.

I went back to the family room. She was still talking. I told her it was late and asked if she would like to join me in the bedroom. She agreed, and we went to bed without any further complications.

She woke up around 10:00 yesterday morning and seemed fine until I was ready to get her up. She wasn’t ready. I told her I would come back later which I did at 10:45. She was in a good mood and got up with minimal difficulty.

It was still a little early for lunch, so I gave her some apple juice and a slice of cheese toast. She ate only half of it but drank two large glasses of juice. The sitter arrived while we were at the table. It was time for me to leave for Rotary. Kate didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I was leaving. I attributed that to her not knowing me. Neither was she pleased that Cindy had arrived.

When I returned, Cindy told me that Kate didn’t eat the sandwich I had left for her lunch. She just sat there for a long time without engaging in conversation though Cindy tried to get her to agree to go to the family room. After an hour, Kate agreed. Once in the family room, she wanted to rest and was still resting when I got home.

I was able to get her up for dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. As we left the restaurant, Kate was too frightened to step off the curb to get to the car. Twice, without success, I moved the car to get close to the curb so that it might be easier for her. After ten minutes, we walked back to the restaurant where I asked the owner if he could help me. I got in the car and drove the car close to the curb in front of the restaurant. I was definitely close. The front tire was partially up the curb. Then the restaurant owner and I worked together to help her into the car. That will probably be our last time at that restaurant unless I can get a board to serve as a portable ramp to carry with me.

Kate was tired when we got home and was in bed by 7:30 without our encountering a problem. That was a relief.

Earlier in the day, I sent a message to Kate’s doctor through the patient portal. I described the events of the past week and talked briefly to her nurse who has forwarded the message to the doc. I hope to hear from her today.

A Week of Challenges

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you have no doubt noticed the long delay since my last post. There are good reasons. Apart from the temporary focus on our recent election, they all involve Kate’s changes that have consumed more of my time. Here is an outline of what happened.

I’ve commented numerous times on Kate’s morning confusion. Sometimes, her response is uneasiness or fright. Until last week, that has been infrequent, and I have been able to get her up. Once she is up, her uneasiness subsides in a short time (10-15 minutes). Periodically, I have also reported that she has refused to get up in the morning. That happened four consecutive days last week.

She had a good day on Monday. She was in good humor and didn’t rest much at all during the day. In fact, I was surprised that she got up early enough for breakfast the next morning. It wasn’t long after that when she rested for 30-45 minutes. We started to look at one of her photo books before she wanted to rest again. This didn’t seem strange because she had lost so much sleep the day before.

The problem occurred when I couldn’t get her up for lunch. I didn’t push her at all but periodically checked to see if she was ready to get to dinner. She awakened periodically during the time she rested and seemed very relaxed. Then she went back to sleep. She was ready to get up about 4:15. We went out to dinner. She went back to sleep right after getting home. That made me think that she would be up early yesterday, but I was wrong.

Not only did she not get up early, but she didn’t want to get up at all. I tried to get her up starting at 11:30. I hoped that I could get her up in time to eat lunch before the sitter arrived at 1:00. She was uneasy, but I got her up. Things fell apart when we got to the bathroom. She wouldn’t go in. It often takes encouragement to get her to use the toilet. She was adamant about not going into the bathroom and insisted on going back to bed.

I tried one or two other times to get her up before deciding to let the sitter handle it. The sitter tried several times before succeeding after 2:30. Thursday and Friday brought variations on this same theme. I was able to get her up before 1:00, but she was very resistant. She was scared and kept saying, “I can’t.” I repeatedly encouraged her and told her I would help her (something I always do anyway). Both days I got her into a sitting position, but she wouldn’t stand up. She sat on the side of the bed between 30 and 40 minutes each day before I was able to help her stand and go to the bathroom.

In addition, getting her to bed is becoming a problem. For a long time, she has been getting ready for bed between 7:15 and 7:30. Several weeks ago, she didn’t want to get ready that early. That broke a well-established pattern, and it started requiring more time and effort to get her to change into her night clothes. That was especially difficult two nights last week. I won’t go through all the details, but here is what happened Friday afternoon and evening.

Although Kate was slow getting up, she lighted up when the sitter arrived. They were having lunch together when I left. She was disappointed I was going but handled it well. When I returned, she and Mary were talking. Kate hadn’t rested at all while I was gone. She was tired and rested about twenty minutes before we left to pick up our dinner. She was very talkative when we went to the bedroom after dinner. She was delusional but happy. I listened to her for almost an hour before attempting to get her ready for bed. I was successful getting her to the bathroom, but she was hostile and refused to get into her night clothes. I decided it was not worth it to try any longer, and she went to bed in her clothes.

Saturday was a good day. She was up in time for me to give her a shower before going to lunch. We had a pleasant afternoon and had no trouble that night.

Yesterday (Sunday) brought other problems. I’ll comment on that in my next post.

Saved by The Velveteen Rabbit (Again)

For the past year or so, especially since COVID-19, Kate and I followed a well-established after-dinner routine. I watched the evening news while she worked on her iPad. She gradually lost her ability to work her puzzles. That left a void that I tried to fill by watching less of the news and turning on YouTube videos of musical performances for her. She often liked to go to the bathroom, put on her night clothes before getting in bed to watch the videos.

Over the past week, she has balked on brushing her teeth, going to the bathroom, and getting ready for bed. The first time this happened I pushed her too far, and she let me know it. I needed to try a different approach. Past experience taught me that she often accepts things she doesn’t want to do if given a little time. On subsequent nights, I let her postpone these things until near the time for me to get in bed. That worked but I still had to push a little. Night before last I tried something else.

First, I asked if she wanted to get ready for bed. She didn’t. I told her that was fine and that I was going to take a shower. I hoped that she would be ready after that, but I found that she was already in bed wearing the clothes she had worn all day. I asked if she wanted to use the bathroom and put on her night gown. She said she would do it later.

I waited another ten minutes or so and tried again with similar results. Her resistance was increasing. It seemed like a good time for the “Rabbit,” The Velveteen Rabbit, that is. It has been helpful before, but each time I use it I feel I may be pressing my luck. I brought the book to the bedroom, got in bed and told Kate I was going to read something to her.

It often takes a while for her to become interested. That night she was fully engaged all the way through. When I finished, I said, “Isn’t that a nice story?” She sighed and agreed. Her mood had changed completely.

I thanked her for letting me read to her. She said, “I liked it.” Then I told her I needed to get ready for bed and asked if she would like to as well. She said, “Yes.” I helped her up and to the bathroom. She was cooperative as I helped her get out of her clothes and into her gown. The battle was over. It was a much better way to gain her cooperation than pushing her.

Last night she was also resistant. I gave her plenty of time and got her to bed without a problem; however, when I was about to go to bed, she had a delusion that involved other people in our house and disturbed her. Again, I brought The Velveteen Rabbit to bed and read it. She forgot all about her worries and fell asleep before I finished.

Unpredictability: Part 2

Early last week, I wrote a post in which I talked about Kate’s unpredictability and illustrated with the changes in her sleeping pattern. By itself, that is not a serious problem. It’s something to which I can adapt; however, the source of this change concerns me. She is far more insecure than ever and is often uneasy about getting up. For a long time, she has experienced anxiety upon waking, but it seems more serious now. Previously, I was able to get her up without any problem. Then she would begin to feel better. Her response now is to withdraw. That makes it hard for me to help her.

The change that has bothered me most is the first signs of hostility. So far, that has involved occasions when I am helping her in the bathroom, dressing in the morning, and getting her night clothes on.

One of these occurred one evening last week. We had a good afternoon though a short one since she got up a little later than usual. As sometimes happens, it was almost 3:00 when we finished lunch. She rested about an hour or a little longer. She was in a good humor when she finished resting and expressed an interest in the house. That led me to take her on a tour, something we haven’t done lately. We didn’t get very far, but that was because of her interest. It took a long time for me to point out items of interest and listen to her own reactions.

She rested again before going out to dinner. She seemed fine at the restaurant. All was well until we got to the bedroom. Our normal routine is to go first to the bathroom to brush our teeth. When I mentioned it, she said, “I’ll do it later.” I brushed my teeth. Then I got her night gown and took it to her. That’s when the trouble began. She snatched the gown from my hand and said, “I’ll do it later.” I told her that would be fine and settled in to watch the evening news.

At 8:00, I asked if she was ready for bed. She wasn’t, I told her I was going to take my shower but was very careful not to say it in the same tone of voice she had used. I knew that would exacerbate the problem and hoped that when I got out of the shower, her mood would have changed. That wasn’t in the cards.

When I came out of the bathroom, she was looking intently at the bedspread and running her fingers over it as though she were writing. I didn’t say anything. In a few minutes, I asked if she would like to get ready for bed. She was ready, and I told her I would help her. I walked to her side of the bed, picked up the night gown and put it next to her. Then she said something I didn’t understand. All I picked up was that she saw other people in the room and for some reason wanted me to sign my name on her gown. I did exactly what she had been doing on the bedspread. I pretended to sign my name on the front of her gown. After that, she asked a couple of questions about the people in the room. I told her they were gone now.

When I picked up the gown, she said, “I’m not wearing this.” She was adamant about it and added, “Get me something else.” I took the gown and went to the closet and came back with another. I said, “Let me help you.” She gave me a stern look and said, “You can, but we’re going to do this together. You understand?” I said, “That’s fine. I like for us to work together as a team.”

She took the gown and tried to figure out how to put it on. Quickly, she realized that she needed my help. Soon after that, she was in bed. She was awake when I called it a day over an hour later. She seemed to have forgotten the whole incident. It was a typical close to our day. I told her I loved her. She said the same to me.

The next day, we had a similar experience. She was up even earlier and was very cheerful and talkative. As she did the day before, she expressed great interest in the house. We tool a brief tour of the dining room and living room. Then we came back to the family room where we looked at photo books until time for lunch. It was a very nice morning and afternoon. That evening we had a repeat of the night before. Since then, there have been a couple of other times when she was rather hostile.

Concurrent with this change is an increase in her delusions. They often involve people who are in the house. This results in her whispering so that “they” can’t hear her. She is very insistent on my speaking the same way. Other times, she is concerned about some kind of project on which she is working. I haven’t been able to figure out what it is, but she is very worried.

My impression is the hostility with me arises for two reasons. First, I think they come at moments when she has forgotten who I am and doesn’t trust me. Second, she is worried or frightened by her delusions.

Once again, I turned to The Velveteen Rabbit (TVR) as a way to calm her and ease her concern about me. It is amazing how effective that can be. A few nights ago, she was quite troubled when I got in bed. It involved an event on which she was working and was concerned about the people working with her. I tried to divert her attention to other things. That didn’t work. Then I read TVR to her. She was attentive and responded audibly from the beginning. That is not typical. It usually takes a while. She calmed quickly. At the end, I thanked her for letting me read to her and told her I liked the book. She said she liked it as well. She asked me a number of questions about it. I was surprised because the questions indicated that she had grasped at least some of the content.

This morning I saw a tweet that said, “The #dementia caregiver’s goal is to communicate “Let’s solve this together.” I try to emulate this approach, but I don’t seem to be doing so effectively at these moments. That is something I will have to work on.

Although many things are unpredictable, I am happy to report that the day virtually always ends on a positive note. I would say 99.9% of the time. When I get in bed, I say, “Thank you for another nice day. We always have nice days, don’t we?” She agrees, and I tell her I love her. Occasionally, she does not reciprocate by saying she loves me. That’s when she doesn’t remember that I’m her husband. On those occasions, she sometimes laughs. Regardless of what she says, she is both at ease and happy. I can accept that. It’s far better than butting heads.

One More Surprise for the Day

Not long after my previous post, I checked on Kate. She was awake and said she was ready to get up. I’ve learned not to rush her and was very careful not to do so. When it came to actually getting up, she was very hesitant despite my precaution. This has happened several times over the past week. Once on her feet, she began to talk as though people were in the house or would be. She assumed I knew what she was talking about. This is also something that is not particularly unusual.

On the way to the bathroom she continued to talk. I have no idea what she was talking about. Her words were a mixture of words I understood with those that were garbled. She was having hallucinations about people and things in the room. She was very uneasy about going into the bathroom. It took me a while to coax her.

While on the toilet, she got some toilet paper in her hand and looked at it. She asked me if I had one too. Then she said something that made me think she thought the toilet paper was a man. It was a challenge to talk with her because I didn’t understand much of what she said.

She said she didn’t know what to do. I told her to get up from the toilet. My plan was to give her a shower. I have found that it is easier to get her in the shower if I don’t inform her until just after she gets up from the toilet. That didn’t work this time. She didn’t want to take off her gown. I tried to explain that she would need to take it off for me to get her clean. She continued to resist.

I decided the shower would make things worse. We brushed her teeth. She was still agitated. I felt it would be better to let her rest a while. Perhaps, she would be fine after that.

I went back one or two other times. She seemed to be over whatever had gotten to her; however she still didn’t want to get up. I bought a new bed last week. It was a little too high for Kate, and the mattress company was sending out someone to lower it for me. It was almost 2:30 when I received the call that they were on the way. That was when I felt the need to get her up. She responded well and was fine after that.

Last week, I bought her a robotic cat that meows, purrs, raises its head, and blinks its eyes. For almost an hour she was entertained by her cat. Then we had a Zoom call with our son. When we finished, it was time for dinner. We went to Andriana’s and had a very nice meal. She was rather confused when we got home. She asked where we were. When I told her, she wasn’t happy but didn’t say why. Fortunately, I had no trouble getting her ready for bed. She is resting peacefully though not asleep. It’s been a full day. I wonder what tomorrow holds.

Another First and, Hopefully, the Last

I had just gotten up and was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I heard Kate scream. I was close, so I got there in a flash. She had gotten out of bed and fallen between a chair and the bedside table. She was frightened and hadn’t yet tried to get up. I first checked to make sure she wasn’t injured. She didn’t have any cuts or scratches. I asked if she was hurting. She wasn’t.

Having decided she was all right physically, I helped her into a sitting position before considering the best way to get her up. My first thought was to lift her from behind with my arms under her shoulders. The moment I put my arms in place, she yelled at me to stop. I had another idea. She was sitting by a chair, and I thought I might be able to get her on her knees with her arms in the seat of the chair and then help her up. She wasn’t able to understand or follow my instructions. That led me to think of getting her on her hands and knees. Then I might be able to lift her. She couldn’t understand that either even though I demonstrated several times.

I tried to lift her. She was frightened and wouldn’t cooperate with me. I have known others who faced this situation. They had called the fire department for help. I called 911 and explained the situation. I specifically mentioned the fire department, but the person I spoke with said they had to call EMS. I told her that was fine, but there was no need for a siren.

In less than five minutes, the doorbell rang. It turned out the EMS crew was in the neighborhood when they got the call. I briefed the young woman, Heather, and man, Kevin, on Kate’s Alzheimer’s. I explained that she can’t follow explanations and that she appeared to have suffered no physical injuries. In took almost no time for them to get her up and back in bed. Kevin got behind her with his arms under her shoulders while Heather positioned Kate’s legs. She responded the way she did when I tried; however, he moved more quickly than I did. She was on her feet in no time.

They asked her if she was all right. She said she was. Then she looked over and saw me. She apparently did not remember that I had been there at all. She immediately looked relieved and reached out to hug me. Kevin helped her into bed. She looked up at the two of them standing by the bed and expressed her appreciation. That was a few minutes before 8:00. She is still in bed at 11:30. All is well.

Sundowning?

One of the common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is sundowning or sundowner’s syndrome. Until this week, I haven’t noticed this with Kate. The classic signs usually involve confusion and anxiety that occurs around sunset or early evening. She’s experienced a lot of confusion and some anxiety, but it has not been typically associated with the evening. In fact, afternoons and evenings have been the most predictably good parts of her day.

Kate’s behavior the past two nights leads me to suspect sundowning might be entering our lives. Thursday she was awake earlier than usual, around 8:30 as I recall. We had enough time for her to have breakfast and rest an hour or so before going for lunch around 11:30.

The balance of the day went well. She rested some, and we looked through one of her photo books. We had an early and pleasant dinner at Casa Bella. The pleasantry evaporated when we pulled into the garage at home. When I opened her door, she looked frightened and refused to get out of the car. She told me to get in.

I complied, and we chatted for a few minutes. She thought there were people in our house and wanted to avoid seeing them. I mentioned that it was our house, and we hadn’t invited anyone. We chatted a few minutes. Then she said, “Well, what do you want to do?” I said, “I think we should go inside and get ready for bed.” She said, “Okay,” and we went inside.

Everything was fine until near the time that I got in bed. She was frightened again and mentioned something about “them.” That is not unique. She frequently believes there are others in the house or on the way. I went in another direction and said, “Why don’t I come to bed now. I’d like to read something to you.” I got The Velveteen Rabbit and hopped into bed with her.

I’ve been reading the book to her for several months now, and she has never given me any sign that she recognizes it or has ever read it before. Her immediate response varies. Sometimes she is reluctant to go along with my suggestion that we read it. Other times, she seems to like the idea. In those cases, I get the feeling she just wants the comfort of our engaging in an activity together. That’s the way it was that night.

She didn’t make her normal audible responses to specific passages that catch her attention, but she did begin to relax. By the time we reached the end of the book, she was at ease. I thanked her for letting me read to her and told her I loved her. She said, “Me, too.” I turned out the light, and we were off to sleep.

Yesterday, she was wide awake when I got out of bed. She said wanted to get up. I suggested that she let me get up first and dress and then help her. She agreed. I thought she would be asleep by that time, but she surprised me. I got her up at 6:50, and fixed her breakfast. We had a good time. She was talkative and always enjoys her cheese toast. When she finished, she wanted more and enjoyed it just as much.

After breakfast, we went to the family room and looked at one of her family photo books until she wanted to rest. That was about 9:00. I had a Zoom meeting with my Men’s Coffee Club at 9:30. We were through at 11:00. I thought that would give us plenty of time to have lunch before I had another Zoom meeting with a United Way committee.

That idea went by the wayside when I discovered that Kate had gotten up from her rest just before I finished with my men’s group. She was looking around the house. When I mentioned lunch, she wasn’t interested. I decided to have lunch delivered. Before it arrived, she was resting again. Time was also running close to my noon meeting. I decided to eat after the meeting.

That turned out to be a good idea. Kate was ready to eat when the meeting ended. We were about to sit down when Mary, our Friday sitter, arrived. She had picked up a lunch for herself, and the three of us ate together. I have found that my departure is much smoother when I don’t have to leave immediately after the sitter gets here. That worked especially well yesterday. Kate was talkative, but it was difficult to understand what she was saying. When I returned, they were having a good time looking at one of Kate’s photo books. Mary said they had talked and looked at books the whole time I was gone.

We picked up a takeout meal for dinner. Before leaving, Kate wanted to go home. I told her we could pick up our dinner and take it home to eat. We enjoyed our meal, and I thought we would be off to the bedroom to get ready for the night. Kate had other ideas. She wanted me to take her to her home, not mine. On the way home, she repeated that she wanted me to take her to “her” home. I felt the need to prepare her that it was my home. I told her it was late and that it was best that she stay at my home and that I could take her to her home “in the morning.” She said the clothes she would need that night were at her home. I told her I had clothes for her. She said, “Well, I’d better call my mother.” A moment later, she said, “She’s not going to like this.” I assured her it would be all right. She was hesitant, but she agreed.

Once inside, she was still uneasy, but she let me help her in the bathroom and getting dressed. I put on some music that I thought she would like and helped her into bed. Then I took my shower. When I got out, I think she was asleep. I know that she didn’t say anything until I got in bed. Then it was just a soft chuckle. She sometimes does this to acknowledge that she is awake. On the other hand, it could have been that she was having a dream.

Was this a case of sundowning? I don’t know. She does seem to have had more delusions in the past few days. I have another thought. Following the guidance of Kate’s doctor, I have gradually eliminated her Aricept  (donepezil). She took the last tablet on Tuesday. Is this a symptom of withdrawal? Again, I don’t know. It could be that the experiences of the past two nights are not sundowning or signs of withdrawal. It could also be just another stage in the progression of her Alzheimer’s.

No matter how much a caregiver knows, one never knows it all. But that doesn’t keep us from trying. I think I’ll go back to her Aricept  tonight and follow the same withdrawal schedule we have for the past two weeks.

How Long Can The Velveteen Rabbit Last?

I know there is no end to the challenges that Kate and I experience. “Living with Alzheimer’s” isn’t something that gets easier along the way. I do wonder what will remain in my “caregiver’s toolbox” in the months ahead. My guided tours of our house with a focus on pictures of her parents and grandparents and other items from her parents’ home are no longer as effective as they were only a couple of months ago. I also find that I need to come up with new commentary related to the various family photo books in order to engage her attention.

Then there’s The Velveteen Rabbit. That something I haven’t relied on too heavily though it has come to the rescue 4-5 times over the past few days. She never gives any indication she has heard it before, but that’s true for other things that no longer have the same appeal. At the rate I am using it, I should soon find out how long it works. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pull it out when I feel the need.

That shouldn’t be long. Kate’s changes come about surprisingly quickly. One minute all is well, and the next she is disturbed about something. That happened two nights ago. The day had gone well and we had a nice takeout dinner. Then she was ready to go (home). We jumped in the car and drove for thirty minutes before getting home again. As usual, we went directly to the bathroom to brush teeth. That’s the first step in our nightly routine. She was in a good humor and brushing teeth was no problem. The next step is to take her nightly meds. That, too, went smoothly.

The final step is getting her out of her clothes and into her night clothes. That’s where I ran into a problem. It is pretty common for her to ask why she has to take off her clothes, but this time she simply got in bed with her clothes on. Not anticipating a problem, I told her I wanted to get her night clothes on before I took my shower. She said, “I’ll do it later.”  I knew that wouldn’t happen. In the first place, she wouldn’t know where to get what she needs or how to handle the nighttime underwear. I encouraged her to let me help her change for the night. She didn’t want any part of it. I saw immediately that it was going to be a losing cause. I backed away and told her I would take my shower. Each of us was annoyed by the other.

When I finished my shower, and as though I were going after my weapon for battle, I got The Velveteen Rabbit once again. When I got back, I said, “I thought it might be nice if we read a bedtime story.” Then I proceeded to read the book just as though we had never had the earlier clash. Like the past few readings, she didn’t show any sign of interest or approval when I started. By the end, however, she was a different person. At least for the time being, the Rabbit still works.

We talked a few moments about how much we both like the book. Then I said, “Well, it looks like it’s time for bed. I’ll be glad to help you change into your night clothes.” That was all it took (and, of course, TVR). It took no more than five minutes to get her changed and back in bed. Best of all, we were both in a good mood. That’s always a nice way to end the day.