We returned home just before 7:00 p.m. tonight after spending three nights in Fort Worth. As I have suggested in other posts while we were gone, I am very glad we made the trip. Kate enjoyed seeing her extended family. She didn’t, and still doesn’t, remember most of the names, but she has a strong emotional tie to her family. In recent years, as her short-term memory has faded away, much of her conversation with others has drifted toward family. Most of that has been about her mother but has included her father and her extended family. I didn’t imagine her having another opportunity to share special moments with them. While it is unfortunate that this one was prompted by her cousin Chester’s death, it is in times of loss that family ties seem especially important. In this respect, the weekend could not have been better.
Travel is, however, demanding for Kate, and I must admit something of a challenge for me as well. I envision that it is a combination of these things that will ultimately cause us to curtail it. For Kate, there is a certain amount of pressure or stress in being in strange places and with large numbers of people she doesn’t remember. She made it through Saturday beautifully. At the visitation on Saturday evening, one of her extended family members and I noticed her in conversation with another member of the family. She appeared to be an equal participant in the conversation. I suspect she didn’t know who she was talking with, but I am sure he conveyed either directly or indirectly that he is part of the family. She obviously was quite comfortable with him. This is also true for her with most people, especially if their interaction is brief.
Nonetheless, it requires a lot of effort to “perform” in this way. She has been very tired the past two days. She went to bed around 8:30 Saturday night. I had to wake her up at 10:00 Sunday morning so that we could meet several family members for a lunch to celebrate Kate’s 77th birthday. She didn’t want to get up, but she did. Slowly, but she got up, and we arrived in ample time for her celebration.
I had originally planned to stay in Fort Worth last night. Knowing that it is sometimes difficult for her to get going in the morning, I changed my mind and made reservations in a hotel near the airport in Dallas. That way there would be less rushing to make our flight at 12:15. That turned out to be a wise decision. She was asleep by 8:00 last night, and she slept until 9:00 when I woke her up this morning. Although she would have preferred to stay in bed, she was very cooperative in getting up, and we were able to leave for the airport at 10:00. That gave us time to get something to eat before our flight.
Everything else went smoothly on the way home. We arrived a few minutes early in Atlanta, and our flight from Atlanta to Knoxville was right on time. We stopped by Chalupas to get a bite to eat before coming home. It was almost 7:00 p.m. when we got to the house. I went back to our bedroom around 7:15. Kate was already in bed. She was wearing a robe that was inside-out as happens a good bit. Using hand signals, she asked me to get her a night gown. I brought one to her. She stood up to take off the robe and put the gown on. I started to unpack some things and noticed that she was putting on the robe again, the right way, and had not put on her gown. I mentioned it, and she put the gown on.
That kind of confusion is common, but I believe travel adds an extra measure of confusion because of the unfamiliar surroundings, especially when we are moving from one unfamiliar place to another as people do when they travel. She often asks where we are when we travel. That was different this time. I only recall two times that she asked, “Where are we?” One of those was at dinner at the hotel in Dallas last night. The other was when we got off the plane in Knoxville and were walking to baggage claim. As many times as we have walked through that airport, she didn’t recognize it.
It is impossible for me to understand how stressful travel is for her because she never talks about it. I don’t know how much of this relates to her general preference not to dwell on her Alzheimer’s or if she really doesn’t sense the stress. I believe it is the latter. I think she forgets she has Alzheimer’s except when it comes up at one of her doctor’s appointments. That makes me think that at the very least she doesn’t connect her diagnosis with her experiences.
For me, the most challenging aspect of travel involves airports. That includes going through security. I find myself focusing on getting all the things that need to go through the scanner unloaded and then putting those things back on or in my clothes on the other side. Kate is often confused by the instructions given by the personnel; so I have to watch for that. It is hard enough for me to remember to take everything of mine that has been scanned. Now I have to make sure I have her things as well.
I wish the security check were the most difficult part of travel for me. It is not. It is changing planes in Atlanta that is the challenge. I fear losing her as I did the other day. I can’t tell you how stressful that was. There are so many people and places that it is very hard to find someone.
Another concern is use of the restroom. It takes her a long time in the bathrooms at home, but in an airport there is a substantial challenge. I have already identified family restrooms in the Atlanta airport and may soon try those.
One additional issue with travel is getting from one place to another in a timely fashion. She has only one speed, and it is very slow. At home, I can control much of this because I try to avoid as many specific time commitments as I can. That works pretty well. When we are traveling, you have flight schedules that are not flexible. In addition, when other people are involved, it often involves a set time to meet. This always means planning in advance to make sure we are on time or reasonably close.
When you add up all these things, and I am not beginning to remember the many little things that come up when traveling, I can see why some people stop traveling long before we have. Even with that, I am not ready to call it quits. I still want to make at least one more trip to Texas. If that one is half as successful as the one we just took, I might think about another. My head tells me that it is unlikely that we will do any more airline travel after the next six months, but my head has been wrong before. I hope it will be once again.