Our First Crisis

As noted in a post last week, I have been having greater difficulty getting Kate out of bed for the past few weeks. That became a more serious issue this week and represents our first real crisis. Here’s the story.

Wednesday or Thursday of last week, I noticed Kate was coughing periodically. Then I felt the first signs of a sore throat Friday night. The next morning my throat was worse. I recalled that a sore throat was one of a number of symptoms of COVID. I decided to be tested and went to a nearby pharmacy that afternoon.

Sunday.

I felt better and began to think that I simply had a traditional sore throat. This reinforced my belief that it might not be COVID. I hadn’t had any other symptoms like fever, congestion, or any breathing difficulties.

Monday,

I was beginning to believe I was out of the woods, but I wasn’t able to get Kate out of bed.  I had already cancelled my help for Monday afternoon because we were on quarantine after getting the test.  She was very weak and couldn’t help herself, and I was unable to do it alone. I called 911 to send someone to the house to get her up, to the bathroom and back to bed.

Tuesday.

Tuesday I felt like I was recovering from a cold. I was encouraged, but I had to call 911 again for help getting Kate to the bathroom. It was late in the day when I received the news that I tested positive. That was a low blow that began a crisis that hasn’t been solved; however, I had already contacted her doctor on Monday and continued be in contact with them several times a day.

Given Kate’s weakness and that my problem getting her out of bed might worsen rather improve, I also contacted the agency that provides the regular help I have on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I asked if they could find someone to help on Tuesday and Thursday. They said they would  try.

Wednesday

I made an effort to get Kate up between 11:00 and noon. Once again, I could not get her out of bed. She was very weak but was able to speak clearly to me, something she wasn’t able to do the day before. Based on her doctor’s instructions, I had been checking to see if her breathing was labored. She was all right, but at 1:15, I thought she was breathing a little more heavily. I talked with the doctor’s nurse who listened and said she would get an opinion from the doctor who said to take her to the ER.

I called 911 to take her to the hospital. It was difficult even for the two ambulance attendants to transfer her from the bed to a wheelchair and finally to the cot in which she rode to the hospital. This process was painful for Kate and for me as well. It was awful to see how frightened she was to be hauled away by two strangers and having no idea what was happening and where she might be going. As they put her in the ambulance, I couldn’t help wondering if that might be the last time I would see her even though there were no life-threatening signs at the time. She certainly didn’t show any lessening of strength as she tried to fight.

That afternoon I called our agency to inform them of Kate’s diagnosis. That meant they will not provide any help for us next week. It will be Monday of the following week before they can send the regulars back and any added help for the other days.

At 6:00, I spoke with the doctor who had replaced the one on duty when she arrived. She told me that Kate’s vital signs including her breathing were normal. They had drawn a sample of blood and sent it to the lab and would know later if they found any problem. She also said they were going to send her to a Step Down unit or floor where she would be put on a heart monitor.

At 10:00, I spoke with the nurse in the Step Down unit. She confirmed that Kate was there and that she was resting comfortably.

I ended the day with serious concerns about what I would do for help when she returns home.

Thursday

At 6:00 that morning, I called to check on her. Fortunately, her nurse answered the phone. She told me Kate had eaten breakfast and had a bath. She also mentioned that Kate was enjoying the music they were playing for her on the TV. I was pleased to hear that because I hadn’t mentioned the importance of music to her.

During the morning, I placed phone calls to our current agency and the new agency that I am talking with. I got encouragement from the new agency and hoped to hear back before the end of the day if they might be able to help us.

I received a call from her Step Down nurse at 5:00 telling me they were transferring her to a new floor that should be her last room change. She also gave me the new room number as well as the phone number for the nurse’s station. This was just the kind of nurse a family member wants. She seemed informed on Kate and very compassionate toward Kate and to me. She didn’t make me feel I was intruding on her time to ask how Kate was doing.

At 9:45, I called the nurses’ station to make sure Kate was in her new room and how she was getting along. Her nurse said Kate was already in her room when she arrived at 7:30. Kate was very confused – didn’t know her name, where she was, and was hard to understand. I told her that was not new with COVID. I see that frequently. In a sense, she is at least somewhat confused all the time but not always to the same degree. She knew that Kate has Alzheimer’s but didn’t seem to know any more than that. I gave her a brief background so that she would be able to put in context the behavior she was observing.

Friday

I spoke with her again this morning before she left at 7:30. They gave her a light does of Atavan to control her agitation, and Kate slept well during the night. Last night, I began to wonder if they had all her medications. I had assumed so because Kate’s full medical records are available to the hospital, but things don’t always go the way they are supposed to. I was especially concerned because we have made several recent changes. The nurse asked me to call back later when the new shift had had time to be briefed do some of their initial duties after check in. I plan to do just that.

I feel I should comment on how I am feeling. The best general answer is that these have been the most stressful days since we began “Living with Alzheimer’s.” Nothing else that has happened over the past ten years compares. It isn’t simply my reaction to Kate’s having the virus. It is what she has had to go through to get help. She is frightened by many little things like the noise of ice dropping the ice making into a glass. Being hauled out of bed and being transferred from bed to the ambulance to the hospital and three different rooms with different people must have been traumatic for her.

Beyond that, the biggest problem I now face is what to do for her when she is released. Our agency will not provide care for her until 10 days after her diagnosis. That means no help at home next week. I am talking with another agency that looks like it may be willing to fill in, but finding additional help is a challenge for all home care agencies in our area.

I had a conversation with our daughter, Jesse, last night. She has offered to come from Virginia although she and I want to make sure that Kate and I are definitely free of the virus before she would do that. In the meantime, I have also spoken with the care coordinator at the hospital about options for Kate. We will be talking again soon, I hope.

The good news is Kate’s vital signs and blood work show nothing abnormal. It seems that both of us have mild cases. Her symptoms have been a cough and weakness. For her, weakness is the major problem. She had started this before the virus, but I feel the virus exacerbated her decline. Once she is well, she may be somewhat stronger, but I suspect that she may continue to weaken. There are some things we cannot avoid.

Kate’s overall decline has been more dramatic this year and has taken a more significant drop in recent months and even weeks. January will mark the tenth year since her diagnosis in 2011, and we had observed the first signs at least five years before that. We have been very fortunate to have lived so well despite her Alzheimer’s; however, neither of us was ignorant of this part of the journey. I am not happy to be where we are right now but very grateful for the joy we have experienced in the past. I also believe we will have more “Happy Moments” together in the future even though the remaining time is likely to be punctuated by more troubling experiences like this one.

 

Sunday Incidents That Are Hard to Predict

I’m not sure at all, but it looks like Kate might be moving toward a schedule to sleep later on a more regular basis. That may relate to the fact her doctor put her back on Trazadone to see if we might be able to stop her erratic sleep pattern and, possibly, the recent trouble I have had getting her ready for bed. It’s too early to tell, but she has slept later everyday since starting her Trazadone.

There are always other things that get my attention and deserve an appropriate response. Yesterday, I got her up about 12:45. She was in a good humor and got up rather easily though getting her out of bed is beginning to be a problem. It is hard for her to sit up on the side of the bed, so I hold her right hand with mine and put my arm around her back just below her shoulders. It isn’t as easy for both of as I would like. It’s tough to lift her with my arm under her back, and Kate doesn’t like my doing it. She screams as she reaches a sitting position. This may be a problem with arthritis, but she only complains of it in that moment.

Once she was ready, we were off to pick up a takeout lunch from Andriana’s where we usually eat on Sunday. Everything was going well until getting home. So well, I didn’t expect what would happen next. When I opened her door to get out of the car, she sat there as though I were going in the house by myself. I said, “Let’s get out of the car and eat our lunch.” She didn’t say anything. She just sat there looking straight ahead. I extended my hand and asked her to take it. She was silent. For a couple of minutes, I tried to interest her in going in the house with me. She told me she would just sit there. The look on her face told me she was bothered by something (likely “someone”) that she thought was inside. I asked if she could tell me what was wrong. She gave her typical reply, “I don’t know.”

As usual, I didn’t push her. I just told her I would go ahead with my lunch and to call me if she wanted to come in. I went in and set the table for us and got drinks ready. Then I went back to see if she would like to come in. She came with out a problem. She didn’t seem disturbed once inside, but she ignored the food on her plate. I always cut her meat, use her fork to pick up the first and gave it to her. She liked it. I got another piece and placed the fork on the table and told her she could enjoy the rest. For several minutes, she didn’t eat or drink anything. She just sat there. I asked her about it. She asked where it was. I told her it was on her plate right in front of her. She made no effort to eat. I made several more efforts, but she just sat there. She seemed all right except that she wasn’t talkative and made no attempt to eat.

I went ahead with my meal. I had a salad first. When I finished it, I got up to rinse out the container in which it came. I walked to her and fed her another bite. She ate it. When I asked if she liked it, she said she did. On the way back to the table, I stopped and fed her another couple of bites. She ate them willingly and seemed to enjoy them. She didn’t eat anything after that.

I finished my meal and cleaned up and returned to the table to sit with her. As I had done before, I gave her several more bites. Then I sat with her for the rest of the meal. It must have been 5-10 minutes before she took her first bite, but she continued to eat until there were only a few bites left.

When she was through, I asked her to come with me into the family room where I wanted to show her something. She didn’t respond. It was just like she was in the car. She just sat there without saying anything or making any effort to get up. I told her I was going to the family room and told her I would like her to join me when she would like.

She remained there for about thirty minutes when I went back to ask if she could join me, and she accepted. We looked at one of her photo books a short time before having Zoom call with our daughter and son. She said very little while on the call and closed her eyes for most of it.

She surprised me again when I ordered a takeout meal and asked her to come with me to pick it up. It was one of her passive-aggressive responses. She wasn’t rude or hostile. She just said she wasn’t going. She was right. I phoned and cancelled the order.

We weren’t that hungry anyway because we had eaten so late, so we skipped dinner and retired for the night. We got in bed and watched a series of YouTube videos of musical performances and enjoyed them together. It is unusual for us to watch TV in bed, but I just thought it would be nicer than sitting in our chairs. It was a great way to end the day.

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.

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.

So, How Are Things Going?

It’s very hard for someone who doesn’t live with a person with dementia to grasp how far one has traveled on this journey. I know that was true for me. I am sure my dad noticed signs of my mom’s dementia years before I was aware.

I believe the typical image of a person with Alzheimer’s is heavily influenced by our perceptions of the last stage of the disease. Before that, many people don’t recognize the dementia at all or fail to understand how far the disease has progressed. Kate was diagnosed almost ten years ago, but it is only in the past 2-3 years that it has been more obvious to those who spend little time with her.

That is what prompts me to write this particular post. We have crossed another milestone on Kate’s journey. It is easier now for people to tell that she has Alzheimer’s. That is true even for people who are with her a short time. Having said that, I don’t believe many people would recognize just how far along she is. I see it because I am with her so much. That gives me many opportunities to observe how she functions. Overall, her changes have been very gradual, but they have been much more evident even in the past month or two. It even seems like she has changed a lot in the past two weeks. Let me summarize a few of the things that make me say this.

First, and foremost, she has reached the point at which her rational thought/abilities have almost completely vanished. By that I mean her memory for names, places, events, and processes (how to do things) is at a disturbing low point.

Simultaneously, her intuitive thought/abilities are on high alert. Her experience of joy, sadness, fear, and anxiety are more evident. The fear and anxiety are troublesome to me as well as to her. On the other hand, all the positive emotions related to her to her senses bring intense moments of pleasure as well. Sometimes we experience a mixture of both good and bad.

Two days ago, I helped her up after she had rested. She was confused and uneasy. She knows something is seriously wrong with her, and it was evident. I looked in her eyes and said, “I love you, and I want you to know that I will always be here to help you.” She cried, and we embraced. It wasn’t that the underlying problem was solved, but she was comforted. It was touching moment for us, and we were able to move on.

For a long time, she has been insecure, but that has increased considerably. She has always wanted to do the “right thing.” Now that her memory is gone she doesn’t even know the right thing. When I give her choices like “Would you like to get up now or rest a while longer?” Her typical answer is “I don’t know.” It is evident in the morning when needs instructions on everything she is to do in the bathroom.

She often doesn’t recognize her napkin and wants to know what to do with it. When I tell her she can’t understand what I have said. When we eat out, I generally put the napkin in her lap. Invariably, she removes it. She often wants to use it as a placemat. When that happens, I simply ask the server for another napkin. She never remembers what she is drinking or if the glass is hers.

The most obvious sign of her insecurity is her hesitation when walking or sitting down. She walks as though she is blind, very short shuffle steps without lifting her feet very much. Any change in elevation is a problem. Naturally, that involves stairs, but it also includes small variations like flagstone walkways, or any surface with color variations that she perceives as differences in elevation.

I have long heard that putting a black carpet or doormat in front of a door can prevent wandering outside. It is only recently that I have observed this phenomenon with Kate. She is very cautious about stepping where there are contrasting dark and light surfaces. We have a dark blue rug with a white border in our bedroom. She is now very cautious when we enter the bedroom. She is careful to step over the border.

It is often very difficult to get her to see things I want her to notice. That comes up most frequently when we are eating. I always cut her food for her and usually put a bite on her fork and place it right in front of her on her plate. When I try to tell her where her fork is located, I almost always fail. Even when I pick it up and attempt to put it in her hand, she has a hard time understanding what I want her to do.

At lunch the other day, I noticed that she hadn’t eaten any of her rice, something that she usually likes. I mentioned it to her. She couldn’t see it, and none of my explanations helped. I finally picked up her hand and let her feel it.

It is very difficult to predict what she will be like at any moment. Quite a few times, I have mentioned this in connection with her sleep. Sometimes she sleeps or rests in bed far beyond her wake-up time. Sometimes she gets up very early. In itself, I don’t think of that as a problem except for me to adjust my daily routine. The relevance is that it is another sign of change in her condition.

Along with that, she experiences far more delusions than ever before. Sometimes I feel as though her day is one of delusions, and they are positive and negative. We can have great conversations when she is in a cheerful mood although I often don’t understand much or any of what she says.

Unfortunately, she has more negative delusions now. They usually involve things that seem minor to me but very important for her. The most typical is believing there are people in our home, and we are preparing to go out, or do something, with them. She is very concerned and often relieved when I tell her “it’s just the two of us” except when she doesn’t accept that or forgets moments after I tell her.

Another significant change is in our relationship. She is more likely to experience moments when she doesn’t recognize me at all. In some of those moments, she doesn’t immediately feel comfortable with me although she becomes more at ease in a very short time. There are times when she is experiencing anxiety and wants me but doesn’t recognize me. She will say, “Where is Richard?” or call to me by name as though I am in another room. Another interesting thing is that she sometimes refers to herself as “she” and to me as “he.” This can be confusing. At first, I was quick to ask who she was talking about. She can’t answer that, but I’ve learned through experience that “she” and “he” are “we.”

All of this is to say that our world has changed substantially. “Living with Alzheimer’s” is definitely more challenging these days. I am grateful for the good run we have had and that we continue to share so many “Happy Moments.”

An Unusual Saturday

I never know when Kate will be ready to get up in the morning. More often than not, it’s between 11:00 and noon. That means having our lunch rather than breakfast after she is dressed. That happens often enough that I have my own morning plans. When she awakes earlier, I just shift gears. That’s what happened Saturday morning.

I had just finished in the bathroom and was going to the closet for my clothes when I heard Kate say, “Hello. <pause> Hello?” It was just before 7:00. I walked over to her bedside and said, “Hello, I’m glad to see you.” She said, “I’m so glad you are here.” She was very uneasy although not as frightened as she is sometimes. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “I don’t know.” We spoke a few minutes, but she was unable to tell me what the problem was. Then she said, “I’ve got to get out of here.” I told her I would be glad to take her.

At that point, I figured that if I could get her up and dressed, she would begin to feel more at ease. Then she might be fine. That didn’t work. She got up easily, and we got to the bathroom. She refused to use the toilet or to brush her teeth. She just wanted to get out. I asked her to take off her night gown. She didn’t want to. I explained that if she wanted to put on her clothes, she needed to take it off. She still wanted to get out of the house and soon agreed. We were in the car a few minutes later. I turned on the second movement to the Brahms Violin concerto, and we didn’t talk at all. She settled down.

My intention was to drive around for 20-30 minutes and then return home for breakfast. On the way, I saw a new breakfast place near our house and thought it might be nice to try it out. I drove a little longer before asking Kate if she would like to stop someplace for breakfast. She said she would. I turned around and went back to the new restaurant. She was fine, even cheerful, and we had a good, but heavy breakfast. The ride and music had done what I had hoped.

We were home by 9:00. It was no surprise that Kate wanted to rest and did so for almost an hour while I took a walk. By that time, she was ready for the bathroom. Then we sat down on the sofa to look at one of her photo books. We hadn’t gotten far before she wanted to rest again.

She rested for over two hours and was asleep most of that time. About 1:15, I asked if I could take her to lunch. She wanted to rest a little longer. I tried several times over the next hour and a half. Still no luck. I had been playing very relaxing music for her and shifted gears to something more lively around 2:30.

That didn’t have any effect either; however, I was able to rouse her at 3:15. I decided to go out for an early dinner. We arrived at the restaurant at 4:15 and had a pleasant meal, and the evening went well. We hadn’t followed anything like a normal day, but everything was fine. It pays to be flexible.

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.

Happy Day

When people ask about Kate, I often say that she is now at Stage 7 in her Alzheimer’s journey. I sometimes add that it is the last stage that can last for years. I feel sure my reply conveys the seriousness of this phase of the disease. For that reason, I usually add that it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to have moments of joy. We do, and one of the interesting things to me is how often those moments are intertwined with the common symptoms of this stage. I am grateful because her life is now filled with more delusions, hallucinations, and confusion than she has experienced before. Yesterday is a good example.

Shortly after 8:00, I heard her say something and went back to the bedroom. When I reached her, she seemed wide awake but confused. That may seem a strange combination. What I mean is that she looked and sounded fully awake, but her confusion was obvious as I tried to get her up and into the bathroom.

I told her I was glad to see her and asked if she was ready to get up. She was but said, “What should I do?” I suggested she first move her feet and legs to the side of the bed. She didn’t understand what I meant, so I gently pushed them to the side. She said, “What now?” I told her to hold my right hand while I lifted her with my left. Some mornings this is difficult. She seems to be dead weight. This time she pulled my right hand, and I was able to lift her to a sitting position. It is not unusual for her to scream when I do this. She didn’t this time.

She was very uneasy getting to her feet, but we got to the bathroom without a problem. When I told her to take a seat on the toilet, she was confused and didn’t want to. That is pretty common, but this time she wanted to know why she should sit on the toilet. I gave a very simplified explanation that she couldn’t understand. Then I told her we could skip it. After I said that, she agreed to sit down. Afterwards, we washed her hands, and I gave her a toothbrush to brush her teeth. She didn’t understand what she was to do with it. I helped her get started. Then we went back to the bedroom to dress. That went smoothly.

For a very long time, Kate has responded with great interest when she sees the plants and flowers in our family room, on our patio, and the back yard. That has been less frequent in the past few weeks. It was back yesterday, and we took a few minutes to enjoy them together.

Once she was seated at the kitchen table, I gave her a glass of apple juice and her morning meds. She loved the juice (which she refers to as water) and took her pills without a protest. She actually seemed pleased I had given them to her.

The best was yet to come. I fixed her a slice of cheese toast. Kate didn’t remember having eaten it before and responded with enthusiasm. She ate it more quickly than usual, and I fixed another one. She was quite talkative while eating and after. (I may have noted in an earlier post that she seems to feel especially comfortable at the kitchen table and often wants to linger long after she has eaten. I think she likes the fact that the table is located beside a large window overlooking our neighbor’s front yard and that of another neighbor across the street. Two different sitters have commented on her wanting to stay at the table for as long as an hour after eating.)

I joined her at the table right after fixing her cheese toast. She asked my name. When I told her, she gave me her name, something she often doesn’t remember. It was one of many times during the day she didn’t remember my name or our relationship. Then she began a lengthy conversation. I wish I could tell you what she said, but her speech was so garbled that I couldn’t make any sense of it. Everything she said emanated from a delusion. I do know that she mentioned her mother and later in the conversation made references to other people (“she,” “he,” “they”) and assumed that I knew them. It was light-hearted chatter, and she laughed a lot over 30-45 minutes. I loved seeing her enjoy herself.

During all this, an album of very relaxing music was playing. “Clair de lune” caught her attention. She stopped talking and said, “Listen.” For the balance of that piece and into the next, she closed her eyes and put her hands together as though she were praying. This is not the first time she has done this. I always find it touching. The day was off to a good start. It was a very “Happy Moment” for both of us.

We finally adjourned to the family room where she wanted to rest. I took that opportunity to take my morning walk (inside the house for those of you who are new to this blog). I hadn’t walked ten minutes before she was sitting up. Then we spent a short time looking at one of her photo books before getting a takeout meal for lunch.

The sitter arrived just as we were finishing lunch. I got up from the table to get ready to leave, and the sitter took my place. It was a very natural transition. Kate was perfectly happy with Cindy as she has been since her first few visits . That makes me feel much better when Ieave.

When I returned, they were seated on the sofa looking at a photo book and having a grand time. Kate was sorry to see her go. Their relationship is everything I could have wanted and more.

The rest of the evening went well. We had a pleasant dinner with a takeout meal at home and encountered no challenges getting ready for bed. Kate had not rested at all during the day. That’s rare. As a result, she went to sleep rather quickly but awoke briefly when I got in bed. She was still happy, and so was I.

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.