It was 7:25 yesterday morning. I had just finished my breakfast and about to take the dishes to the dishwasher. I glanced at the screen of the iPad that is connected to the video cam in our bedroom. Kate was about to sit up in bed. I went back to help her get to the bathroom. When I reached her, she gave me a smile but didn’t speak. I asked if I could help her. She said she didn’t know. I told her it was a beautiful morning and directed her attention out the window to the back yard. She must have been a little groggy because she didn’t respond as enthusiastically as usual. I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom. She asked where it was, and I told her I would show her.
On the way, she said, “I know this is a nice place, but I want to go home.” Normally, I say something like, “I’ve got good news for you. We are at home.” That has often worked before but not as much lately. I decided to redirect her attention and suggested we first get to the bathroom and then get dressed.
When we finished, she again mentioned wanting to go home. I told her we first needed to get her dressed. She was obviously eager to get home because getting dressed went more quickly than usual. I know that wanting to go home is a common request of people with dementia. Some authorities interpret it as an effort to escape from the symptoms of the disease. I have always been somewhat skeptical about this interpretation, but I do recognize that Kate has often said things that I believe are references to her Alzheimer’s. They include things like “I’ll be glad when this is over.” “I don’t like this. I know you don’t like it either.” Each time she says these things I try to figure out what she is talking about. I have never been able to identify anything specific. That makes me wonder if she is referring to her general feelings, difficulties, or confusion that accompany the disease. As I observe more of this, I am beginning to accept the idea that wanting to go home is, indeed, a desire to escape her Alzheimer’s and return to a place that symbolizes comfort and peace. What happened after we left the house might also support that idea.
The moment she walked into the family room, she showed her first signs enthusiasm for the day. She noticed a pot of African violets and one with orchids. She also did her usual scanning of the back yard followed by looking at her ceramic cat, the photo of her father, and the photo of our son. She experienced an almost immediate shift in mood.
We arrived at Panera just before 8:30, the earliest we have been there in quite some time. I set up her iPad and opened the puzzle app and then got her a drink and a muffin. By 9:30, she was frustrated over her puzzles and also tired. I asked if she would like to go home. She did.
As we drove to the house, I wondered if she had forgotten about her desire to “go home” or if going to our home would be perceived as going to the home she had talked about earlier. As we drove up to the house, I mentioned it was ours. She said, “Oh, yes. I didn’t recognize it at first.” That is quite unusual. She almost always does even though she sometimes thinks of as where we are staying or a house in which we previously lived.
Once inside she wanted to rest. I turned on some soft music and brought my laptop into the family room and sat with her until just before the sitter came. This was a rare time when she actually went to sleep. I wasn’t surprised because she had gotten up so much earlier than usual. I am sure she slept at least an hour. When she awoke, she looked over at me and smiled. She was very peaceful and happy. We communicate a lot with our facial expressions. I could tell from hers and her voice that all was well. She was at home.
We talked about how nice it was to relax with the music in the background. In a few minutes, I asked if she would like to look at one of her photo books. She did. I sat beside her on the sofa, and we spent ten or fifteen minutes doing that before she was tired again. She rested another thirty minutes before the sitter arrived.
I am always eager to see how she responds to the sitter. I was happy to see that she greeted Cindy with outstretched arms. It was like she had seen an old friend. As I left, I felt good knowing that she had moved so well from wanting to get out of the house and “go home” to having a peaceful morning.
The bonus of the day came when I got back. I found her and the Cindy were engaged in conversation. Kate was quite talkative. They were discussing plants. It isn’t often I see Kate as a major contributor to conversation. I think I was happier than she was.
She was tired at the end of the day and went to bed earlier than usual after being frustrated with her puzzles, but the two experiences of our morning together and her experience with the sitter made it another good day.