Monday, May 22, 2017

A Most Unusual Day

(Written two months ago.)

My wife woke up under the control of the “worries”. We used to call it that before we heard of “sun downing”. But the worries happen at any time. It has a stern expression, a determined effort, and a quick slap or strong hit if challenged when it is in nearly complete control of my wife.

We needed to leave for her brother, Bob’s, funeral by 10:30. She moved at double speed in packing everything in the apartment into something. There was no interrupting her in her work. There was no time to get out of her nightgown and into her cloths. At 9:00 I discussed our situation with a caregiver. She was ordered out of the apartment with a hand signal.

The business manager (also a degreed caregiver) stopped by with equal success. Attending the funeral was problematic. “She may have been over stimulated at the family gathering yesterday evening in the (partially restored) Hearth Room”. (A group of 15 relatives lasting 3 hours from which she left in her usual way about half way, “Time to go.”)

Now several other caregivers considered a calming pill. By now even drawers from my old clothes chest were resting on the sleep number bed next to the bathroom. This has never happened before.

Packing even the Pillows
Clothes Chest Drawers

I continued without forcing her to get changed or to leave things in place. I did put many things back only to have them migrate again. And then at 9:30 she sat down to rest. No order, of removing or dressing, one would normally use had worked.

And then again, “We need to get dressed to go to church.” “Oh!”, in that soft voice of recognition and understanding. The calming pill was ordered. I held out her pants. She put them on. “Lets wait on the pill.” Socks. Shoes. She put them on. The worry spell was over. No medication needed.

There was no taking off her nightgown. No putting on her brassier. I next held out her blouse. Off came the nightgown. On went the brassier followed by the blouse. I have to get things in the right order in her world.

When we stood to sing a hymn, she saw two of the picture books her younger brother and his wife made of Bob’s life, in the pew before us. One has a high school picture and the other a collage picture on the cover. She again showed for a few seconds the same reaction as when I was finally able to tell her that Bob was gone.

I had shown her Bob’s picture on the TV that was posted on Facebook yesterday, by a family member, and then asked her if she knew who that was. “Yes, Bob”. “Now read what is beside the picture.” Obituary . . . .  A two second winch of anguish and then back to the present.

The service seemed uneventful for her. The slide show afterword did connect. Between about the third and fifth showing she watched intently and responded to many of the slides that are in the family reunion picture books that have been made for us. 

(These picture books tell a story as will as bind a collection of pictures that appear to be able to withstand a lot of use for her and for sharing with all the residents.) [They are perfect for memory care.]

She responded well to a large number of people we knew well. I have been told several times that this may just be an act. It may be, in part, but she never asked to leave the service.

The dinner after the service was a second crowd. We stood still looking for seating. A complete plate was placed on the table in front of us and my wife was directed to that chair. My wife never asked to leave.

We ate supper in memory care while other family members visited restaurants. She was content visiting with our two sons afterwards and with their departure for the airport. Everyone seemed in good spirits.

This is then another time in which my wife has gone from “highly agitated and over stimulated” to normal behavior solely in response to not forcing her to perform by the clock. At no time did she jump up, “It’s time to go”, or signed, “No. I am not doing that.”

She has spent almost three hours playing with her keepsakes this evening. At 9:00 pm she is still not ready to let a caregiver help her into bed. She is now busy putting a few things right in the apartment rather than randomizing them. (I know this happens in the night at times, but have never seen her do it before.)

A most unusual day made possible by a number of family, friends, and caregivers. A thank you to each one.

This day presented the interplay between skilled, radiant, caregivers at all levels and my wife’s behavior at any one time. A significant time period can be as little as two seconds. The same behavior can support many stories; all of which can be wrong and all of which can be true for a moment.

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Bob’s wife passed one month later. She was watching TV and playing solitaire. She was Bob’s Alzheimers caregiver for over 10 years.

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