Monday, March 24, 2008

A Rabbit and a Staircase

I believe the progression of Alzheimer’s is similar to the learning curve. Calling it a ‘curve’ is a misnomer. It is a staircase with steep steps that are long and irregular. It is stable for a while and then suddenly there is a step down like flat slippery stones on their way to a riverside.

Yesterday was Easter. As it was Sunday it was also shower day. I have given up having the caregivers do the shower. She likes the attention from me and is much more cooperative for me than the caregivers. Well, except Liz. She LOVES Liz. We all love Liz, but Liz has a life and can’t be here every minute. Liz’s little boy loves her too and we have to share.

Normally for the shower, I just lay out her clothes in the order they will be put on, get the bathroom heated up and get the water going in the shower. I also have been urging her gently through the steps to shower and helping her dry. Yesterday I had to do more. She was confused about undressing so I had to help a bit more. She didn’t understand the concept of putting her clothes in the laundry. And once in the shower, she was confused about how and what to wash. I had to take a much more active role. Instead of standing on the other side of a closed shower curtain, it was open and I was guiding her step by step.

She looked down at herself and had to ask me .. "Why do I only have one breast?”

How do you forget a battle with cancer?

“I had cancer?” Her face showed the surprise. It was too much to digest. We continued the shower. I know I'll be asked again.

I dried her carefully and helped her dress. Despite her original reluctance to take the shower, she seemed delighted with the attention. I promised her ice cream and her childlike eyes lit up at the prospect.

A woman called from church asking if she could bring over a lily. Our church does this for people who don’t’ get out much. She asked who had just called. At the news that someone was coming, she panicked. “I have to hide.” I asked her why and she said she didn’t know what to do when they came. What to do with the dog? What will they talk about? How will she manage the door? I told her I would be here to do all that and she didn’t have to be around, but the panic continued for 20 minutes until this young mother and her equally reticent 5 year old daughter came in with the lily. They were in and out, much to the pleasure of my mother. Now we have a lily.

“What’s that? Who’s that for? Why is it here?”

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