Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Out Loud

The strangest stuff comes out of her mouth. I finally realized that she is just saying anything she is thinking. Imagine that. Think of your day. What if YOU said just anything you were thinking. Standing in an elevator, suddenly you'd say...

"Can't you just WALK up one floor?"

"Boy I wish I could fart."

"Geez that's a really ugly shirt."

"Wonder what would happen if I hit all the buttons?"

"Now I remember why I never wear these socks."

She has no restraint, no understanding of what is kind and tactful, no concept of people being able to hear her or not hear her. It's like she runs entirely on impulse. Some of her comments are under her breath. She can't just think. Her thoughts leak out her mouth. Grace has no control over this nor does she care.

For us, that means we don't need to hang on every word she says. We need to determine when she is talking to us and when she is just "thinking."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Six Pounds of Magic

Dogs are amazing. They love unconditionally and trust blindly. Grace has an ugly little dog named Blackie. He is missing teeth and should be the founding member of Fur Club for Dogs.

Blackie adores Grace. He has to be with her every minute. If the bathroom door separates them, he cries outside until she reappears. When she sits, he is in her lap. When she lays down, he is in napping next to her. At night, he slithers under the sheets to cuddle up right next to her. As she and her Alzheimer’s brain starts to wander, he is right there following. Smart enough to keep from being under foot, he looks up adoringly waiting for an indication of direction.

She is never mad at him. He can do no wrong. He is her best friend. She talks to him and he loves it. His little tiny body heaves a heavy sigh as it curls up in her boney lap. There is no medicine that does her as much good as the warmth of that little dog.

Blackie does not notice the diminished brain power. He loves her no matter what. She never seems to forget him. We take care of his physical needs and he takes care of her heart.

No one reaches her like he does. He went from a life alone with Grace, to being one of four dogs. One of our dogs is a therapy dog and we have noticed how he too can reach the Alzheimer’s patients. The ones that haven’t talked in days, suddenly look up, smile and say something to the dog.

I know how I feel when I am greeted by the wagging tails, barks, and licks. It is so good for her to have that connection. Dogs are magic.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Between a rock and a hard place

There are days she is impossible. Take tonight for example. She can't hear me so she asks me to repeat...and repeat.... I speak louder and that doesn't help. I speak slower and then she gets mad at me for talking to her that way.


It's extremely difficult for me to do anything that requires any concentration. If I arrange it so I can be near her, she can't stop talking. If I don't answer her within 3 seconds, she gets furious. She can't remember I need to concentrate so she can't stop. She has no sense of time so she doesn't know how long she waits for me to answer. If I leave the room she gets angry.

Sometimes when she really tears into me, I have to just walk away. That can evoke two responses; 1. She gets MORE furious or 2. she gets tremendously remorseful and pathetic. Neither are what I want, but I just need space and a minute to collect myself. Her anger also makes her try to strike or spit or throw things. Fortunately she does not have the strength or mass to provide any impact.

She hates the 4-8pm caregiver so it's hard for her to run interference, even though she tries. I'm probably just going to have to stay later at work to get my work done. But as far as doing things around the house like balancing financial accounts or pay bills, that's tough. I have to time it just right.

I try to be patient and remember that she is a victim of a disease that I could very well be facing someday. I try to remember that I can only expect the same care that I am willing to provide her, but it's really hard.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


The nicest part of Alzheimer's is the temper tantrums. Grace is seriously affected by the sunlight and as soon as it goes down she turns into another person.

One of our caregivers drew the short straw and is here from 4 to 8. She is a kind person with more patience than I have. Grace dislikes her. She dislikes her presence, not her. She told her tonight that the caregiver prevents her family from being around. Grace refuses to eat the dinner that she prepares, looks at her antibiotic from the oral surgeon with suspicion as if she were being poisoned. Grace makes nasty gestures at her; faces like you see in third grade from the nastiest girl in the class. She asks her over and over... "when are you leaving?"

Grace is certain that there is a plot. That we are intentionally doing things that take us away from her. That neither my husband nor me are telling the truth when we say we have work to do. If he leaves, he must be doing something other than what he said. She is suspicious of any reason we have for being out of the room. So she storms into the room I am in.

At night before she goes to bed, I go in her room. I turn up the heat, water the plant, pick up the dirty laundry and fill the dog's water bowl. Her suspicion and paranoia peak. "What were you doing in there? You were in there for a long time!!!"

Focusing on the caregiver, she yells. "I can't keep doing this!!! Something has to change!!!" How do I tell her that if she doesn't like it here, she'll have to live in a nursing home?

Right now she's yelling at my husband. She's bouncing off from one bizarre reason to another like a pinball machine. Her lines of logic are weak, random and short lived. She tells us that she is beside herself, that she is shaking, that she is going to throw up. I am certain these are all meant to evoke a response from us.

It takes everything inside me not to yell back; not to react. But honestly I don't know what to do. I can't reason with her because she can't reason. I can't explain anything to her, because she can't remember or learn. I can't change her situation and I can't make her understand. So what do I do? That pretty much exhausts my bag of tricks.

Meanwhile she yells. We're plotting, we're mean mean mean, we're terrible.

I guess we are.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tick Tock

My mother has always been a slave to the clock.

Spontaneously, she announces the time. There is no reason. Suddenly she will say... it's 3:15. She does this several times throughout the day. I supposed I should be happy she can still tell time.

Despite all of her clock watching, when the doctor draws a blank clock and asks her to draw a certain time, she cannot. The effort is draining and depressing. Because she can still tell time, she can see that she's wrong, but she doesn't know what to do to fix it. Her embarrassment is apparent.

When I was a teenager, she was very specific about the time I had to be home. She would stay up and watch the minutes tick away. I knew I'd better be home on time or in a hospital. I chose punctuality over infirmary. It was easier.

She eats because it is noon, regardless of her state of hunger. She wants dinner somewhere between 5 and 6 pm. Anything else causes great stress. Dinner is a significant benchmark of every day. If I am home, she starts asking as early as 3:30 if I know what we are going to have for dinner. This is a strange question to me for two reasons. First, she eats just about the same thing every day and secondly, I am not a big dinner planner. Dinner is not the flagship of evening that it is to her.

When she eats, I make an effort to eat or at least sit with her. She doesn't like to eat alone. It also lets me encourage her to eat. With all of her stress about when dinner will be served and what will be served, she often eats very little. The post dinner ice cream is always the goal.

Now she is forgetting dinner. Tonight we ate together at around 6 and at 8 she said to me in a panic, "It's 8:00!! When are we going to eat dinner?!?!?"

Fortunately ice cream is the answer to that question. Thank goodness for ice cream.