Monday, October 21, 2013

On the road with Alzheimer's

In the works for over a month was a planned visit to our friend, Sandy, in Tyler, TX.  Sandy was ready and wanting company after recovering from a broken hip and losing her husband of nearly 20 years.  The couple had been our neighbors for many years and Sandy and I went to grad school together.  So I began talking it up to hubby the week before and checking to make sure our meds were up to date, laundry done, pets arranged for, car AC fixed, etc.  We were invited to an anniversary celebration in Tyler by a couple we had known through NASA...he worked for hubby years ago and had retired to East Texas.  Hubby remembered his name and was excited about seeing him again.  Those space program threads run deep in his brain and seem to be continually present.
Because we were going to the party I checked his suitcase which he had packed to make sure he had clothes for the planned weekend events.  Oh geez...two pairs of pajamas and two dirty shirts (favorites).  Okay, I started over in the suitcase and had it all packed the night before.  Clothes for the party were on a hanger along with the clothes for him to wear on the drive up.  The departure morning arrives, I load my things in the car and wake him up and point out his clothes.  He heads for the shower and I read the paper and wait and wait and wait.  On checking, he is back fussing over the suitcase again and taking stuff out, then piling more stuff in.  I fold the wadded up shirts back in the suitcase and redirect him back to get his shoes and socks on.  Then he is on to fussing over his piles of papers on the table and making sure he has a highlighter for the newspaper he is bringing.
At last we are on the road an hour later than I had hoped but oh well.  Hubby is grumpy and obviously upset.  I ask why and he said he wanted to pack his suitcase and was confused about it.  I acknowledged his confusion and mentioned the dirty shirts.
We stop for lunch in Lufkin and call Sandy to tell her to go on to her meeting in the afternoon.  We stop at Love Point, a scenic overlook and hubby has lightened up and seems to be enjoying himself.
In Tyler at last Sandy left the door open for us and we had just arrived and unloaded the car when she got home.  She has a young dog who immediately took to Ken and made them both happy.  Sandy fixed a lovely dinner, her son and family joined us and we visited for a while, examined her magnificent garden, and went to bed at a decent hour. 
The next day after a late breakfast we headed to the art community of Edom.  Hubby seemed happy to go but complained of being tired.  We reconnected with some artists I knew from way back in my pottery days and had a great lunch which he ate all.  We drove back to Tyler, full and happy.  Then we toured a magnificent old home near downtown that has been restored and maintained.  Hubby enjoyed the video about the history of the house and thanked Sandy for taking us. 
Then we went to a local coffee house for a cup of java.  And here began the sundowning.  Hubby brightened up and said he remembered that Sandy's husband had brought him to tour the house and then to the same coffee house.  Well, that never happened.  Bob was not able to drive and never saw the house.  But it does make me wonder if there was an occasion somewhere in some town where hubby had had a similar experience.
     The next morning we let hubby sleep as we were planning to attend the party later.  I helped Sandy with some planning of some stuff she needs to take care of and then dressed for the party.  I woke

hubby to get showered and dressed.  I went back to check on him and there was water all over the floor of the bedroom (?) and he was fussing over his suitcase and had forgotten about the clothes laid out on the bed for him.  He asked over and over again where we were going.  By then it was 11:30 so Sandy suggested we go for brunch before heading for the afternoon event.  Hubby gets terribly confused by menus...bless his heart, he can decide on something but forgets it by the time the waitress asks for his order.  Brunch went well and off we went...again he asks where we are going.
      Our friends were renewing their wedding vows in a small church.  As we sat there, hubby asked over and over again where we were and why were we there.  BUT he did recognize his friend and couldn't wait to greet him after the service.  He seemed a bit confused when the party moved to the couple's home and began to frown and declined any food or drink.  Sandy was so understanding and realizing he had reached his limit, cut the afternoon short to head home.
       The next morning we were to leave and the whole scene was repeated around the suitcase, meds, and so.  On the way home, he commented over and over about what newspapers would be in the front yard waiting...he couldn't wait to read them.
        I know that any change in routine is a challenge for an Alzheimer's patient and he certainly was full of anxiety.  All in all he did well.  I was the frustrated one.  Just trying to get him out the door for most anything is a challenge by the time he compulsively checks and rechecks his stacks of papers on the window sill.  And answering the same questions over and over and over again in a 15 minute time period.  I think there will be a limited number of trips in our future as it is difficult for us both.  We've been home for a day now and he has been angry all day.  He is angry because he can't remember where he put some work he was doing for a book.  I think he thinks I moved it but knows better than to say that.  This disease has to be so, so frustrating for the patient...just imagine if you constantly can't remember where you put anything or can't find the right word to say what you want.   Books lose interest because if you can't read it straight through, you won't remember what you read.  And so it goes on ever turn during the day.  Hopefully one day a successful treatment or prevention will be found.

1 comment:

Kristin Allen said...

Yep - sounds frustrating as hell for both of you! Getting him out the door is like getting the kids out the door. Do this. Do that. Only little bits of instruction at a time. And then they are standing in front of the mirror for ten minutes staring at themselves. "What are you doing?" I don't know. "You're supposed to be brushing your teeth, remember?" And so on and so forth..I think it's great that he knows not to blame you - even though he's in the midst of his frustration and anger and bewilderment. I think many alz patients miss this and go straight to be angry at others - because they just can't imagine otherwise how things could go missing. Love you! Hang in there! You're doing a great job.