Alzheimer’s 101


Early, 1 or 2 in the morning, my husband leaves the bed for the bathroom and then I hear the closet door open. I call him and the closet light goes on(when this happens my brain says – morning and I’m up). Next, light off and he goes across to the bathroom from his closet. He returns to bed to get up an hour later to try to leave our bedroom by opening the closed double doors to the hall. Solve that and he makes it to the bathroom.

In the bathroom we have a night light next to the sinks, a light that lights up the toilet area and another mounted outside the toilet that lights up the entire bowl. These are both motion sensitive and stay on about a minute. Thank you, Amazon.

Every morning for over 40 years, we have had tea, read the newspaper and have breakfast. The grapes cannot be found although they are in their usual place. We eat a cereal for breakfast so no stove involved except for early morning herbal tea. It is good for Bill to make his breakfast – he feels enough loss about so much. He wants to be useful and as much as possible it is a good idea.

Coffee, always a ritual, just not first thing anymore. Around nine we make coffee in the Chemex ritual. Yes, we have had coffee makers but no more. Neither of us like those little pouch things made in a computer like gadget. So, we are coffee snobs and probably food snobs too. I am glad I only make lunch and dinner. I really love to cook but not breakfast. At 78, I have cooked a lot. Cooking was and is my stress reducer. Get frazzled, annoyed, worrying as we all do, and my advice is go to the kitchen, that is, if you love cooking. Use that time to decompress. Making a meal can be a form of meditation.

Mid morning, errands, grocery store. I can no longer send Bill for items in the stores, as he can’t remember which organic milk to choose or where to find the onions. This is the problem as it is with washing dishes, sorting mail or many things that were almost automatic, now, hard to find words and actions that match up.

He wants to help, I want him to help. But the ability to wash a dish or remember to finish the dishes is fast disappearing.

I started writing this to go through a whole day but I have lost the mind for it, lost the heart for it and worse lost the humor in it.

Each day is much the same, food, a walk, dog adoration and a repeat of so many things. I know as we age our days become routine and we cling to the familiar. Now, it isn’t that I mind the routine for I have created much of it as I love order and doing things in a way that makes sense (to me.)

I am a stranger in this Alzheimer’s land and so is my husband. Who knew? Who would want to know? Each day I see him lose more and I see myself struggling to stay focused, do some kind of work every day as that makes it all easier to handle. I have always needed a sense of accomplishment and seldom more than I now need it, no it is a necessity. I need to feel that I am keeping up with the house, the dog, the myriad of detail that is now my responsibility. For Bill, I don’t think he now notices his losses as much as he did a month ago. He does something, loses something, asks for help but I don’t think he worries. Maybe for a moment but it is all moments.

I value the moments when we have a conversation that lasts a bit. Often, we are talking but then we are in some off the subject conversation that doesn’t relate and I know he has drifted off.

Learning, I am learning as his experiences decline, learning to be the one thing I have avoided – to be patient. And where I am right now, as a woman, mother, wife, caregiver, sometime Buddhist and friend in this situation, I am learning that to be sane and capable I have to be in the moment. And to stay out of the 4 a.m. thoughts such as – what if? how will I? when can I find time to?

The Rolling Stones said it best, you don’t always get what you want………

What I have lacked in my life is patience and I am now enrolled in Patience 101.





Just when you think you might be getting things done, making good lists, organizing your life to be more manageable,KABOOM! I don’t know why I am surprised when unexpected events occur. Surely I have learned that a lot of what we do is solve problems, be it an avocation, job or chore. That is one of our functions along with figuring out what to cook today or is that tomato ripe enough to eat. And it isn’t if you have to ask.

Our dear dog, Judy, was looking rotund, well, fat, actually. We had watched her appear heavier and grow bigger around the middle for a few weeks. She isn’t an exercise fan so I urged her to walk more and I fed her less. As she got bigger, I dished out even less. I threatened her with a doggie treadmill. We joked about what a chubette she had become.

I took her to our vet to check her teeth, mentioned the belly looming large and added I was surprised that she weighed just 22.6 lbs. when we checked in. Judy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and 22 lbs. isn’t fat.

The vet said, looking at her non-existent waist – forget the teeth – I’m concerned about her middle. I almost said, and aren’t we all concerned about our respective middles?

Judy was taken off for x-rays and ultrasound and next we were  referred to the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. We were there 3 days later for more tests and the surgeon concurred with our vet, that this is a spleen problem. We booked the surgery for Monday and went home in an altered state. I really like an axiom and try to live by it, (try, I said, ) from a dear friend. “DON’T FEED THE FEARS.” But it is hard to feed your darling Judy and not wonder if she will come home from the surgery, if you will fix her supper again – she is now 10 years old and we were warned that her spleen could rupture. We lifted her very carefully. Gently, gently in speech and action was my weekend mantra.

No more suspense here, Judy had a splenectomy and over 4 lbs of fat was removed that was attached to her spleen. Surgery went well, no surprises but her temperature dropped to 94 and that scared us until they called to say she was better, wrapped in warming blankets.

We made the car like a little doggie ambulance for her and brought her home. Instructions about her were firm, wear the comfy collar, don’t let her scratch or do anything to mess up her loooong incision. And no jumping for 10 to 14 days. She was to have pain pills every 8 hours and anti-biotics every 12 hours.

Three days post surgery with three people watching her, she jumped on a low chaise, a couch and a chair. This was done with ease, smiling, as she regained her normal style of living. Her floor beds were cushy, made of flokati rugs, stuffed tigers, a dog bed plus plush covers.We mostly sat on the floor by her. What more could she want?

What she wants is her old routine. We try to stop her jumping on the couch. Then, she walks by and she levitates to the couch, lies down and is asleep within minutes.

We worry because we remember her girth, the fear of cancer, hemorrhage and waiting for the call from the surgeon to say she was okay. And that is a big difference between dogs and humans. We just think too much. Judy isn’t thinking about surgery, pain, being in a cage. No, it isn’t happening now and here is the best – she doesn’t even have to try NOT to think.

During all this my husband struggled with memory loss, impatience and frustration and worry about his Judy. Our grandson did all the driving of Miss Judy. One daughter came from upstate to be a dog nurse and local daughter helped us before and during the surgery and tenderly helped bring Judy home.

As I have said, we think too much, explain so much. And what else do people do when trying to make sense of a brilliant man coping with loss of memory and of an innocent dog needing surgery? But explain and cope we do and will continue to do, after all, this is my/our job. I do work on not thinking so much.