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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back to reality Tuesday-Wednesday September 27-28

The flight was smooth, but I was anxious to see my husband. I asked my son Steve to drive directly to the assisted living community. He attempted to persuade me to unpack first and visit later, but to no avail. We arrived at the facility at one o’clock, supposedly just as Sunday dinner was ending, so I was not surprised when the door greeter informed me that Bob was in the dining room.
I entered and observed him from the rear. Major Bed Head was seated at his table. Bob had a fruit cup in front of him, so I assumed this was his dessert. I walked around and said, “Hi, Bob.” He answered, “You’re here,” without any expression on his face and continued to pick up his grape with a fork. A worker arrived with a chair for me, as another arrived with Bob’s dinner.
Bob picked at the corn, and at his teeth where the corn was getting stuck; he spit out the skin on his roasted potatoes and moved the brisket around on his plate.  “Bob,” I asked, “Would you like to go out for lunch with me?”
“Sure,” came his immediate response.
Bob walked, holding my hand, to his room. I removed all of his extra shirts, reminded him to put his belt through the loops and handed him his comb. He was able to accomplish most of the dressing tasks, once I presented each item. The skill decline in the past few weeks astonished me.
At the restaurant, Steve asked for us to be seated so that Bob could see the restroom door. After lunch, we drove to my daughter Linda’s house to see her new cat. Bob watched a bit of football with my son-in-law Dave, asked for and drank a small glass of beer, but wanted nothing to do with the new kitten. “And you shouldn’t either,” he said, “Cats are dirty.”
Bob’s family always had cats for pets.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More about Change

As you read this, I will be up in the air recovering, returning, rejoicing and remembering. I am recovering from my first dinner party without Bob that I hosted for ten of our dearest friends, recovering from hearing his voice reminding me how to hold the cutting knife properly, to be careful on the stepstool in the kitchen, to mince the garlic and to chop the vegetables in uniform slices. I also heard him chastise me for cooking a recipe for guests that we had not prepared in advance, just for us, to taste and to adjust.
Our friends verbally remembered Bob, telling stories of parties we hosted “on the roof” in our previous apartment and of the cordials he invariably placed on the table with tiny glasses, at the end of the meal. I did the same, opening a bottle of Bob’s Old Apricot Cordial from Austria. We all toasted Bob. Everyone requested I relay their thoughts and good wishes to Bob; a few did not previously know that he is in an assisted living community. They also told stories of others they have known, whose personality became hostile with the advance of Alzheimer’s disease and who needed to live in a secure, safe environment. Quietly, out of earshot, one woman inquired, “Will he know who we are and that we wish him well?”
 I am returning home, from what was our community for ten years, to be once more with my family and with Bob. I am rejoicing in the warmth and love that still surrounds us both, and although I am grieving, I will still be able to see my husband and to hug him when I return.

100 Words for Sunday, September 25, 2011

It’s Saturday night at 9:43 and I’ve nothing written –for my 100 words, that is. I wrote a chapter for the new book today, the possible sequel to Put That Knife Away, about out-of-home placement for demented spouses. My manuscript is finished; my cousin Nora copy edited it in Switzerland, one chapter at a time, via email. Mindy read it the first week in May, as promised. She made some good suggestions. As I re-read it, I can see how it leads up to Bob having to live in a secure, protected environment--so different from my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday-Friday, September 22-23

   While it is true that, like most people, I dislike and even fear change, the change of seasons, especially from summer to fall has always been an inspirational time for me. I feel hopeful as a new school year gets underway; I am enthused to begin new projects, one of which you all are witnessing this week. As the weather cools, I feel energized to write as well as to walk and to exercise. I will even participate in my first ever organized hike. In October, I will join a hiking club on an expedition to Zion National Park. Looking forward helps me to deal with the more difficult aspects of my current life.
This Fall marks the sixth anniversary of selling our Chester, NJ home and the fifth year since Bob’s diagnosis of “some kind of dementia.” We returned in the fall three years ago from our last European trip. We went to Zurich, Switzerland and took two trains into the Alps to celebrate my cousin’s birthday. How Bob loved walking down the mountainside with Nora on his arm.We even ventured by ourselves for four days to Prague, an excursion which Bob remembered joyfully for quite some time. I miss our life together; everywhere I go, whatever I do, I am reminded of the good times we shared over the past 22 years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday-Wednesday September 20-21

Thank you so much for your warm welcome. Most of you liked the 100 words on balance.
 Today I want to share with you two articles from the New York Times, one from the Sunday magazine(nytimes/lives.com) and the other from today's science page(nytimes/science.com). Both tell stories of  women who lost all of their memory, one by a freak accident in which a ceiling fan fell on her head and the other due to an attack of viral encephalitis. What surprised me was their ability to learn new information without regaining old memories. Su Meck lost her memory 23 years ago at age 23 and is now enrolled in college. Lonni Sue Johnson, now 61, became ill in 2007. She is again creating art, differently from the art she produced prior to her illness, but which still retains the freshness and joy of her previous work.
The doctors are now trying to solve the mystery of what parts of the brain are needed for creativity.When my mother had Alzheimer's disease, she was still able to play the piano.That musical ability did not disappear.
It surprises me all the time, not what my husband, who also has Alzheimer's disease, forgets, but what still remains. Even though he has lost so much of what made him who he was, parts of his personality still remain: his interest in tools, in collecting books, many of his fears and prejudices.
The most important quote, for me was the statement by Michael McCloskey, a professor of cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University,
"There is something about your identity that is distinct from memory."
It's hard to name what it is, but I see it every day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Intro

Welcome to my blog. I am a retired psychologist, a memoir writer and my husband has Alzheimer's disease. I belong to a club in which each member writes a one hundred word story about their life every week. My day is Sunday. Each week I will share with you my 100 words and I hope that you will comment and perhaps write your own to share on this site.Here's the one from yesterday.

                                           Balance
“On your toes, lock your knees, lift your arms and hold,” intones the dance instructor. “Now, muscles tight, bend to the right, lift your left foot and balance.” Sometimes, momentarily I can maintain the posture. So it is with my life now. When I make plans my days are full; so are my head and heart as I fill the empty space inside myself with my friends’ lives and pains. At home, I fill myself with reading and with food. I buy already prepared dishes at Zabar’s and I snack on everything in sight. Balance is fleeting and elusive.




I read as much as I can find about research to prevent, cure or assist in the care of Alzheimer's disease and I'll share my readings and my comments about what I find, like the article this past week about insulin in an inhaler. Wouldn't that be great if we could improve memory function through sniffing insulin! There's lots more research and trials needed before any practical use can be applied, but it certainly looks promising. What do you think?
I will also answer questions you may have about Alzheimer's disease or suggest locations to find the answers that may be available, as I share the story of my husband's journey.