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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Everydayness of Alzheimer's Disease August 17, 2014

I am so glad we found something that my husband does willingly when I visit, which makes the time between snack and dinner smoother for him.  My visits usually begin with finding him. He's either walking into and out of residents' rooms or washing his hands in his sink if he's not sleeping in a leather recliner or walking near the kitchen counter eating or requesting a snack and a glass of milk. It's funny that he used to hate milk as a child and drink coffee, but now, he's stopped drinking coffee or tea and requests milk several times each day. The staff all know he must be really thirsty if he asks for or drinks water. Everyone knows he doesn't like water!

When he sees me or realizes I am there, he will respond to a hug and a kiss-- or even offer me one first, but to my sweetheart, I am always there, somewhere. I imagine that he feels it is he who cannot find me, but somehow he is okay with that because sooner or later, he turns around and indeed I am where he can see me.

I check to make sure he is being well looked after, that his supplies are current and not missing, that his bed is made and that his clothes are clean. I speak with the caregivers on shift, make small talk with some of the other residents who also seem to enjoy my visits, greet other family members who may be visiting their loved ones as my spouse and I walk around the unit, indoors and out, but it's still too hot in the afternoons in Arizona to remain outdoors for long stretches of time.

Then we spend lots of time in his room playing catch with a playground ball which we throw or bounce back and forth to each other, retrieving it when I fail to catch it properly, sometimes then sitting in chairs when standing becomes tiring --for me before my husband tires, I still think, although he is more frail now than he has been. But his weight is steady--all those snacks and glasses of milk keep him going when he doesn't care for the food he is served. By playing catch he gets exercise for his arm muscles, he is thinking, making eye contact with me and keeping us both engaged and in the present moment.

Sometimes we take the ball into the main room and roll it back and forth along a table until he sees the dining tables being set with water and juice and he leads me to a table, stands in front of a chair, sits and I push the chair closer to the table. Then it's as if I disappear as he concentrates on his juice and waits for his dinner to be served. I take my cue and leave quietly without saying goodbye.

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