There is a Yiddish proverb that goes ‘Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht’, which translates as ‘Man Plans, God laughs‘ Although I am an atheist, I do appreciate the sentiment and, except for the fact that it isn’t as punchy, would substitute ‘Man plans but life happens.’
I had planned to write about my wife’s slow but progressive deterioration but a simple but actually not harmless incident added to put some content to that idea.
Last week she was having trouble with her knees, a much less severe version of what happened last December when a swollen knee caused a massive increase in her dementia, hospitalization and eventually a decline in her mental health.
As soon as I noticed the signs, I was able to convince her to take a bit of ibuprofen with her medications and over a few short days the pain seemed to subside, or at least she suffered less. However that inflammation coincided with a drop in her perceptions and awareness.
An orchestral conductor is able to perceive small irregularities, deficiencies in single sections or even single players in the sound of the entire orchestra; because she is my main object of concern, I can discern small changes in her behavior. She has subtly less comprehension of the world around her, she has lost individual words and even, I think, understands me much less.
Her world and understanding has become smaller. The brain does not always comprehend what the eyes see and cannot always overcome faulty sensory memories even when the eyes tell the truth. And the brain tries to make some sense out of what is left, stringing ideas together to make ‘facts’ that one believes in.
Research illustrates that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. In eyewitness identifications, witness memory is impacted by a variety of factors that occur from the time of the crime onwards, and their memories can be easily contaminated.
In the last week there have been some behaviors that are strange but somehow understandable. She was holding a piece of rough artisan bread and then used that bread to wipe the counter – instead of the rough scrubber that we generally use. Later, I had made pancakes that she didn’t eat and they were sitting on a plate on the counter. She was going to use the toaster oven, realized the shelf was hot and used a pancake to pull out the hot shelf, instead of the rubber mitt we use. Oddly, not all complex memories gone; Jackie can use toaster oven that requires a couple of button presses but she can’t use a butter knife to put butter on her toast.
She is somehow aware she is not understanding so if she recognizes a question by my tone of voice, she will say yes. That has resulted in my making a few meals she doesn’t want but…….
She has become even more compulsive about the few things she does do. Leftovers get put in baggies and then wrapped in paper towels. The bag in the cereal box gets intricately folded with square corners and then clipped shut. OK…… I will supply all the baggies she needs.
On the plus side, she has realized that her caregiver, a wonderful person we both love, now comes every afternoon and so she sleeps less. She seems to wait patiently for the caregiver to show up and then stays around while the caregiver does the housekeeping tasks and then they go watch tv or ‘talk’.
It is nice to have a victory, even a small one.
One of the persons making a comment below wrote something that is so insightful that all caretakes should remember it when talking to professionals.
This is monumental for “outsiders” to comprehend. We are the ones caring for our loved ones 24/7, but some people (albeit well-meaning) see the Person with Disease (PWD) for a few moments and think they understand his actions/reactions to circumstances, but in reality they only see the surface, not really reading him as any caregiver must do in order to keep the PWD stress-free.