Yesterday before breakfast Betty was helping to set the table. We all drink our coffee black, no cream no sugar. Probably at one point all of us added something, cream or sugar, but not for many years. Betty asked for the sugar bowl and a spoon and Bob said, "You don't use sugar, Mom." He said it in a rather matter of fact way... more or less in passing. She said, "Of course I do!"
For me it was nothing unusual. I call episodes like this, ALL IS NEW. Bob still has difficulty understanding that his mother truly forgets these things. He still wonders if it is attention getting behavior because of the
narcissism we are convinced she has lived with most of her life. I don't think it is...I think all things can be new for her at any given moment.
We can go to a restaurant that we visit once a week and she will act as though she has never had a particular menu item before or has not had it in YEARS! She can watch TV and shows she has seen are new to her every week. Only those things that happened YEARS ago are left in her memory.
Sure, some days she is as sharp as a tack. But, most days she needs to ask over and over what day it is.
Yesterday was not a good day for Betty.
She came downstairs and sat with me at the table. I was busy on the computer and so at first didn't notice that she was upset. Finally she got my attention and started asking questions about the wedding she is going to attend with her niece tomorrow. She just couldn't get the days straight and could not find her notes where she had written down the info. She suddenly realized that she doesn't take sugar in her coffee and she was upset with herself for being forgetful and not using the calendar I had provided for her to keep track.
She started to cry and call herself stupid and as I tried to explain that people forget and that she was doing OK she started to say she had only noticed that her memory was gone since she came north for the summer. I agreed with her that at her house she had a system that was working for her and that things were certainly more confusing for her here. We talked about 20 minutes; she cried, she laughed, she got her calendar and wrote down the info she needed. It is sad to see that she is starting to realize how profound her memory loss is. Sometimes I think it would be best if she didn't know at all.
For as long as I can remember Betty has repeated stories, verbatim. I had mentioned this 10 years ago after meeting her. No one thought it strange which makes me wonder how long this has gone on. I wonder how much the writing down details of her day, times, people she spoke to, what they said... how much of that was a sign of things to come? It was not journaling in a normal way, by the time I met her...it was different.
ALL IS NEW. In some ways I suppose that can be exciting. In other ways it must be terribly frightening. I guess our goal needs to be to make her feel safe and secure. I hope we continue to learn from Bob DeMarco and others who are on, or have been on, this journey
Do visit; Alzheimer's Reading Room