As any good caregiver will tell you, you quickly develop a second sense of your loved one’s state of mind after witnessing Alzheimer’s day in and day out.
You don’t have to be clairvoyant-just observant.
For example, I’ve learned that I can tell what sort of day I’m in for simply by looking into the cutlery drawer.
If, when I awake and go into the kitchen to make my coffee and look and see that the knives and forks are still in their respective slots in the tray (that I’ve returned them to the night before when I put away the dishes) then it’s probably going to be an easy day, a day where Miss Cathy is more or less self sufficient and not much is asked of me.
But, if I see that there is chaos and anarchy in the drawer; spoons and forks co-habitating and butter and steak knives fighting to occupy the same space then that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s going to be a long, long day.
At first I thought she was just ‘in a rush’ or ‘not paying attention’ and when I asked her about the mismatched cutlery she said she was “just being lazy” and would do better.
She was true to her word for a time but then she’d go back to making a mess.
This back and forth, with me playing “fork police” and Miss Cathy the “perp” went on for quite awhile. To the average person this may seem like ‘no big deal’ but caregivers get what I’m going on about.
It’s not the ‘mess’ (and no, I’m not comparing myself to Joan Crawford, as she was presented to the world by her victim-I mean ‘daughter’, Christina Crawford in the early 80’s biography and later cult classic “Mommie Dearest”, who happened to clean compulsively (usually three sheets to the wind) and clarify to her daughter after she’d dragged her out of bed in the middle of the night to help her clean that she wasn’t mad at ‘her’ (Christina) but that she was mad at the ‘dirt’).
No, this wasn’t about the mess, it was about trying to get a loved one with Alzheimer’s to try to ‘remember’ what they’d committed to doing and following through on a daily basis.
So, I try to use every little action or activity as a potential ‘teaching moment’ to help Miss Cathy learn to strengthen her memory muscle and challenge herself not to become mentally complacent.