August 19, 2016 – We are never the same today as we were yesterday, nor is anyone else. However, we all have times in our life when we make subtle changes. Usually changes mean nothing, or a temporary whim or experience will cause a reflective change in personality. This doesn’t necessarily indicate anything serious, but it could mean dementia, which could include any of the dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s which is the most common of the dementias.


As my readers know my entire blog is made up of my experiences with various members of our two families and with my husband, Ken, who first began showing signs of AD in the mid and late 90s. His release from the torment of AD came in October of 2014. These subtle changes may not be noticed by others, but because of the close relationship of husband and wife the mate often spots the irregular change long before any changes become obvious to others – even their children.


Ken was known for his friendly personality, his affability and his gregarious nature. He loved people, especially family. That was why I was so shocked when my sister, Janet, and her husband, Douglas, paid us a visit. Douglas had been diagnosed with cancer and wouldn’t live another year. As we sat together in our living room Douglas mentioned that he felt cold. In his weakened condition he became sensitive to lower temperatures wherever he was. I moved toward the thermostat to click it up a notch. Without thinking of his ill brother-in-law Ken said in a loud and rather brisk manner, “I don’t understand how anyone could be cold, I’ve got the temperature turned up to 68 degrees. If anyone is cold, there must be something wrong with them.”

I felt horrified that my kind and caring husband would be so rude to this dear man who was, basically, dying. I stepped forward and pushed the thermostat up a few degrees even though for Ken it would be too warm, but I reasoned it would only be temporary. Meanwhile I got a blanket for Douglas.


Falling and loss of balance could be an indication of an approaching dementia. I didn’t notice that he fell often, but I did notice that he became clumsy, stumbling over his feet every so often. What I did notice, even more, was that if Ken filled his arms with too may objects he would drop some, if not all in an effort to keep them together, especially if he reached out to open a door or to switch on a light with the other hand. He did that one night as we were returning from a pot-luck dinner. The bowl, the salad dressing, tongs all went flying as he reached to switch on the light.


Ken had a contagious laugh and was always one to enjoy a good joke. As Alzheimer’s chisels away at the victim’s brain humor often goes by the wayside. His mind lost the ability to grasp the humor of a Double Entandre. In another direction, my mother always taught her girls that sarcasm was the poorest form of humor. Yet, in today’s society, sarcasm has reached great heights in the comedy world and a quick mind which uses the form is considered very intelligent even though the form can be biting or insulting for the individual to whom it is directed. Nevertheless, it is extremely popular within the populace. Those living their lives in a demented state usually miss these subtle forms of humor.


We had been visiting my sister once again, after Douglas had passed. Arriving at their cabin on the lake, a young man had been assigned to hand out leaflets concerning the coming homeowner’s meeting. Ken took the paper. Janet said, “I’ll take that Ken, it’s for me,” and reached out her hand. “It’s mine,” he glowered, “the boy gave it to me.” “But this is my house,” my sister retaliated, “it’s meant for me.” He became enraged with her reminding her that the paper was given to him.

Not having experience with a dementia patient my sister began to argue. In his anger I thought for a moment he might hit her. I redirected him to a chair on the deck and he calmed down giving me the paper, and then we went for a walk. His reaction was so unlike the man I had married.


Ken’s eyes often danced as he talked with people, yet I noticed, especially as the disease progressed, that instead of good eye movement, he eyes became blank, not looking at anything, just starring off into space.


We see it with babies as soon as they begin to crawl, and even before. Anything on the floor is a curiosity to be investigated. And when the object is captured in a tiny hand it immediately goes into his/her mouth. Puppies are the same and so are some people suffering from a dementia-related disease. Activities were next to impossible to introduce to Ken as everything I offered went into his mouth. Large puzzle pieces, crayons, pencils and whatever I offered he tried to eat. He once grabbed a handful of screws while my handyman tried to repair a caster on a small table.

My mother, my patient a few years before Ken became ill, tried to scrape the flowers off her dinner plate, and then chewed her flowered paper napkin in an effort to remove the printed petunias on the paper. When she could get a pencil she would pick up a book and begin correcting the grammar, punctuation or syntax on the page she was reading. She did that until she could no longer read.


Apparently, that’s one of the most important keys in being a caregiver. When you have an understanding of the disease, and are able to grasp the full ramifications of what is happening to the victim, then the support system can be more prepared to cope with all that’s going on and all that the future has in store with this painful experience. Read, learn. apply and be “there” for your patient. Remember, they can’t help what is happening to them, but “we” who are “there” can help them.

Originally posted 2016-08-22 05:00:55.

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