Friday, May 13, 2016

"What is My Birthdate?"

It seemed like such a simple question, but it was so sad to hear him ask it. Jim approached me last night with his driver's license in hand. The following conversation ensued:

Jim: "When is my birthdate?"

Me :"January 20, 1949"

Jim: "No, when is my birthdate?"

Me: "Your birthdate is January 20, 1949."

Jim: "No...(long pause) I mean....(long pause)"

Me: "You mean how old are you?"

Jim: "Yes! That's what I asked!"

Me: "You are 67."

He struggles with finding the right words. Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes he will say something brilliant! He cannot handle phone conversations that involve any kind of complexity. Yesterday he asked me to call to change the date and time of a Dr. appointment.

He can no longer operate the thermostat, cannot operate our new washer and dryer; the list goes on.

The other day he was struggling with the TV remote and asked for my help. After I helped him he said "My brain! What would I do without you!" But these moments of insight are rare.

The other night we were waiting in a restaurant for our takeout order. He blew me an air-kiss (goofy lovey-dovey thing we do at home). I said "I think the waitress just saw you do that." He said "do what?" I said"blow me an air-kiss". He said" I didn't just do that!" I let it drop, because what is the point. He doesn't remember. Less than 10 seconds ago. So sad.

Since we have been back from FL, I think he actually functions a little better. I have read that it is important to keep everything as consistent as possible. It makes me seriously rethink all our plans to travel. Kind of hoping for a Northern California this fall and London next spring. Just don't know if I have it in me to handle all the stress it will generate for him.

I'm getting good at NOT saying "don't you remember...?" because obviously he doesn't! I also am good at not showing shock when he can't remember his age, phone #, address etc.

He trusts me, and that is everything. He is so appreciative of everything I help him with.

Life is still good, and I am grateful for his love.


  1. I hear you! The issue of going to FL in the winter comes up frequently, with J wanting to do this, totally unaware of what is involved - the travel, long waits in airports or me having to do all the driving, unfamiliar lodgings, the issue of handling a medical situation with strange doctors and hospitals, and the possibility of her becoming disoriented or confused with any or all of the, I just say pleasantly that we'll see what happens...
    And another angle on this, I just discovered that J's passport is expired as of January. Now, do I get it renewed, or let it lapse? If I let it lapse, then should an opportunity to go to London or Canada present itself, there's an "easy out" - no passport. But she's still an adult, with the right to that document, and has family in London - argh!!
    Anyway, thanks for writing - you have company in this whole caregiving project.

    1. What a dilemma you are facing! It is what I call sifting through the caregiver filter as we try to do what is best for our loved one, as well as for ourselves. Our intentions are good, and that is what really matters. Mistakes will be made along the way on our journey, but we know that we are doing the best we can.

      I appreciate your comment and am grateful for your company on this caregiving journey!

  2. We have an 82 yr old family member in early stage dementia. This week she went in a house that was not her house and couldn't figure out what had happened. Her sons thought it was surely memory care time but as it turns out, not yet.

    She had fallen earlier and had a bad wound on her leg that was infected and it some happened she had pneumonia. She became lucid again once the antibiotics were flowing and the infections improving.

    Back in the 80s my mother had a hip replacement and became confused. The orthopedic surgeon told me extra blood and oxygen go to the would to heal the wound but in older patients it can deprive the brain of just enough to cause confusion.

    This is exactly what the doctors told this woman's sons. They're no longer thinking memory care but do hope they can convince her to move to assisted living, we'll see.

    I avoid doing anything out of the ordinary with Bob. Travel just isn't worth it for the stress it puts on both of us.

    1. Yes, you are right Linda. Infection can cause confusion in the elderly. I saw it when I worked in the hospital. The other thing I saw was "sundowning", where confusion would occur as nightfall came. The theory behind this was that due to less light, there were fewer visual cues, and for someone that was already fragile in this area, it would tip them over into the realm of confusion.

      So glad to hear that your family member recovered from the leg wound and pneumonia. You have first hand experience what all of this looks like. Thanks for the comment Linda.

  3. Gosh! Jim and I are the same age! I'm so sorry for all you're going through, Carole. Thank goodness he trusts you. My father had some paranoia and that my mother had to deal with.

    1. Thanks for commenting Linda. Watching your father's decline, I am sure was hard. My dad had Lewy Body dementia. He occasionally had some issues with anxiety, related to his hallucinations. But otherwise remained a gentle soul, true to his personality, right up until he passed.

      It's funny, but I find myself "checking" to see how I am doing, always on the lookout for any signs in myself of cognitive decline. For those of us with a family history or someone close to us with dementia, it is probably only natural to worry a bit about whether this will happen to us.

    2. I know just what you mean. My brother and I are always comparing what we're remembering.

  4. He is so lucky to have you in his life and that air kiss shows he knows it. You are so patient and understanding but you seem willing to adjust as necessary. Yes he is lucky.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Patti. I do feel loved and appreciated, which goes a long way in the caregiving world.

      I'm so glad I started this blog. Your blog and a few others were an inspiration to me. I have been pleasantly surprised at the power of the social connections in the blogosphere. As I read responses to my blog as well as other blogs, it almost feels like a group hug :-)

  5. We're so much more informed now about the genetics factor, signs & symptoms associated with instances of memory loss, especially with aging, it's only natural we wonder what or if any slip we make might mean -- to is it just within normal function or something more? I can imagine for caregivers of loved ones as you and others describe here that you understandably have even more sensitivity to the issues for yourself. Good to be aware and self-monitoring but don't be too quick to jump to conclusions you have a problem, too. In the future I suppose if you become seriously concerned you would want to avoid expending energy and time thinking about it and would consult with someone to likely receive reassurance you're fine. I found such concerns with any little memory slip to be a common thread of questioning with most patients I encountered as they got older and one to which I'm not immune. Most times all was well fwiw.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Joared. I think you're right, that concerns with memory are probably common as folks age. Even my mom, who at 86 is still very sharp, worries about her memory. She has a few issues when she is tired or if it is late in the day. But otherwise her memory is absolutely fine. I hope I have her memory genes!