Sunday, March 28, 2010


Probably the most challenging thing about Alzheimer's Disease is the circling and with AD, everything becomes a circle eventually.

Let me explain. This morning, we asked Mummy to get dressed to go out. This is actually a challenging ritual for us now. As foreigners, we have had to learn how to dress for the changing seasons. A patient with a memory and higher order thinking disorder, has no real ability to research the weather before choosing clothes. Dressing therefore presents a significant challenge. Over the last couple of years, we have discerned that the best way to avoid the problem of Mummy arriving downstairs in the wrong clothing, is to simply select and lay out the clothing that she should wear. This way, we ensure that it is clean; pressed and most importantly, appropriate both to the occasion and the season. Would however, that Alzheimer's would allow it to be so simple.

We are at that stage of the illness where whatever we lay out is the wrong thing. Whatever clothes are selected are for some reason, rejected. The primary objection is that the clothes are 'not her style'. She either doesn't like the color or the length or the style. It's always something. Rare is the instance when our offerings are met with no refusal. Often, there is no real reason offered, just "I don't want to wear that". And so begins the 'circling'.

The routine goes like this: my sister or I proffer the clothes and leave so that she can get dressed. She will either put them on and then remove them, or she will put on something else entirely (which is likely to be something she's been wearing about the house for days or something that is too tired looking to be worn out of the house). She shows up for breakfast dressed in something other than what you intended her to wear, and a discussion begins as to why she didn't put on what was left out for her. You trot up the (15) stairs only to find that whatever you selected has been put back into the closet and you must begin again. Often, because so much moving of clothes takes place (this is one of Mummy's time fillers), it takes more than a couple of minutes to locate the garments you had spent some considerable time finding earlier. And so it is. Circle number one. After breakfast, she is asked to go back up and change into the clothes laid out on the bed. If you are very lucky, she does so without challenge. If not, you may have to make this circuit at least one more time before all is said and done.

The real challenge for me is the steps. Every time I have to trot up these steps to find the clothes, to find matching socks, to get the comb, to....well you get my point, I understand why care-giving takes years off caregivers' lives. It's exhausting!!! Fortunately, I've eschewed anger and resentment, because more than the 15 steps 5 or 6 times in the morning, it is they (anger and resentment) that shave days off life. So I'm going with the flow and I'm taking my circles as circuit training. It's just exercise really. That's all. It's exercise.

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