By Samra Jones Bufkins
Saturday Lunch in Alzheimer’s Land
I made chicken salad from scratch, and used sourdough bread to make big, thick sandwiches, which were served with apple slices and chips. It’s a pretty typical lunch around here.
I took plates to Bill and our friend Ted, and returned to the kitchen to straighten up before joining them. Bill walked into the kitchen, looking serious.
“Whatcha looking for?” I asked.
He pointed angrily toward the silverware drawer, and made an eating motion. I handed him a fork. He threw it down, and pointed at the open drawer again, shaking his finger. I could tell he was frustrated at his inability to communicate. He came closer and pointed, saying “I need, I need….” I picked up a spoon and he said, sharply, “NO!” I handed him a knife, and he returned to the living room.
About a minute later he was back in the kitchen, holding his favorite red EatWell cup. He was scowling. I assumed he wanted a drink from the fridge, but he held up the cup, pointed angrily at it, and said “I can’t drink this!”
“There’s nothing in here!”
The cup was half full of water.
“It’s water,” I said. He scowled. I took the cup, poured the water out, and filled it with lemonade from the fridge. He went back into the living room. Seconds later, he was back.
“I can’t drink this!” he shouted.
“Why not?” I was genuinely puzzled–he loves lemonade.
He handed me the cup, an angry scowl on his face. I tasted it, and it seemed fine. Nevertheless, I poured it into my glass and refilled the cup with peach tea. That seemed to satisfy him.
I was checking some things on my computer, so decided to eat in the kitchen. I hadn’t yet touched my sandwich when he reappeared a few minutes later. This time he was pointing at my sandwich.
“I, I, I…..I need…..” he trailed off.
“What do you need?”
He angrily pointed at my sandwich.
I said, “you have one just like this in the living room.”
“No I don’t!”
“Here, let me show you,” I said, taking his hand and walking him back into the living room. There, on the table next to his favorite seat, was half of his sandwich. He had used his knife to cut it into tiny pieces, and disassemble it. Most of the chicken salad was eaten, most of the bread remained. He had used his knife as a fork.
I picked up the plate.
“It looks like you’ve eaten yours. Can I get you something else?” I said, as I walked back to the kitchen. He followed me, and once again pointed at my sandwich.
“That, that, that.”
“Honey, that’s my sandwich, but if you want it, you can have it,” I said as I handed him the plate. He set it down and angrily pointed at it.
“I’m not eating that!” He seemed to wave it off.
“OK, what do you want to eat? Can I make you something else?”
Pointing at the sandwich, he shook his finger and said, “That’s wrong!”
Now I’m confused.
“What’s the matter with my sandwich?”
“I want that!” He gestured frantically.
“Fine, here, you can have it,” I said as I handed it back, unable to conceal my irritation.
He took the plate back into the living room. I made another sandwich, and before I was finished, he was back, heading toward the cabinet where we keep the drinking glasses. I reminded him he already had a drink.
“I do not!”
I let him get another glass, fill it with the same lemonade he didn’t like a couple of minutes before, and head back to his spot in front of the TV, where he still had a nearly-full cup of iced tea.
No sooner had I taken a bite out of my sandwich than he was back, rummaging through the cabinets for a coffee cup. That he also filled with lemonade. (If you’ve lost count, he has three drinks–a common occurrence.)
I ate my lunch and was finishing washing up when I heard Bill’s loud voice from the living room.
“IT IS NOT!”
I walked toward the living room, where I saw them both standing over the coffee table.
Ted grimaced and said “OK, it’s not your plate. I don’t know who left it here.”
“Some ASSHOLE left it here!”
Ted brought Bill’s and his plates to me in the kitchen and said with an eyeroll, “Here’s my plate and not Bill’s plate.”
Ted explained that Bill had put his plate on the coffee table, and a few minutes later pointed at it angrily and said: “Somebody left that plate there.” When Ted told him it was his plate, he blew up. Ted then did exactly what we learned in the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Conference a few weeks ago–basically agree with him to avoid an escalation (admittedly hard to do, and contrary to human nature).
We chuckled at this, and I took the plates to wash. While I was drying them, Bill came into the kitchen, got another coffee cup out of the cupboard, filled it with orange juice, and went back to the living room, where he still had most of the previous three drinks he’d poured.
Just another day in Alzheimer’s Land.