Turning on a dime
By Samra Jones Bufkins
Bill is usually very happy to eat whatever I cook for him, unless it’s too spicy. Today, we experienced another behavior that is becoming increasingly common.
We went to Palm Sunday Mass and arrived home at about 1 p.m. We spent some time reading the paper and watching March Madness. I decided to make dinner early, so went into the kitchen to whip up a delicious meal from the most recent Blue Apron box. This was a meal similar to what I’ve made before–chicken, with roasted carrots and shallots and sauteed collard greens mixed with couscous and spiced with Middle Eastern Za’atar, something we loved while living in Saudi Arabia.
I served dinner in the dining room with glasses of iced tea. He dug in and ate it enthusiastically, exclaiming “This is TASTY!” He repeated that several times while eating. After he’d finished about 1/4 of the meal, he got up and took his glass into the kitchen to refill it.
It takes about three seconds to make that trip, another 10 seconds to fill the glass, and three seconds to return to the table. Piece of cake, right?
He stops about three feet from the table, sticks out his hand and points angrily at his plate.
“Somebody left this here!”
Calmly, I said “Yes, that’s your plate. You were eating from it before you went to the kitchen.” (WRONG ANSWER)
“I DID NOT LEAVE THAT MESS THERE!” he gestured angrily, raising his voice.
“You sure did, you really liked it.” (WRONG ANSWER #2. When will I ever learn?)
“I AM NOT EATING THAT SHIT!”
“You were just eating it. You said you liked it,” I said automatically, knowing full well that was the wrong thing to say and getting ready to kick myself for having a normal human reaction instead of just going along with him. I think I was so attached to all the work I put into the meal that I forgot I’m dealing with someone who has the memory of a gnat and cannot be reasoned with.
He grabbed the plate and stalked back into the kitchen, shoved it into the fridge and slammed the door. He then started rummaging around in his snack box (more on that in a future blog), leaving a trail of crumbs and wrappers all around the kitchen. He stamped his feet loudly while carrying his cheese crackers and cookies into the living room.
I finished eating, washed the dishes and cookware, poured myself a glass of wine and headed to the living room to catch the last few minutes of the Duke vs Kansas basketball game, which went into overtime. He started fidgeting and wandering around, so I decided to keep a log of what he did and at what time:
6:00 Struggles to put on his zip-front hoodie. Puts it on upside-down and inside-out. Looks angry and helpless, but rejects my help. When he finally takes it off, I turn it around and put it on him.
6:10 Goes into the kitchen for a glass of milk, which he brings into the living room.
6:13 Goes into the kitchen for a glass of lemonade, which he brings into the living room. He hasn’t drunk his milk.
6:18 Gets up, goes into the kitchen. Opens a cabinet, takes out a plate. Walks around with the plate. Comes into the living room with the plate. Goes back into the kitchen. Rummages in the silverware drawer. Leaves plate on island and returns to the living room.
6:25 Gets up and goes to the kitchen. Comes back with a glass of iced tea. Stands by the sofa staring at it. Sits down when suggested.
6:27 Stands up, stays still in front of the sofa for a few seconds. We have a hospital tray table on wheels (his dad found at a garage sale) that we keep in the living room for a variety of purposes. He moves it a few inches away from the sofa, then to the left, then to the right (always slowly), a little farther away, then, finally, back closer to the sofa. He sits down.
6:30 Gets up and stands stationary in front of the sofa. I ask him what he needs. Silence. He’s staring at the TV. I say, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” He says “yes.” I tell him to go, and he walks slowly to the guest bathroom close to the living room.
6:35 Leaves the bathroom and takes the long way back to the living room, through the office, kitchen and dining room.
The way our house is laid out, you can walk in a circle from the living room, down a short hallway lined with bookshelves (where the guest bath is), into the office, then the kitchen/breakfast area, past the dining room and back to the living room. He always makes this trip in a clockwise manner.
6:45 Stands up, looks at me angrily, and says “It’s cold in here!” I told him I was hot. He pulled the string on the ceiling fan, which only reduced the speed. Sits down.
6:55 Is sitting on the sofa with one hand on the arm rest and the other one on the seat, as if he’s about to push off to stand. Remains that way for a minute or so, then stands up. (BTW, he has his socks pulled up over his pants legs.) He picks up a magazine and shows it to me. Takes a couple of steps closer, and then sits down before walking to the bathroom.
6:59 Returns from the bathroom and picks up another magazine from the coffee table. Sits down. Opens one of the three books he has with him on the sofa and looks at it. Puts it down and stares at the TV.
7:17 He’s been watching TV but also has three books open—one on his lap, one on the end table and one on the love seat, which his favorite cat, Pudge, is sleeping on.
7:19 Asleep, sitting up on the sofa.
7:22 Stands up, arms akimbo, and stares at the TV. Walks into the bathroom. I should note that he never flushes, so I can tell what he’s done there. Basically nothing the past 3 times he’s been. We have ruled out a UTI, and I check him with home test strips every other day.
7:34 I notice he’s been gone a long time. I check on him, and he’s fine. He leaves the bathroom and stares at the bookshelves outside the door, selecting two history books before returning to the living room via the long route.
7:54 He’s “reading” two books, with Pudge curled up at his feet.
7:57 He picks up a magazine from the tray table and starts looking at it.
8:01 Approaches me with a book about WWII. Wants me to look at the picture of David Lloyd George. I better comply…..
Just another day in Alzheimer’s World.
(In future blogs I’ll address the issues of sundowning and agitation.)