During the day I am at the helm, control central, where I guide our lives, as I work on my computer, write, blog, create graphics, check social media, respond to emails, pay bills, order groceries, make/take phone calls, and even do my recent class work for McMaster University.
My Love seems to need me to be in sight at all times. So it made sense to move my work space to the dining room. I fashioned a desk from my keyboard stand with a shelf I confiscated from a bookcase That wee shelf holds my laptop and added 24″ monitor on a spice rack spinner, pencils and pens, papers, electronic cords, and eyeglass cases that store USB keys.
There is no room on the shelf for my reference books, and notebooks and extra hard drives. They are in a box on the floor beside me, and in a basket behind me. I do have my office chair…far better than our old couch.
From here, I face My Love and he can see that I am still here, me, “Judy Shone, his lady who takes care of him.” He feels calmer if he knows I am nearby at all times.
From my position in the dining room, I can move back and forth between the living room when I help My Love. I encourage his colouring, make sure he drinks his water, and takes his pills.
Then, from this position, I can get up and go to the kitchen to make meals, get coffees, wash dishes, prepare meals for the week. I am easily able to go back and forth to my make-shift desk between tasks.
I can manage the CDs, music and radio from the speaker off to my side. The only downside is the intense heat from the curtained southern window when there is sunshine. I have a screen I put up behind me I can adjust and it works.
When I take a break, serve and eat meals, take a nap on the couch, I move into the living room to be with My Love. We no longer use the dining room for meals because over the years it has been taken over by my office props.
When I sit in the living room, we talk, see what is on the TV that might be decent to watch…not loud, not too fast, not too weird for people ‘of a certain age.’ When we chat, I try to find something funny so we can find reason to laugh…oh, how we need to laugh! And laughing with someone else makes it much better.
In the evening, as part of his sundowning, he goes through a definite routine that, for me, is somewhat like seeing a play over and over, with nuanced changes.
His episodes usually begin just before I serve dinner. I sit near him on the couch during his episode. Then I have dinner with him, and afterwards take a rest for thirty minutes. I am there, on the couch – me, “the lady who made dinner, who brought him his meal, the lady who takes care of him.” He feels safe…safe equals calmer.
And when the dishes are done, I go back to the computer to check emails, answer emails, and begin to shut it down. While I am there, inevitably, he points to the spot on the couch where I had been seated and asks, “Where did she go?” …the lady from the living room.
I always have to explain that I am that lady, the one who just had dinner with him, that I am the lady who just gave him his pills.
“Who me? You helped me with pills?” he asks, not remembering that short time ago.
I explain I am the lady who helped him shower, who washed his hair and shaved his face in the morning. I am the lady who took him to the doctor and picked up his meds at the pharmacy in the afternoon. He is not connected to what I am saying.
And then he looks at me and says, “Where did she go?”
I used to think it was a joke for laughter, but I know now it is not. He is serious.
During sundowning, he has to be coached to remember me or my name. I don’t work on that much any more. It does not matter. I accept that every night he will have trouble differentiating between the ‘me’ sitting at the desk across from him and the ‘me who is the lady who was just sitting on the couch, who takes care of him.
He always wants to know how he can find the lady who was on the couch. “Did she leave?” he asks.
Then he refocuses and asks “Where did they go?” referring to those night visitors who have come nightly for years. I still do not see them. And I still tell him I was in the kitchen and missed them.
I move back and forth between the couch and chair trying to show him I am the person he is looking for. But he is not convinced.
I expect he will ask where his car is. I have printed out the sales receipt from when he sold it almost five years ago so I can go through the story of how the axle broke. He shakes his head ‘yes’ when I tell him he sold the vehicle because he could not afford to fix it.
Next, he will ask where his driver’s license is. I repeat how the Ministry took it because he has Alzheimer’s. That is tricky because he does not believe anything is wrong with him. I quickly try to distract him.
And then he shifts back to, “Where did she go?” and it begins again.
“No, I don’t think you are the same person who sits on the couch and sits at the desk,” he tells me, firmly. “I need to find her.”
“Let’s go look at some pictures,” I say as I take his hand to lead him to see some photos of the two of us hanging on the wall in the bedroom. Holding hands generally is a calming factor. Then, seeing pictures of the two of us again helps him recognize me, at which point, every night, he begins to come back to his current ‘normal’ state. Life goes on.
See Night Visitors on this site about his nightly visions.
Where Did She Go? Copyright (c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone