I Knew That!

Living with a loved one with Dementia can be entertaining. I work with 7-year old children for a living, and one of the things they do is cheat. If we are playing a game with the answers in the back, on the bottom, or upside down, they often cheat and then yell, “I knew that!” or “I was going to say that” if I give them a Knock Knock Joke.

That is what it is like for people with early onset Dementia. My husband struggles with word retrieval and the ability to finish his sentences especially when he is overtired, overstimulated, or excited. Sometimes I have to help him. I feel like we are playing a game, “Starts with… Looks like…. Bigger than a breadbox…” Rather than make him feel bad, we usually end up laughing. Sometimes we never get to the word and it is alright. We had a good laugh and it turned an awkward moment into mutual fun.

He has always had difficulty finding things. In 27 years of marriage, he has never been able to find his keys, wallet, belt, glasses… Although he is neat and likes a well kept home, he has always had his little disaster areas. It has never been shocking to find my silverware in the garage, his empty bottles of Pepsi everywhere, and items of clothing throughout the garage and through his truck. It is just worse now.

This Spring he was helping my brother to find and mark maple trees that were lost in the underbrush. In early summer, my brother and a friend were finding his clothing in various parts of the field. If he got hot, he took off his layers and left them there. He liked doing this job. The only frustration was when he forgot something that he needed. He would hike the hill to his truck, only to find that he had forgotten what he needed, and go back. Sometimes he would do this as many as 4 times, before he would just give up and go home.

In May we had our anniversary. We had a nice day and enjoyed the time together. The next day we went to Sunday School. The leader asked if there had been any birthday’s. No one had, so he asked if there had been any anniversaries. I raised my hand. I shared that we had celebrated our 27th Wedding Anniversary the day before. My husband spoke out “We did?” I thought he was joking, and replied so all could hear, that we had had the most wonderful day. He responded, “No, we did not, because if we did, I would have remembered.” I smiled. That was when he told the church that he had Dementia his way and it was not intentional.

Sometimes he asks me the same question over and over. We have an island in the center of our house. He has been known to ask me a question, walk around the island, and ask me the same question as many as 8 times. It cracks me up.

He is a fussy eater. Sometimes from the kitchen I will ask him what he would like to eat and he answers that he doesn’t want anything. He isn’t a big eater, so I usually make something for him anyway. If I slide it in front of him, he eats it. I smile and walk away.

He has such a wonderful sense of humor and is using the memory impairment to his benefit. Lately he tells me that he hasn’t done something because he “forgot”, and I know that he didn’t. He knows I know that he knows, and that is a game we play between us.

I have learned not to say, “Don’t you remember?” if it was a recent memory. I just start talking. I still goof sometimes. His memories are clear about the past and a crapshoot in the present. It is the weirdest thing. Sometimes he remembers, sometimes he doesn’t. As a result, I have to be the keeper of the pills. If he has a headache and takes pain medication, he can’t remember that he took it, so will take more. His daily medication is the same way. I don’t make a big deal about it while joking that he can’t be trusted and he agrees with me.

He still hates the cat and throws things at her. He still loves the gardens and mowing the lawns. The kids and I joke that as long as we keep him in fuel and the lawnmower serviced, he will stay happy. There may come a day when we have some crazy lawn mowing lines. He still loves to tinker and to clean his garage. He loves the fireplace, and watching movies. He enjoys the same ones over and over, but in all fairness, he always has. Some he remembers, but some endings are a big surprise!

In a lot of ways, the diagnosis has been a blessing. He has a lot less stress away from the workplace. He only is allowed to drive alone in town, so he stays home most of the time. He does what he wants and rests when he is tired. He doesn’t sleep well at night, so sometimes he needs a nap during the day. We have had to fill the house with nightlights to keep him safe when he wanders in the dark. I wake him up at 6:30 to have breakfast with me every single morning and he likes that. Keeping him on a schedule helps get the day off to a good start.

Like my students, I have peeked at the answers. I guess “I knew that” for awhile and it makes more sense to me now. He didn’t get to this place over night. It has been creeping up on us a little at a time. I think the knocks to the head just sped things up. It’s okay. He says that “it is, what it is”, and he is right. So we plan for the future and live for the day while enjoying each and every giggle in the process.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Memory is a funny thing for all of us. Haven’t you ever tried to think of a person’s name or the date when something happened and you just draw a blank? And then maybe hours or days later it finally comes to you? Or sometimes the reverse happens: something from the past suddenly pops into your head and you wonder what ever made you think of that place or that person again? I have the gift of remembering seemingly useless data. I have trouble remembering names and dates, Yet I remember exactly what i wore the day I moved into the dorms when I started college, and I somehow committed to memory all the words to the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. I also remember a lot family stories and events from childhood that I share with my brother and sisters. We talk and laugh and say “Remember that time when…” For someone in the earlier stages of dementia it is frustrating to begin losing your train of thought, the names of people and places and things, and remembering the recent past. You are wise to avoid asking “Don’t you remember?”at this stage. But in the later stages of this disease your loved one will appreciate when you recall memories for them, and then it is acceptable to say “Do you remember when?” I just had a talk with my Mom yesterday about growing up on a farm: “Do you remember you had cows, and chickens, and a horse named Petey? Do you remember your dad? His name was Fred. He liked to work out in the barn feeding and milking the cows, and working out in the fields. Do you remember your mom? Her name was Meta. She liked to take care of the chickens. She churned butter buy hand. She liked to cook and bake. Do you remember?” Mom smiled and said, “Sure I do.” She does remember the distant past. She can no longer talk more than a a few words at a time. So I do the talking and I bring those memories to the surface, the ones she still has. The ones this disease has not yet taken from her.

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