People with Alzheimer’s may have great difficulty figuring out the simplest activities. The following story illustrates that poignantly.
One day at the end of my visit to Ed, he accompanied me to the front door. When we reached the door we went through our usual leave-taking, saying good-bye repeatedly and blowing kisses to each other.
“What should I do now?” he asked plaintively.
“Do whatever you want,” I answered as I waited for the door’s 30-second delay to pass.
“I don’t know what to want,” he said.
I was blindsided by his remark. He seemed so lost.
“Well, why don’t you just sit in this nice chair here for a while?”
He sat down obediently.
“How long should I sit here, Marie?”
“Sit however long you want,” I said, turning from the door and walking back toward him.
“Marie, I don’t know how long,” he said, looking forlorn.
“Okay,” I said. “You sit here thirty minutes.”
“Thank you, Marie. I will sit here for thirty minutes. What should I do then?”
He looked at me as though I had the answer to all of life’s critical questions, including that one. My heart sank as I realized he now needed specific instructions for what to do every moment.
“Sit here in this chair for a half hour,” I said, kneeling in front of him. “Then go to your room. When you get there, get ready for bed. I will visit you again tomorrow.”
As though he could remember all these instructions.
“Oh, Marie,” he said, “Thank you for your guidance. It really means so much to me.”
And with that we blew each other kisses again and I left. I was completely overwhelmed by his further descent into dementia. This formerly brilliant lawyer and professor could no longer even decide how long to sit on a chair.