For everyone who has MCI or Early Alzheimer’s or who lives with someone with these forms of loss THE CALENDAR IS KING (QUEEN).
You don’t have to have memory loss to have trouble keeping up with scheduling complications of course. Dental appointments, meetings, pick up times, they all swirl through our lives and seem to swirl faster now with the advent of electronic calendar keeping. In fact my highly intelligent, mentally acute son texted me two weeks ago to arrange when he would pick me up from the airport that day, only to have me tell him I wasn’t arriving for my visit until a week later. LOL. Haha.
Still, driving Ralph home from his dental appointment yesterday morning, clutching the little card that noted the dates for his next two appointments, repeating to him the dates fifteen minutes later as I wrote them down on our big kitchen calendar, then again last night when he asked, and again this morning when he asked as soon as he woke up, it struck me how much of our daily life now revolves on what used to be a taken for granted detail.
In my first support group for dealing with newly diagnosed Mild Cognitive Impairment at the Emory Memory Clinic, there was discussion of calendar keeping—one man explained that he printed up a schedule daily for his; others had taken classes in calendar keeping—but I didn’t pay much attention. At the time, Ralph, who in his business life was always a stickler for keeping precise calendar records, still carried around his mini-notebook calendar. And frankly his life was not so busy that I thought it would be hard to keep up.
Well, his life is less busy now, so keeping up is not exactly a problem. He gets everywhere he needs to. But keeping track has become an obsession, really for both of us. As soon as there is something coming up, whether a dental appointment or a dinner date, or any other minor routine change of plans, the discussion of WHEN becomes endless. As usual the underlying issue is anxiety. But I think the matter of keeping up with days and calendar dates dominates over every other issue in our lives right now.
I gather many caregivers of those on the Alzheimer’s spectrum, especially spouses and children, deal with this WHEN problem. I am never sure I am dealing with it as well as I should but we muddle along. We have an erasable board that tracks the weekly schedule. And we have a large book calendar that I found at Office Depot; I looked at every one in the store and the best one for our needs includes a monthly at a glance as well as the weekly at a glance. And frankly his week-long pillbox is the best reminder of all what day it is.
Ralph will take his pills and then, sometimes go read the weekly calendar. He rarely looks at the big calendar, but once in a while it comes in handy for him to get a time line straight. He does not have a calendar on his phone and has never learned to use a computer.
The fact is that Ralph doesn’t need to know what day it is most of the time. And he doesn’t need to know when his next eye doctor appointment is ahead of time. But he often wants to know. And then wants to know again and again.
As for me, I am having a little trouble letting go of my need to have him know things ahead. The marital habit of talking about the details of an upcoming birthday party, a worrisome doctor’s appointment, a visit from or to our kids, is hard to break. And I have not solved the basic conundrum:
Does bringing up what is coming up days or weeks ahead creates unnecessary tension for Ralph and is it a waste of time anyway since he won’t remember? Or does carrying on a conversation about future events, even if it means carrying on slight variations of the same conversation many times, have value in maintaining Ralph’s involvement in his own life whether he remembers or not?