Let’s All Sing And Walk To The Kitchen

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On the daily schedule that’s posted outside of the door at the “Legacy Building” (where my mother-in-law has now lived for the past 6 months), at 7pm there is something called “Let’s All Sing And Walk To The Kitchen Together.” I cannot imagine how this actually goes down.

We usually visit in the afternoon or very early evening, in between lunch and dinner. We’ve walked in on various memory games (one of which involves what looks like one of those pool noodles) and movies (usually musicals), all of which are on the schedule, so I have no reason to doubt that the sing-and-walk thing happens. I just can’t imagine it. It sounds like something you’d do in daycare.

But then caring for Alzheimer’s patients is structured along very similar lines: it’s a regular schedule, with no activity (save the movies and back-to-back “Family Feud” episodes – which are hugely popular in the Legacy Building) lasting more than a half-hour, tops. Meals and snacks are always served at the same time each day. And, as more and more people are learning, music is increasingly becoming a part of the Alzheimer’s patient’s routine.

I try to imagine my mother-in-law going along with this. We did “music therapy” with her while she was still living with us. She’d be receptive to it for a little while, but then she’d invariably walk over and yank the iPod from its dock (or unplug the dock altogether) because she didn’t like the “noise” (I’ve had to tell well-meaning people on Facebook over and over again that the amazing video of an Alzheimer’s patient responding dramatically to hearing music is very wonderful indeed, but this didn’t yield nearly as miraculous a reaction from Mom, unless throwing the iPod across the room counts as miraculous). Before all this happened, if you’d told her that she’d be “singing and walking her way to the kitchen” every night at 7, you’d be treated to uproarious laughter and a fusillade of expletives.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have done. I’m finding it extraordinarily difficult to remember her the way she was, prior to diagnosis. I’ve heard this is common for caregivers: we are so immersed in watching helplessly as our loved one’s mind is erased by this illness, and we are so traumatized by it, that it’s very difficult to think back to a time where Alzheimer’s (or any serious illness, I suspect) wasn’t a daily part of our lives. So while I understand that this is somewhat normal, I’d still like very much to just be able to pull up a memory – just one goddamn memory – of what it was like to hang out with her before all of this. Pictures help, yes; I would just like to be able to summon something up on my own, without visual aids, that’s all.

I don’t know; maybe there’s something to this singing and walking to the kitchen. Might put me in a better mood.