We have all met or known people who appear to have little ability to take facts, and then think through what is practical and possible. Not a difference of opinion, but a real lack of the ability to think about a situation and come up with a logical conclusion. Not brain surgery, but everyday simple decisions we all make, the inability to reason.

I think of Myrtle, her husband Phil had Alzheimer’s disease and still very much wanted to “help.”  Phil had never been involved in the kitchen for the 45 years of their marriage. Now, since he was home all the time, he had evidently decided to get involved in what had always been Myrtle’s territory. His “help” was making Myrtle feel on guard all the time – guarding her kitchen.

Since Phil became involved, kitchen items Myrtle had had all their married life were disappearing at a frightening rate. Myrtle’s favorite spatula she had for 40 years was gone. She knew Phil, in his confusion was throwing things away; she had found enough things in the garbage to know that.

Phil really liked to run water and took every opportunity to get to the sink and run water. If Myrtle didn’t immediately clear the table after meals and rinse dishes, she could expect hamburger, pieces of fish, paper towel just about anything to be floating in the sink. Phil was fast! Once Phil got the water running, he would get easily distracted and leave the kitchen, only to have Myrtle later find water overflowing.

Phil was no longer able to reason that he would forget about the water, as he had in the past. He never thought, maybe it isn’t a good idea to leave running water. He no longer learned from past experiences.

Myrtle’s solution was to try as best she could to stay one step ahead of Phil. In the kitchen her policy was to simplify-simplify. Although she would like to make the traditional meals Phil so much enjoyed. It now was too hard for Myrtle to keep that up and still monitor Phil. Simpler meals, less ingredients and preparation time cut down on the time she needed to focus on being one step ahead.

Myrtle and Phil started eating out more often at their local café. This gave Phil the socialization he needed and the rest from meal preparation Myrtle needed. Many people have found that when their spouse is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, going out to eat are a normal activity that can still be successfully enjoyed.

Myrtle thought about how she could make their life run more smoothly and put these changes into place because, thank the Lord, Myrtle could still reason.

Virginia Garberding, R.N.

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing