A caregiver in Lynne’s memory care at Aegis was infected with COVID-19, halting face-to-face conversations through plexi-glass in their “Outdoor Living Room.” We are restricted to video chats, again. Friends from high school to today have remembered she loves music and gets energized to dance. In 2017 co-workers from the self-labeled Microsoft Talent Posse remembered an outdoor Lyle Lovett concert, so they checked his schedule. He was coming in a few weeks and they went as a group. Leslie, from high school, said girl friends revved up pop hits to dance on the furniture and shout the lyrics. She saved her playlist and promised to send it to Lynne. At our last outdoor chat, I read titles from Leslie’s interview to Lynne. She giggled at that memory. I noted ones that made her smile, or say, “Oh, yeah.” Footloose was her favorite. I created a playlist of popular rock songs from her teenage years through college. I couldn’t play songs with her on my phone after the lockdown. It’s hard for me to make her laugh by being a funny comedian or an energizing caregiver like hero Dad’s are supposed to be. It’s a long, lonely feeling of failure when everything I say is met with a slack face and respectful silence, or statements like, “I’d better get back.” Besides, I like music too. Alexa had to help me. Could I use my Alexa echo to create a playlist on Lynne’s echo dot? I didn’t find any way. Lynne would have to give Alexa the commands. They’re easy commands, but I doubted she could repeat them accurately. I rehearsed how to coach her and waited for her call – my calls rarely find her in her room – she busy socializing somewhere. She called last night and leaned forward so I saw the top of her head. I fumbled through my rehearsed lines but finally got it. I said, “Tell Alexa to create a Lynne music playlist.” Lynne frowned while Alexa next to her said she’d create a playlist. I whispered to Lynne, “Say Alexa, play Night Fever.” She couldn’t remember all the words. I said it louder. Alexa played it. Lynne sat up and tilted her head, puzzled by the sudden music. I said, “Alexa add this song to Lynne Music playlist. Alexa obeyed. Next I played Staying Alive. Lynne began singing lyrics with a smile. We added it to her playlist. Lynne chuckled, “We’re going to get in trouble.” I said, “I’ll bet you won’t be able to sit still at the next one, Alexa, play Footloose.” Lynne stood up and danced. I took a picture. We played a few others. She told me I always make her laugh, and she loved me, and we’re going to get in trouble. Finally she decided it was time to return to her people and slowly walked out of her room. I said, “Alexa, turn off.” We had fun. But I went to sleep wondering if there was some way I could do more to fire her imagination. I miss listening to her talk and laugh. I miss her energy. She’s slipping away.
For the last six days Lynne’s memory care unit prohibited face-to-face conversations because one caregiver had Covid-19. All tests since have been negative.
She has been busy and happy with activities. I am happy she’s happy. However, I miss the fun chats we had so I have tried to cheer me up by finding ways to chat with her more often. I’m struggling.
Ten times over the last six days I spontaneously called, hoping she’d gleefully call me back by tapping my face on her Facebook Portal to return my call. After all, she’s told caregivers I’m the greatest dad in the world. She might not believe that anymore because she never returned my calls. Maybe she needs to be reminded to check the Portal. Maybe I could program the Portal to sense Lynne’s presence and say, “Dad called. Tap his face.” One day she sat by her window and I called up to her to chat. She was excited and stood up. She turned away from the window and never returned. I yelled louder, called her Portal, her phone, the concierge. Nothing. Apparently she found something better to do and forgot about me. The last three days I threw a pickleball against her windows. She was busy elsewhere. The Portal and Alexa were supposed to increase chats by eliminating problems with video calls. Calls need to be scheduled a day ahead. Caregivers need to be by her side. They need to locate Lynne. They need to complete more urgent care first, so they often call late. Sometimes they never call. Hoping Lynne would call on her cell more often because she enjoyed lively conversations, I reviewed ways to make conversations more fun. I got my chance on the 4th when a frustrated caregiver called. She tried for half-an-hour to set up a scheduled video chat on the Portal with Lynne’s friend. I couldn’t help her. I used an energetic voice to ask an open ended question, “How was your day?” It worked. Her day was good. She was cheerful. “What’d you do?” Immediately, I knew it was the wrong approach. Alzheimer’s began erasing her short-term memory years ago. “Oh, we had, you know, it’s, .. ah, … we, ..um, the thing, ….. I can’t remember… I can’t remember things, and it scares me.” I agreed it’s scary, and don’t remember anything else except we agreed she’s on a better floor. Her long term memory works. She remembered names of high school friends. Why can’t I remember to share memories from family and friends after years of care for my mother and her? Monday night Lynne and a caregiver called for a video chat. I shared memorable images from an interview with a friend. She remembered most of them and laughed a lot. She said, “I love you, Dad. I’m doing things, you know. Lots of things.” Determined to improve video chats I set up my new Alexa Show in my office and contacted Amazon about how to link it to Lynne’s Alexa dot. Aegis scheduled a time with a caregiver so we linked up at the same time. We did it. A few minutes later, Alexa told me Lynne had dropped in. She was excited. We chatted and then she had to go. She was busy. I’m happy she’s happy. I miss her. I keep busy because I have lots to learn to feel like the greatest dad in the world.
Ten minutes before an afternoon business conference call yesterday, I phoned Lynne’s Portal. She answered in her fuzzy sky-blue cotton sweater. She picked it out at Aritzia before Christmas when we shopped at University Plaza for her surprise Christmas present. “Tell me about your day.” “It was fun. I like it here. I feel like I’m one of the crowd.” Some of the people were still a stitch, though. I asked if she ever says, “Alexa, play music.” She said, “Alexa, play music.” Alexa filled her apartment with a hit from her high school days. She laughed. She was overjoyed. On impulse I told her my birthday was tomorrow. “It is? We’ll have to do something.” She had to go to the bathroom. I had to hang up. I called the concierge and asked if someone could help Lynne give me a birthday present. He liked that idea and would work on it. I scheduled a video chat when a caregiver could make sure Lynne was there. On her floor they only schedule two per day at 11:00 and 11:30 am. 11:00 am was available. I didn’t tell him my son and his family are arriving after lunch. Maybe I can add them to my video chat with Lynne while they are driving. Late that afternoon the medical director phoned about my email regarding Covid-19 testing. They had a professional team test every resident and caregiver in the 124 apartments on six floors. She observed every test. They hoped for results in 24 hours or so. We wait. To celebrate.
A caregiver was infected with the coronavirus when they worked in Lynne’s Life Neighborhood memory care floor on June 22. The caregiver tested positive on June 24. Today, June 30, a test team arrived to test every resident, caregiver and visitor on the floor who might be infected. We do NOT know either how long it will take to get results for all the tests, or how long Lynne might be quarantined based on the results of everyone on the floor. Nor do we know what would be done if residents on the floor or caregivers are infected.
We wait and are thankful. We are thankful that Aegis follows strict health protocols to limit the spread of the virus and Lynne follows them. Weeks ago this floor had a resident infected by Covid-19 and no one else became infected. We are thankful health care workers are continuously reducing the severity and length of symptoms and improving recovery rates. We are thankful for your prayers and concerns.