The day before the movers were coming, in October, my dad announced that he'd like my help....with his Christmas cards! I do have to admire him for thinking and planning ahead, but this was a bit too much. I'm wondering if Dad was so overwhelmed with packing and the prospect of moving that doing Christmas cards seemed like a safer, more predictable activity. Anyway, I helped dad pack the cards and redirected him for the moment.
Earlier this week Dad and I got back to his cards. He had a pile of cards he had received in previous years and he had an address list for "Christmas" on his computer. He would tell me who he wanted to send a card to, and I would find the address and print out an envelope. We ran out of Christmas cards, having used up all of the leftovers from three previous years. Dad seemed to obsess about this and kept looking through the card box. Yes, there were cards, but they were general greeting cards (some of which we used) and Birthday cards. He had a hard time, a very hard time, letting go and moving on to something else. We put the cards aside and I went on home, promising to come up another day with more cards and copies of a Christmas letter we had crafted together.
The next day I had three calls from Dad. First, he had to tell me he found a pile of cards from previous years and he was worried that we hadn't made cards to send to these particular folks. He was quite insistent. I asked him to look inside the cards to see if he could see "done" written in them. Since he had been shuffling through the cards as I addressed the envelopes I had begun to mark them in this way. Yes, he saw "done", so he was put at ease. About fifteen minutes later he called me about the Christmas cards again. He was upset that we hadn't finished them. He could only find three cards, oh, and by the way, how super of me to put stamps on them. I had not put stamps on any of the cards. Then it dawned on me that we had made out cards for three family members and had prepared them for mailing. Dad had found those particular cards and not the others that were waiting for his Christmas letter. I explained this to Dad. He had a hard time understanding me when I told him that someplace there was a pile of other cards that we would finish when I returned. He was pretty adamant that we had only done three cards. A bit later he called a third time. This time he told me that he had a pile of cards and envelopes. He was confused about why they weren't sealed and stamped.
All three calls came less than 30 minutes apart. Dad was acting like a car spinning its wheels in the mud. He was working very hard at this and wasn't getting anywhere. He was stuck. This 'stuckness' is also called perseveration and it is a behavior related to the disease. It will help me to find ways to redirect Dad when he gets caught up in a cycle. This time I reminded him that we hadn't finished the cards and I would be up the next day to help him. I guess that was enough to help him move on as I didn't get another call.
The next day I returned and we finished the cards. They are signed, sealed and on their way to delivery.
One of my biggest frustrations in trying to help is that when Dad calls I can't see what he is talking about. Sometimes it is something on his computer screen. Other times, like with the cards, it is something he has in his hand. He sometimes has a tough time giving me enough accurate details for me to 'see' what he has. I have begun to research remote access software that would allow me to tune into Dad's computer to see his screen. I also realized that we might be able to set Dad up with iChat. In that way he could show me what is in his hands.