Saturday, February 03, 2007

Caregiving: snow falling on memories

“It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” observes the White Queen in Alice Through The Looking Glass. If you are reading this, then that is basically how your properly functioning memory works. Scanning methodically backwards searching for any recall you may have of Alice’s encounter with the White Queen.


Once cognitive symptoms begin to affect memory unpredictable things happen.


With a brief snow shower Friday afternoon I picked up Patti for a ride in the falling snow. 


Suddenly, Patti surprised me by talking about her skiing days. Riding in the falling snow reminded her of riding to Ski Round Top. … I say this surprised me because those are long term memories, certainly longer than I have ever known her. Additionally Patti is rarely chatty any more, mental confusion symptoms challenge conversation. Yet oddly in recalling these longer term memories her ability to communicate was smoother. 


With progression of her Multiple Sclerosis related memory symptoms it is more and more common for long term memory to kick in more vividly than shorter term which is a mess.


Another example is when her parents play Trivia Pursuit and involve Patti. She can be astounding at times recalling isolated “trivia” from long term memory. Yet she can not tell you where our daughter attends college today.


Malfunctioning memory is more than just baffling. Memory lapses or warps between present and distant past can easily place an unattended person at risk. Plus there is always the emotional aspect for family and friends of “lost” shared memories or even your own existence in another’s memory.


It is easy to get hampered by our “poor memories that only work backwards”. It takes understanding, creativity, and  sometimes luck to work with progressing memory challenges.


  1. What a wonderful memory for Patti! And I'm sure you enjoyed listening to her relate those memories to you! She must have enjoyed skiing emensely, Patrick!

  2. Hello, caregiver to caregiver, all of it is a challenge in day to day memories with someone with these conditions. I've worked with Altztimers patients and there memory is so messed up. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. You know its got to be scarry for that person not to know who they are in the same room with. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming to these people. You are doing a great job with Patti, anyone else would put her in a home for the elderly, and let it be there problem. You are so kind and loving for staying by your wife. I've so many families just give up on there loved one, and hand the responsiblities over to some stranger. They just don't know what they are doing to that persons mental condition by doing that. I know with working in this field for a long time what a little TLC can do for them. They can progress sometimes in positive ways. Please go and read my entry for today about careing for "Reesee".
    Thank you for your love in this world.
    God Bless,
    Liz in Va.

  3. That was a surprise for sure. There seems to be nothing predictable in living with MS, which means stability does not exist. Or does it? You make it stable for her. Your entries are like documentation for the progression of MS in the life of one person. You live so close to it that you are the perfect observer of signs, symptoms, behaviors, mood and affect, and progression in all areas. If you aren't writing a book about it, you should consider it (IMHO). What you know and have experienced living with MS has got to be invaluable for the medical and caregiving fields. Bea

  4. Those moment when she relates long term memories must be very precious.  With out head injury patients I have seen that.  They remember the distant past but not the recent sometimes.  At times not remembering wifes or children but childhood friends are as clear as a bill.  The mind is so interesting.   I do agree, you should write a book as your writing skills are wonderful.


  5. I'm loving the picture, a wonderful entry Patrick, the mind is definitely pastures sewn or left fallow when illness strikes. Rache

  6. (((((((((((((((((((HUGSTOYOU))))))))))))))))))Nice pic.I know you cherish every moment you have with Her and when She remembers something.That is a blessing.Have a nice Sunday and a good rest of the week.

  7. Amazing how you seem to see every little thing....Hugs to you, bam

  8. This is one of the cruest, yet amazingly comforting things MS does - robs you of the everyday things, but floods your thoughts with accurate, detailed decriptions of the smallest minutia from years gone by.  Some theorists say it's mainly because our earliest memories are the strongest ones, having been formed before others therefore making a much deeper imprint.  It has some scientific merit, still you'll always left with the disease to work with, somehow.  I credit your generous heart.  Goodness attracts goodness.  xoxo CATHY


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