In a previous post I wrote about finding a little card entitled “The Art of Marriage” in Cheryl’s purse. As I unwrapped and unfolded the little package in her purse I was very aware of the fact that it was none of my business what she kept in her purse nor why she kept those things in there. Nevertheless, faced with various requests for help, like, I can’t find my black comb or I have lost my glasses, I try my best to keep up with how objects and things are pared up, associated together in her newly confused mind.
I am guilty of looking around through her stuff to help her keep track of her stuff. I have no other interest in her stuff. That is my defense when I am caught. So far so good. I have not been caught yet. She thinks I am really good at finding things. If you know who would think to look in the freezer for a comb or used Kleenex for example, then you know someone who is care giver to some person with some variety of dementia.
Punding is a term used by the Norwegians or Swedes to describe the activity of mindlessly sorting or aligning objects, often random objects, in a fashion known only to the person doing this. I believe the term means “blockhead” Swedish.
In Cheryl’s case this behavior manifests as organization of articles and documents in preparation for a meeting or some other activity. She ran the early computer tech program at Nativity School when our children went there. Having no educational background caused her to be constantly looking to others who did, attending meetings and reading articles. She was excellent I am sure simply because she was aware of her weaknesses. She also helped her mother send cards and notes to family and friends to thank or take note of various occasions such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations or merely an invitation to dinner. To this last Cheryl has kept many thank you notes from her mom for Sunday dinners over the years.
She gets these out and sorts, re-reads, thinks about her mom and shows them to me as though she received it in the mail today. Often she will say, I got this card from Mom. Or I got this Christmas card from (whomever).
She collects these in various clumps and collections. Some are in manila envelops. Some are in small gift bags. Some are collected in stacks with a rubber band around them. Some are in stacks held together by spring clips. Sometimes they may make some sense to me, sometimes they make no sense. No chronology. The collections can be totally random.
As she looks at the cards she reminisces about the old times. I used to point out that she was looking at a five year old Christmas card. I find that unimportant to do now. The activity is totally harmless. Late in the evening she is amenable to “I can help you with that tomorrow. Let’s go to bed and rest so we are more alert to work on that.” And we trundle off to bed tired from another day.