Alzheimer’s – A Daughter’s Thoughts About Love and Mom

Alzheimer’s is a cruel dictator.  It robs its subjects of their memories, their lifestyle and eventually their lives.  It doesn’t care who it rules, only chooses its victim and then becomes relentless as it steals a piece of their life day after day.

My Mother has this terrible affliction.  We have had to move her to a full care facility.  I’m fortunate that she still recognizes me and my husband, but the grand kids aren’t so lucky.  I have 3 sisters and we all have children.  It’s very confusing for her when the grand children visit.  She knows they are a grand child, but she doesn’t know who they are.

One of my sons made a family calendar for her and my Dad.  It turned out beautifully!  Every month has a pictures of the family members who have a birthday in each month.  The birthdays are listed.  My son put each person’s name under their picture.

My husband and I took the calendar to her on Mother’s Day.  She was thrilled to get it.  As we were going through it month by month, I realized she didn’t know which grand child belonged to which daughter.  The great grand children were even more baffling to her.  It was then I realized he should have put the relationship down with the name.  Which child and grandchild belonged to each of their daughters.

My Mother’s family has always meant so much to her.  I have always lived close by and she has had more contact with my children over the years.  Most often, she doesn’t remember them or know their names now.  It was sad to see how much she has forgotten.  Don’t get me wrong.  I feel very blessed that she still remembers my husband and me.  I know this won’t always be the case.

I, also, realized on this visit she was having difficulty comprehending the Mother’s Day card when she was reading it.  She understood it more when I read it to her.

I have only one grandchild.  He is a boy who now 5 months old.  He has been up to see her and my father.  She remembers seeing him but she doesn’t remember who he belongs to.  She had it in her mind that he belongs to my oldest sister’s son.  She must have asked me 10 times in a hour visit who he was and how many grand children I have.

It saddens me to see her declining so quickly.  There isn’t anything I can do about it.  It is what it is.  I have witnessed other people who’s parent is slipping into dementia and Alzheimer’s.  They are annoyed with the repeat questions and feel it is their duty to be short and cross with their parent.  They act as though their parent is doing it, deliberately, to annoy them.

I realize some people don’t have much patience.  I know my Mother isn’t asking over and over again because she wants to upset me.  She doesn’t realize she has asked the question before.  It doesn’t do any good to get short with her or treat her badly.  She isn’t going to remember any better if I correct her every time.  She would love to have her whole memory back.  She wants to feel connected to her family.

What harm does it do to the person being asked to answer with patience as if they had never heard the question before?  Why do some people feel as though they need to raise their parent as if they were a small child?  With a small child they would have more patience.

This article isn’t an information laden piece.  An idea to glean from this piece is the calendar.  It was a good idea for her.  She enjoyed it so much.  I hope that as she looks at it sitting on her wall she will feel more connected to her family.  I wrote this article to remind those who have a loved one with this issue to stop and think about how they are treating their elder.  This is the time to bust out the golden rule and think about how they would like to be treated.  Because as the old saying goes, “but by the grace of God go I.”

In parting I would like to share something I received on Facebook. It is a letter from an aging mother to her daughter.  I don’t know who wrote it, but it spoke to my heart and I hope it speaks to yours.

“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you… my darling daughter. “

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