Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Every day is a new day

These are the words I tell myself when thinking of my 90 year old mother who is living in a Memory Care place here in Corvallis Oregon. Each day is different as is her mood and memory.

Every time I stop to see her she cries out with relief. Some times she says to everyone around her "I haven't seen my daughter in MONTHS!" even though I'd been by the day before. Oh well. At least she knows who I am.
Some day she may not know that I am her daughter, but I hope that she will at least know that I am someone who loves her and is safe.

My mother has Alzheimers. She can barely walk due to her weight gain and fear of falling. As a result she spends her days in a wheelchair. It takes two people to assist her in and out of the chair, and much of that involves assuring her she will not fall. It is hard to watch her slowly lose so much of the self that is Elizabeth Jean.

My mother's name is Elizabeth Jean but she has changed it over the years from:
Betty Jean - when she was a young girl
Betty - in college and married to my dad
Elizabeth - changed to that when in her 60's
Liz - I can't remember when she decided she wanted to be called Liz - maybe in her early 80s?

Despite the name changes she still is the same woman - full of humor and a feisty self that never fails to let everyone around her knows she can still decide for herself thank you very much!  Even with her dementia, she still wants to make her own choices - and I applaud her - except when it comes to refusing the pills that help with her Congestive Heart failure and depression. The staff has been marvelous at figuring out how to get her medications into her in a way that she makes the decision!

My father passed away in March of 2012 in his bed with mom holding his hand. Some times she asks where he is and when I tell her that he died while she was holding his hand she always remembers with almost a sense of relief. It gives her great comfort that she was there and it was such a quiet peaceful passing. As far as I know she has not cried for him since then.

Alzheimers is a truly terrible disease - not only for what it robs the person whose brain is affected, but also the people who know and love them. We have to stand back and watch while they forget the things that happened yesterday or this morning - but not years ago. We watch as they lose their ability to complete the activities of daily living (ADLs) but what is most hard is watching them lose that important sense of self and who they knew themselves to be.
For instance my mother was a musician and worked hard all her life to be counted and respected as such. I don't think she really thought she had value other than through her music.  She used to tell me that no one cared that she was the choir director and a good musician. It made her so sad.
Now she does not even remember being a choir director.
She has forgotten those things that made her unhappy - which is good.
She has forgotten those things that made her happy - which is not so good.

I love my mom and am grateful every day that she is here so I can be with her.  The role or Caregiver is a thankless job, but I have learned so much about love, patience, kindness, humor, anger, depression, fatigue, and above all love.
stay tuned for more stories to come about the world of dementia from this one person's point of view.

Mom's 90th birthday celebration with grandson Joe - August 2014.