Saturday, October 6, 2007
LIVING WITH ALZHEIMERS
This is a battle that we have fought for so long, I'm afraid that I get a bit complacent with it from time to time.........
My lovely Mama was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 67. We realized that she had been suffering from this insidious disease for several years. She voluntarily entered a retirement/nursing home and was part of the main stream population for several years until we got concerned about her wondering off the premises. She then went into the Unit which is a lock down facility.
She has been in the Unit for 6 years. I don't visit her frequently because she doesn't know me anymore and looks at me as if I were a stranger. She often tells me about her daughter. We've had so many ups and downs through the years due to this horrible condition that I consider myself toughened by it.
But this morning I went to take her some Christmas clothes to wear and even though she didn't know me, she kept hugging me and saying "You're ME" and "you look like me".
There isn't a morning I wake up that I don't think about her and cry a little bit. But today I've been crying all day. I can't decide if the guilt of not seeing her is worse than seeing her in such a reduced metal state.
Just felt the need to get these thought "out there". I don't expect anyone to be interested nor do I need sympathy................just needed the opportunity to vent a bit about the raw deal some of us get. My sweet mother who was valedictorian of her class and always one of the sharpest pencils in the box........reduced to a tiny little person who just wants to hug people.
Maybe I should be happy that she is safe and healthy and as happy as a clam..................she is loved by all of the staff and most of the residents so maybe her life isn't all that bad. (written last Dec but not published)
After my emotional visit with Mama last week, and after the crying stopped, I decided to try one more time to do something proactive.
I think I had simply given up and was just waiting for the inevitable "end", which really is nowhere in sight.
I see so many relative at the home who bring in pictures of the great grand kids and the patients just kinda look at them and there is no recognition whatsoever. It's heartbreaking to see these sons and daughters trying to reach their long lost parents and bring them into the present.
THEY ARE IN THE PAST!........so I copied several old photos of my mother when she was young along with photos of her siblings and parents. I framed them in little simple acrylic stand up frames and took them as her present for the Christmas Party.
The reaction was amazing. There was instant recognition of her Father and herself. It took her a little longer with my Dad and and her sisters and brothers. Now, I will say, the recognition was fleeting and the long term effects are probably minimal and she may have lost interest already........but it gave all of us a brief moment of joy.
Sometimes ya just gotta take what you can get, and I feel so much better now. (written a week later)
Since I wrote this last year there have been changes. She has become more distant and the moments of recognition are even less frequent and ..... well actually there are NO moments of recognition.......I'm not looking for sympathy or advice.....but am hoping that someone who is just starting on what Nancy Reagan called "The LONG GOODBYE" might read it and get just a little comfort from knowing that they are not alone.