Alzheimer’s Action Day: My Mom

My Mom passed away in 2008. For far too many years before that she suffered from Alzheimer’s. Far too many years. Looking back to the early 1990s we can now recognize behavior that may have been early signs.

Mom was also having those small strokes that affected her behavior. We had begun to talk every 2-3 days in the 1980s and that is something I miss a lot. My Mom was not easy to live with. She was a stickler for neatness, things being done only her way, and at her time no matter what worked for everyone else. Plus she was a strict mother. All that said, no human being should ever have to go through what she did.

Mom would have been mortified if she knew her once careful and coordinated dressing, haircut, and classy jewelry were reduced to stained clothing, bedhead, and no jewelry. She would have be embarrassed to realize that she hit the people she loved and those who helped care for her. She would have rather missed going out in public than to have others be embarrassed by her behavior. To know that she had to be fed at the end would have given her nightmares and they probably did happen.

She did have a few lucid moments. One time she asked me whose little boys those were in her living room. I said they were Katie’s (my daughter) boys. She said Katie was too young to have kids. I would watch old movies with her and she would nod when I talked about watching movies in our old living room where I grew up. I never told her my husband had left me as it wouldn’t have been understood or so I thought. I was sitting with her one day as Sarah, one of the caregivers, was feeding her. Sarah and I were talking about the change in my life and we suddenly noticed tears running down my mother’s face. She understood. From then on I talked to her as if she really did understand things and just told her about things going on in the family. I would sometimes explain in detail about the person to whom I was referring. She lost her ability to speak but at times the frightened look in her eyes said volumes.

No one should have to live almost as a vegetable, unable to talk any longer, and unable to enjoy life for a dozen years or more. My father became her security blanket and she would panic if one of us took him to do errands. That knowledge would have shocked this once strong woman who was very self-sufficient and yes, controlling. In the study of my family’s history I have not come across knowledge that would lead me to think we have a history of Alzheimer’s or any form of prolonged dementia. So, why Mom?

© 2011 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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