I’ve mentioned this before, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to blog about Mom with dementia. It’s hard enough living through it. I didn’t realize the full impact of how hard it would be to share and re-live an experience. Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve not been able to ‘pick up the pen’ at all.
Mom is declining, but in comparison to what or whom? I look around her Residence and see people far worse off than she is, on so many levels. Some residents don’t even have visitors. There isn’t anyone who checks in or follows up. No one to take a walk or even sit with. It is hard not to judge, but I don’t because I don’t know their circumstance. I’ve been on the receiving end of judgment, so I don’t go there anymore.
Easter Sunday with Mom was short. I brought her to my house where she struggled to settle down, which has been the case for about 9 months now. It’s only when I suggest she sit by the fire with the dogs and do her crossword puzzle, does she somewhat relax. She labors more with her crossword puzzles, her handwriting becoming more illegible. “Hey Mom,” I said from the kitchen, “Shoot me a question!”
“Scottish archipelago,” she says. We sat in silence for a few seconds. “NEXT!” I said laughing.
“Distillery containers.” At the same time, we both shouted “Vats!”
“Citizen Cane sled…” “Rosebud?” I replied. The letters fit. “Monastic Hood,” Mom says slowly, then spells the word out loud, “H-A-B-I-T,” realizing the letters don’t fit.
She looks at the fire and says, “I think I’ll go lay my head down. Where’s my room again?” I get her settled in, Frank and Marco jump up on her bed and snuggle in, Chrissy takes her place on the floor next to Mom. Over an hour later, Mom walks out into the living room and asks, “Why am I here? How many days have I been here?”
“It’s Easter Sunday,” I said.
“When can I go home?” she asks.
My voice always remains calm and supportive. I never want to confuse or embarrass her by telling her the truth about something that she clearly has no memory of, or is just not connecting the dots.
“Anytime you’d like,” I answered. I gently pressed on asking if she would like a little hot tea or a stiff drink before we eat. As she propped herself up on the bar stool at the counter, she moved the beautiful little lemon cake decorated with pearls and flowers to make room for her wine glass.
She didn’t settle down and asked again, “Why am I here? How many days have I been here?” A slight pause, then, “When can I go home?”
The cake she moved and the table set with our finest family china, didn’t register at all with Mom, nor did she connect the dots that food was simmering on the stove and we hadn’t even eaten yet.
This time I didn’t cleverly steer plans towards brunch, instead I casually turned off the stove and said, “The pups and I can take you back now if you’d like, does that sound okay?” I could see her whole body relax. “We’ve had a great time as always,” I said. “You’ve napped with the dogs, we’ve had good conversations, we even did a crossword puzzle! Life is so exhausting and great, isn’t it?” She was smiling when she got up from the counter, then asked, “Have I napped yet?”
The pups and I took Mom back. When we entered her apartment, she remarked she would nap before dinner time. I came home to a lemon cake, a set table and a very loud silence.
Later that evening, Mom called ‘wanting to hear my voice and say goodnight.’ She also commented, “It’s Easter! Did you know that?” By her troubled tone, I knew she was thinking we didn’t celebrate together.
“Yep! You were here at my house with the dogs today,” I reassured her. “We had a nice fattening brunch with lots of sugar and booze. But I gotta tell ya, you and the dogs got completely smashed, to the point they were slurring their barks and you couldn’t walk a straight line. When Frank fell off his recliner I finally had had enough and took you home. You’re a terrible influence on this family, Mom!’ ”
She laughed, admitting she remembered absolutely nothing.
“You don’t have to remember anything, Mom,” I said as I recalled Ashley Campbell’s song, “I’ll do the remembering.”
What Is True For Me: Easter Sunday dipped to another level of loss. Without her routine and familiar surroundings, Mom goes adrift.
It could be worse. She could be unhappy at her apartment and argue to stay with me at my house. I am so grateful that Brookdale Senior Living is a place of comfort and solace for her. My life would be very different if it wasn’t.
Each day I never know what will change or vanish. The experience is like watching an ocean wave erase an imprint on the sand. All I can do is be sharp and aware when we are together, cherish the time, and not let that ocean wave erase my memories.