Sitting here with my mom in my childhood home, watching cable TV. Several things are going through my mind:
My mom has Alzheimer’s dementia. My sisters and I first became aware of her cognitive impairment about 5 years ago. At that time it we didn’t recognize if for what it was: the beginning of the disappearance of Mom. If only I had known. If I had known, I would have spent more time with her. I would have said, “I love you,” more often. I would have spent more time nurturing my relationship with my sisters, as this would soon be stressed beyond belief. I would have become more familiar with her medical and financial information instead of trusting that this was being managed effectively by her.
As is typical with Alzheimer’s, her decline has been slow and steady. It became undeniable about 3 years ago. But by that time was already impaired enough to be paranoid and resentful of any interest by me and my sisters to get her to neurologist for baseline testing. She refused steadfastedly. We had missed our window of opportunity.
Two of us sisters live 2-3 hours away and work fulltime as RNs, so making time to be here for Mom was/is difficult. I am also a single mom of a high school freshman. We’ve been here as much as possible, and for a while that was enough. For a while, she still remembered our names consistently. For a while, she was still Mom. She cooked, she Jazzercised three times a week, had a very active social life, drove herself around the small town we grew up in, was adept at the computer, kept in touch via email and photos, had a dog that she walked and fed twice a day. For a while.
But of course it did not last. Couldn’t last. Plaques are growing in her brain, obscuring neural connections. Making memories disappear. For the last three years one of my sisters (who lives locally) has been meeting Mom’s growing day-to-day needs. She has finally become overwhelmed by trying to meet Mom’s needs AND those of her young and growing family and husband. Her frantic cry for help came after a very trying day/week/month, insisting we needed to find a facility for Mom NOW. Since that day, I’ve been here in my childhood home for three to four nights every other week taking care of Mom. Who, it turns out, is moderately cognitively impaired now and in need of a caregiver at least some of the time. I hope we haven’t missed that window as well–she is very resistant to allowing anyone new in her home.
What that looks like: Mom has lost weight since she can no longer work the microwave. Anything involving memory is over. That’s the microwave, cable TV, the garage door opener, the dishwasher, the thermostat, the checkbook, the computer, medication. Alas she can still drive the car. We haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but I can see it is fast approaching. She shouldn’t be driving, yet won’t give up the cars. The dog is fat because she feeds him two or three times every morning and evening. The fish tank…you can imagine. I hate Alzheimer’s. I hate that my mom is gone, but here.
I miss reminiscing about life before Dad died. I miss my sisters–all we talk about now is Mom and her disease. I miss feeling like a family, a cohesive unit. I miss my mom.
And about cable TV–my God, what a wasteland!
I’d love to hear your thoughts…