It is gut-wrenching that my mom is losing her mind. Literally. Please know I do not intend this to be disrespectful in any way. It is genuine. Our mom has dementia and has lost portions of active brain function. A few years ago she had several mini-strokes and ended up in the hospital. We thought we were going to lose her. But she rallied and her health improved somewhat. Her mind did not.
Prior to that we had seen evidence of aging, normal forgetfulness. Names, recipes, dates. But since the episode of strokes, she has mentally declined rapidly. Disorientation, fear, depression, sadness, all in a matter of moments. We knew it was getting bad when she wouldn't recognize our dad. "Who is that?" she'd ask. "Mom, that's dad." "No it's not." "Yes, he is just old now, his hair is white." Trying to laugh it off, she still isn't convinced. When she became disoriented travelling with dad, she would yell for strangers to call the police because she'd been kidnapped. The dog would sit in her lap, yet she'd ask where the pup was. She would finish eating, and then forget that she had.
Medication helps, but it won't take her mind back to where it was. It calms her some, helps her sleep, handles her panic attacks. With a couple of other health issues, it is a delicate balance of treating one, not to exacerbate another, all while making sure she is stable, both physically and mentally.
Just over a year ago we made the difficult family decision to place mom in an assisted living residence. When she is there, she is usually compliant. I say usually. She may try to open the front door to leave. She argues with staff over regular daily routines. Even in her current mental state, she is extremely stubborn. We always try to joke with her and blame her Scotch-Irish roots. Sometimes that works, other times no. When it works, she starts talking with an Irish accent. Oh mom, love her.
Frequently she tells us not to put her in home. While we are visiting her...in the home. She needs assistance with everything, even the act of putting on socks and shoes. No longer can she sit for hours and read, which was one of her favorite pastimes. No longer can she write, the fine motor skills are gone. No longer can she cook, the recipes and rules of cooking are gone, and too dangerous.
Let me be frank. Dementia sucks. It robs our loved ones of their memories, regularly functioning, and personality. It infuriates me. It deeply saddens me. It wrenches my gut. If we can pour so much into cancer research, we need to support Dementia/Alzheimer's research. Let's find a way to better slow or prevent this disease. No one should have to see their loved ones fade like this. It is a fade, a slow fade.
Friends and family have lost their parents. From disease, from cancer. Some quickly, others over time. We attend funerals now, fewer weddings. I love my mom and the fact that we still have her. We are blessed.
Though, this is not the future we envisioned in her golden years. We had a few years prior to the strokes of grandparent days at school. Of reading to her grandkids' classrooms. Of baking with the grandkids. Of Black Friday shopping with her daughters. Of cooking big family holiday dinners together. Now, those activities with mom are done. My sisters and I work to keep those traditions alive for our families. We do recognize that this season in life is where we must take on this role. Making sure that traditions happen. Making connections with kin. We become that leader generation. The torch was passed. Tossed. Thrown.
This is our Mom, but it isn't. She knows she loves her grandchildren and dogs. Names are lost to her but she knows when she sees them, they are hers. Whatever part of the brain that processes new information, that is gone. Get her talking about her past, and she has those memories. In detail. But as quickly as she shares, the next instant she expresses confusion and panic. Where is she? Are we leaving her? Who are we? Repeatedly. But we answer each time. With patience. With love. Over and over. We redirect when she expresses fear or anger. We want her to be comfortable. To be happy. For as long as we get to have her here. Because she is Mom. ❤
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