Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

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Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
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Saturday, December 25, 2004


It is Christmas night. We debated whether or not to bring Mother back home for the day, but decided that it was too soon for her to be back in her old environment. She might have to go through the whole adjustment thing all over again. So, the whole family headed over to Concord. One of the nice things about The Birches is that we can reserve a private dining room for such occasions, and we did so. There were nine of us.

Of course, when we arrived she usual...lying down. It's always the same. On the same side of the bed, fully clothed, on top of the covers, lying on her back with her knees raised so that her feet are flat on the bed. Sometimes her head is shaking, sometimes not. So that's how we found her today, just before lunch. She got up to greet us as we came in, and then lay back down again. She cuddles with her stuffed bear sometimes. "He keeps me company at night when David's not here," she said, "Or sometimes even when he is."

At noon we went down to the dining room for the lovely ham dinner they had prepared. Mother ate very little, trying to give her food away to anyone else who would take it. I was sitting next to her and tried to encourage her to eat. "You haven't eaten a thing," I said. "Yes, I have," she responded. "I've eaten everything that's not here." Hard to argue with that. She did make rather quick work of dessert.

I wondered why I was concerned about it. Of course if she doesn't eat, she will weaken and will not live as long. But, all in all, that may not be so bad. Do I want her body to be strong so she can outlive her mind by 10 or 20 years? Haven't I already prayed that she would not have the longevity that is typical in her family? Isn't life more than biological function? If she were enjoying her food, I would not take it from her. But if she gets no pleasure in it, why should I try to force her?

There doesn't seem to be much pleasure in anything these days for her. As she opened her gifts, there was no reaction. Just look at what is in this box and then open the next. I thought about how her best friend of 55 years had described her as "flat." That seemed to fit. There was a bit of life when she hugged the bear. There doesn't seem to be a great sadness either...just flat. There is some recognition and pleasure when we come in and she greets us, but then she lies back down and enters her other world.

Perhaps it is womb-like in sleep. The stuff of dreams never does make logical sense, but their senselessness doesn't trouble us while we are dreaming. I wonder if the dreams of those with Alzheimer's are stranger than other dreams? I wonder if the brain is working overtime at night to try to make sense of the senseless. Or maybe their dreams are perfect logic and it is the waking hours that are disjointed.

"Eat another bite of ham." "Why?" There is no answer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoying your writing and your account. I am pondering the inevitable move of my Mom to a long term care facility.

Your story is heart-warming.

7:39 PM  

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