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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Monday, December 06, 2004

The Second Visit

My first Monday lunch visit was December 6. I arrived about 11:30 with a large poinsettia that had been on the altar that Sunday in church. On Sundays now David drives to Concord and takes Mother to the church pastored by my friend who did the room blessing. The woman from our church who sees that altar flowers get delivered each week, thought my mother should have this one, and I was glad. Added to the Christmas wreath I had brought on Saturday, it gave her room a more festive feel.

This time when I got to her room she was in it, lying down on the bed taking a nap. She got up to give me a hug when I arrived. We passed the time as best we could until it was time for lunch at noon. They would have set up the private dining room for fact they did this first time, since we got our wires crossed...but I said I would rather eat with the rest of the neighborhood, so they set an extra place.

I immediately saw that I had caused problems. Of course when you have a room full of people with memory issues, routines and same-ness are very important. Everyone had their usual place to sit, and there didn't seem to be a lot of extra space. Since they thought we would be in the private dining room, there was a last minute scramble to see where the two of us should go.

They ended up seating us at a three person table with Frances, but that meant Russell...the husband of Frances's friend that she lost...had to be moved to another table. As we waited for all the residents to be brought to the dining room from their rooms, I lost count of the number of times that Frances told me I was in Russell's seat. Gone was the warmth of puzzles past, and she eyed me with suspicion.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Russell headed slowly down the hall, his two canes supporting his lengthy procession. I wanted the staff to run down the hall and tell him what was happening before he looked to see this usurper of the throne in his chair, but they took their time. Finally, one of the young women put us all out of our misery as she cheerily said, "Russell, you're going to be over here today." "Oh, okay" he said, and I thanked him for giving up his seat so that I could sit with my mother. Frances seemed to calm down when she saw that Russell wasn't bothered, and I thought about how our reactions to things can affect everyone around us for good or for ill.

The lunch was good...I've been impressed with the food at the place...and Mother ate just about all of her meal. It took a full hour to get everybody seated and served, and as we finished, I suggested that we try another puzzle. Frances had left the table by the time I found a cute puzzle with puppies on it and poured it out on the table. Frances can't hear what you say to her, but I think she can hear puzzle pieces dropping from a mile away. She was quickly back with us, helping with the puppies.

It went well, each of them actually found some pieces on their own, and Mother seems to still have her ability to sort things by color and shape. We got it done only to notice that there were two pieces missing...a great puzzle travesty. I vowed that I would upgrade their puzzle collection.

When the puzzle was done, we went back to Mother's room. She went into the bathroom, called for some help, and I helped her get rid of a quite full Depends and put on a new one. I made a note to myself to bring her to the bathroom before doing the puzzle the next week.

Once she was all cleaned up, she lay back down on the bed and wanted to take a nap. I encouraged her to take off her glasses, which she did, and I said goodbye.

It just so happens that the greatest puzzle store in the world is on the route from Concord to Dover, and I stopped there on the way home and bought three new puzzles for The Birches.


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