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, January 22, 2005

Happy Anniversary

January 17 marked another family celebration in the private dining room at the Birches. This time it was Mother and David's 9th wedding anniversary and my sister-in-law's completion of her Ph.D. So there were six of us...arriving between 11:30 am and the appointed hour for lunch at noon.

When I arrived, Mother seemed more confused than normal. Something was troubling her, but we never could determine what. I looked on the back of the bathroom door. There, on the hook that normally holds her bathrobe, was a tan jacket. "Whose coat is this?" I asked, and David shrugged. I took it off the hook. She had pilfered Harold's coat. David took it to one of the aides. Mother was lying on the bed. "You took Harold's coat," I said. "Oh." Short conversation.

It was more difficult than usual to get her headed in the right direction for lunch, but we eventually got down to the dining room. She didn't eat much, but did enjoy her cake and ice cream. The chef orders coffee ice cream for her when he puts in his order every week. One of the nice little touches that makes me love the place.

I brought a couple of extra things for her room that we got set up. First was a CD player so she could have some music. Rob made a CD from a tape of religious music that my father had made way back in the late 70's, and I brought a couple of other CD's. She can't pick out a CD or run the machine, but the staff knows that it is there and will play something for her periodically.

The other thing I got was the erase board to put up so we can leave notes for her. I knew it was needed, but it was especially prompted this time since I was headed the next day for a two-week vacation in Florida. So I wrote "Anne is in Florida until Feb. 1" on her board, and mounted it on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

On the Saturday preceding the anniversary party, two women from church paid her a visit. As they described it to me, I realized that for some reason Mother still has an accurate sense of frequency, even though she hasn't known what day it is for at least a year now. She was telling these women about her visitors. "David comes frequently," she said. "Not every day, but about every other day." That's just about right. "Anne doesn't come as much," she continued, "but she comes. She can't come more because she's in charge of something." She couldn't remember what.

It surprised me that she had this sense of at least relative time frames, when so much else has gone by the wayside. She did know the women from church when they came, although later she introduced them as "friends from Rhode Island." She also told them she had heard about them on the radio. My mother, just a few years ago, had trained these two women in the Stephen Ministry program at the church. As my mother lay on her bed and rambled about things that made no sense, one of them began to cry...upset by the same thing that upsets all of us...the woman we once knew is gone. Mother then was worried that something was wrong, but the other woman covered it nicely. "Oh, we just always cry," she said. "You know at church we're known as the tissue pew because Anne's sermons always make us cry." That settled her back down. "Yes they do," she said.


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