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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Wednesday, July 13, 2005


After thinking I would miss lunch and have to go later in the afternoon, my morning requirements ended early and I was able to arrive for the lunch date after all. The trip from Westford is actually a bit shorter than from Dover, and I arrived about 11:30.

I found Mother in the TV room, alone, watching Ellen DeGeneres cook. "I never thought I would find you watching a cooking show!" I said to my kitchen-phobic mother. She laughed and then turned her attention back to what Ellen and her guest was making. I tried several times to start a conversation, but to no avail--she was hooked on the show. At long last they took their creation out of the oven and showed it to the audience. Mother made a face.

A few minutes before noon we went into the dining room where we were seated with Harold and Pearl. Pearl wondered if it was nice out, and I allowed that it was. Macaroni and cheese or chicken were the options as shown to us on a menu by an aide I had not seen before. Lunch was quiet. Mother doesn't seem to know what to do with her food sometimes. Every so often she looks at it like she would a difficult puzzle, and then eventually figures out she should eat it. Generally she organizes it...putting the remnants on her plate into separate, neat piles. She took the peels off her potatoes, as well as the seared places on the sides of the potatoes. She took every spot of parsley out of the macaroni and cheese. It's no wonder she didn't like what Ellen had made, although she would have eaten all of it with gusto when she was healthy.

Eleanor seems to be getting meaner. Dot was at her table, and seemed to remember that she had eaten. Eda, the peacemaker who likes real butter, and Eleanor's roommate, Ellen, filled out that table, which was next to ours. Eda said something. "I'm glad I'm hard of hearing," said Eleanor, "because I don't want to hear anything you say." Eda was in her peacemaking mode and tried to be understanding during the verbal abuse that Eleanor inflicted on everyone at the table. "She has a sickness," Eda would say. "She doesn't really mean it." Even Dot chimed in with kindness...she really does seem like a decent sort, when she's not stealing someone else's food. "We're all the same," continued Eda. "We're all just ladies here together."

When we had finished, we left Eleanor to her ranting and I took Mother back to her room for a bathroom visit. It took quite a bit of cleaning up, and I had to change her pants and socks. I handed her a new sock to put on. She did. I handed her the other sock. She put it on over the first sock. So getting her dressed again took some doing.

I had not lied to was a very pleasant, if somewhat hot, day. So we went out for a walk. The vegetables in the planter are growing well, and we stopped to take a look. Some lovely yellow flowers were planted in the central garden and we looked at them as we walked around to a bench in the shade. With the nice weather, several people came by, all from other neighborhoods.

One woman stopped to chat for a moment. "I'm a very good cook," she told us. "My mother always said, 'every girl needs to know how to cook.' My mother was a country woman," she continued. "She also said, 'every girl needs to learn to say No!'" Then the woman left us and continued on her walk. Next came a couple who walked briskly passed. Then it was another woman, singing and talking to herself. She tripped and almost fell as she came up by us. "I slipped," she said to us. "People will think I'm crazy." Then she went singing on her way.

Without Ellen to distract her, Mother had quite a bit to say, although I can't tell you what it was about. It seemed to involve the grounds and the Red Sox and a plaid rug. It was soon too hot for the singing woman, who glided back by us, and we were not far behind. As we went back inside, Eleanor was still in the dining room, all by herself, ranting. So sad.

Normally I would have stopped and said something to her, but not today. It was my wedding anniversary...a sad day now...and I am also grieving the loss of many friends in my move. Being with Mother on Monday was hard...this disease is an ongoing loss, not something you experience once and then start to heal. And so most of my time on the bench with her was just trying to get through...trying to stick with the try to remember to be grateful that I can still sit with her and pray with her and know her in some way...for awhile...for now.

So I couldn't deal with Eleanor. I took Mother back to her room, we said a prayer, and she lay down while I headed back south. It's so hard to stay. It's so hard to leave.


Blogger Gail Rae said...

Just a note on television watching: I've discovered that my mother's dementia has loosened the bonds of her life-long learned propriety and she's open to savoring a variety of shows she wouldn't have considered in the past, most notably "Sex and the City" one of her (and my, so I'm extremely grateful for this) all time favorites. My mother was formerly one of those "don't ask don't tell" people when it came to sex. Now, her favorite character on "Sex and the City" is Samantha, the sexual athlete who always asks and tells, whether or not you want to know!

11:49 AM  

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