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, February 28, 2005


From all appearances, Mother seems to be engaging more at The Birches. It's been two weeks since I had been over there. Last Monday was a big snowstorm, making the hour's drive a danger, so I didn't go. I came in today and found her in the TV room with several others. She came out quickly to see me. After stopping off to look in the drawers in the kitchen, we went down to her room so I could drop off my coat and book before lunch.

She needed to go in to the bathroom. I checked on her after a minute or so and found her sitting there with a tube of toothpaste in her hand. I'm not quite sure what was going to happen with that, but I didn't wait to find out and put it back on the sink. The toilet paper had run out, so I went and fetched some of that and then it was time for lunch. We came through the dining room where the residents eat. Dot was already at her table. "I hope all of you are as hungry as I am," she was saying. "I'm ready for lunch. In fact, I can hardly contain myself. When I sit down to eat..." We headed off to the private dining room.

I was expecting my cousin to join us today, so I had reserved the dining room. There is room for one extra person at the tables with the residents, but not more than one. My cousin never came, but the food did. She ate all of her salad, and then wanted more, so I gave her another one. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, she ate it all quite readily, which was encouraging. She didn't eat as much of the main meal, but would go back to it from time to time, even after she had pushed it away and offered it to me. Dessert was coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce, so that was a hit, and she downed the two scoops quickly.

More interesting was that today she was full of conversation. Not a lot of it made sense, but she was obviously interested in what she was saying. She also initiated conversation more than she has in quite awhile, asking about people and events. "Did the music thing go well last night?" I said that it had, and told her some stories about it...even though there was no music thing last least in my life. There may have been an event at The Birches that she missed. She asked again about Grandpa, which she does on almost every visit. This time I didn't remind her that he had died.

"Whatchamacallit" has become a popular word in her vocabulary...a better thing than no word at all.

It was just about 1 pm when we finished dessert. She needed the bathroom again, so we went back to her room, passing back through the other dining room. Dot was still at the table, asking when she could have lunch. Of course she had just finished it all. There is still no sign of Carl, and the boxes outside of all the rooms have disappeared.

After the bathroom, Mother didn't lie down on the bed like she usually does, but instead was just standing there. I asked if she wanted to do a puzzle, which we haven't done since the first days. She did, so we went and picked out one with a kitten and a teddy bear and took it to one of the dining room tables. After a few minutes, Russell came along and joined us. He still seems to have quite a bit on the ball and the puzzle came along nicely.

There was music playing in the background...some hymns coming out of someone's room...and a number of the residents were sitting at tables having some conversation. One of the aides came by pushing Eleanor in her wheelchair. "We're going to your room," said the aide. "Will we fly?" asked Eleanor. "No," said the aide. "I think we'll just go in the chair." "That's good," said Eleanor. "I'm afraid to fly." And she broke out into song.

In an odd way it was comforting to be there, doing a puzzle in the midst of a community. Every story there is heartbreaking, and yet for that moment, the heartbreak seemed to be in the background. Russell was finding puzzle pieces and Mother would pat him on the hand in congratulations when he did. A woman at the next table said, "This is so boring" and then laughed warmly with the woman sitting with her. There was a kindness that had settled on the room like a warm blanket, and I felt somehow at home.

As we were about midway through the puzzle, one of the aides came by to say that someone was giving a piano concert upstairs. I picked up the pace of the puzzle-making, and then took Russell and Mother upstairs. She went into the concert, and I headed for home.