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, July 25, 2005


Arriving with about 15 minutes to spare, I headed into The Birches and down to Mother's room. She wasn't there. I found her with about four others in the TV room, watching Bob Barker give things away on whatever game show he is hosting these days.

Except that Mother wasn't exactly watching. She was slumped in a chair, sound asleep. That was a first. I've never seen her go to sleep in a chair before, although I haven't lived with her recently. But certainly all the times I've found her asleep, she's been lying down...the sleep has been intentional. Our family has never been a doze-in-the-chair sort of family. And she was out like a light. It took quite a bit to wake much so that I came within a few seconds of panic that I couldn't wake her.

But she did wake and looked at me with a blank stare. There was no recognition, and she made no attempt to get up or greet me. All the chairs near her were full, so I sat down on the couch. She went back to sleep. In about five more minutes it was lunch time, and I woke her again. She seemed to recognize me this time and we headed for the dining room.

We were seated with Harold today. Seating us with Harold, however, meant displacing Phoebe, the woman who moved into Carl's room after he died. Phoebe isn't in great shape. I don't know that I've ever heard her speak, and she is slumped in a wheelchair most of the time. I'm guessing that they displaced Phoebe because she wouldn't know the difference of what table she was at...and I don't think she did. But they put her at the "mean table," and those ladies were furious.

Remember the mean table ladies are the ones who booted Dot forever from their presence, and they took great offense at having to eat in the presence of someone who was as out of it as Phoebe. They took so much offense, in fact, that they got up and left the dining room. "Aren't you going to eat?" asked one of the aides. "Not with that at our table," one of them said, and they walked off. The aide volunteered to save them some food.

About five minutes later they came back, saying they supposed they had to sit there since it was the only way to eat. They didn't last long. "Would you eat with a dinner companion like that?" asked one. "Yes," said the aide. "I love her." They walked off again and did not return. The aide tried to reassure them that Phoebe would be back in her place at supper and it was only for lunch today because there was a guest (me).

The rest of the meal was pretty quiet. They must have changed Eleanor's medication...there wasn't a peep out of her. Dot was back with Russell and Frances, asking if anyone was ever going to bring her food, when it was sitting right in front of her. Russell was still in a wheelchair, and I asked about his leg. He said it didn't hurt as much. I asked him if anything was broken. He said he didn't know, since they hadn't x-rayed it. Of course I was there when they x-rayed it last week.

Frances called me over and asked me again who I was. "I want to remember," she said quite earnestly. I said I was Joan's daughter, and again she told me how sweet my mother was. I told Frances I loved her, which is the truth. Harold is on the move the minute there is nothing to do, and was up and gone when his salad was finished. They enticed him back to the table with blueberry pie, which he cleaned up pretty well. But he would have nothing to do with dinner. He got up from the table again, and that earned him a second piece of pie. Dot should be so lucky.

They brought Mother's pie when she still had a few bites of her ravioli left. She mixed them together. Not something I would have enjoyed, but she ate it all.

The disruption at lunch with Phoebe and the mean table made me realize that I can't continue to go back for lunch each week. I don't want to put the kitchen out by asking them to set up the private dining room all the time, and I certainly don't want to be the source of trouble for both staff and residents in the dining room. No one said anything to me, and it's true that the two women shouldn't be so darn nasty. But they are what they are, and the staff need to be sure they are fed and taken care of...nasty or not. I clearly was not helping.

When I got Mother back down to her room to use the bathroom, I saw on the erase board that David was going to be there this afternoon. So I've written to him to see if he wants to do that regularly. If so, I'll pick a different day and come in the afternoon after lunch. It will mess up the "Mondays" part of "Mondays with Mother," but so it goes.

Mother was distressed today because Cody (the dog) never moved. So, while she was in the bathroom, I moved him. She came out and sat on the bed and called for him to come. I helped him get to her and she patted his head.

She was looking through each page of a blank notebook when I said I needed to leave. I asked her if she wanted to have a prayer before I went, and she said yes immediately. I've been wondering if I should end the prayer with the Lord's Prayer to give her something more familiar. So I tried that today. "Our Father," I began, and she joined in "Which art in heaven," and I thought we had it made. But that was as far as she went. I said the rest on my own.

I think I want to sign up for a different disease when my time comes. I think my father had the right idea with the sudden heart attack in his sleep. I think I'd like a little longer than his 47 years, but in general it was a good plan. This Alzheimer's thing is bad. Some days I think it is worse than others...and her bad days and my bad days aren't necessarily the same. But the grief is fairly constant. I feel badly in the lead up to the visit. I feel badly when I'm there. I feel badly when I get home. I want to be there all the time and I don't want to go there ever again all at once. I don't know how people do caregiving at home for this. I can do lots of things. But I don't think I could do that.