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, February 22, 2006

The Ridge

I actually did have another visit inbetween today and the last one, but it was a family gathering and there really wasn't much to report. Today I went up on my own and found Mother with 25 or so others in the Great Room upstairs celebrating a birthday. They have a big birthday bash for everyone's birthday, and today it was the turn for a woman named Paulie. There was cake and ice cream and an ancient pianist strapped into a special chair on the piano bench. He was playing the old songs from the forties and everybody had a booklet to sing along. He played from memory, which wasn't flawless, but it was a pleasant atmosphere.

Mother was at a table with Pearl from The Courtyard, and a couple of people from the Ridge. One of them, June, was there with her husband, who visits daily. He is 87 and quite spry. They've been married 64 years. He did his best to help his wife find her place in the song booklet and to help her eat the cake and ice cream. He noted several times what a great place it was. He kept up a cheery demeanor, but the pain in his eyes went down to his toes. She has only been there two months. She kept falling at home, not using her walker, which is why he finally brought her to The Birches. "It's a brutal road," I said, and tears welled up in his eyes.

He said that he liked my mother, whose new room is across from June's. He told me that she reads all the time and that he brings her magazines. He said she is always laughing. June seemed to be in the same general mental boat as Mother...not saying much and not coherent when she did. I ached for him and wanted to just take him back to a room and let him cry for awhile. 64 years. It is indeed brutal.

Soon the party was over, and I took Mother back to her room. "Do they have a lot of birthday parties?" I asked. "If they're not responding very helpfully, then what do we put in its place?" she responded. I went in to use her bathroom, and when I came out, she was nowhere to be found. I walked down to the dining area where a resident and his son still sat. I indicated I'd lost Mother and the son smilied, knowingly. "She's probably in someone else's room," he said. "They all do that." I shared that Mother had been the resident kleptomaniac down in The Courtyard. The son pointed to the wool tam his father was wearing. "That's not his hat," he said.

I went back to search the rooms and found Mother in someone else's bathroom, brushing her hair with someone else's hairbrush. "Why don't we go back to your room and use your own brush?" I suggested. She laughed and came along. She no longer feels the need to take her pocketbook wherever she goes.

We sat down. I investigated a new stuffed dog in a basket and it made all sorts of noise. It kept making all sorts of noise at odd times until I finally discovered that it had a motion sensor...thus the reason for its presence at the bottom of a basket. It went back there. The ever-wandering Evelyn came through several times. You can always hear her coming, as she has some sort of sinus problem and snorts constantly.

Another woman came by, also. She asked us both if we were okay, and we agreed that we were. "Just let me know if you need anything," she said. "I'll do anything for you." It seemed like she would. She had her purse and a sweater over her arm like she was going somewhere. Mother's room is, like the old one, at the end of a hallway. There is an emergency exit there, but since they don't want residents getting out that way, they conceal the door with a covering that looks like a bookcase. "I was going to go out that door," she said, pointing to the fake bookcase, "but I think I'll go out the other one instead." We affirmed that as a good choice.

Mother then looked at the wall where we have some collections of pictures hanging, below the plate rack where all her cards and a few other things are displayed. "One thing I missed," she began. Then she said something about decorating and family and ended with "when we get down to the bottom layer of the pianos." It's all a mystery. She seems at some times to say what she's looking at...she was looking at decorations and pictures of family. But I have no clue what she was missing or where on earth the layers of pianos came from!

And so life continues on The Ridge.


Anonymous Joel said...

I applaud your openness in this very difficult time. I started down the same road with my mother a little over a year ago. We moved her to an assisted living facility in October of last year which improved everyone's quality of life but it remains a tough journey on so many levels.

Thank you for your blog.

10:22 AM  

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