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, May 08, 2006

A good Easter

It's a little late to be posting about an Easter visit, but with a couple of weeks of vacation right afterwards, I just haven't gotten to it. Rather than going to The Birches for Easter this year, we decided to try an outing and bring Mother to us. The gathering was at Marie's and after coming to Sunrise service, Rob went up to get Mother while David and I tended our churches on that busy morning.

At two we all convened for dinner. There were quite a few of us. With both of my grandparents now gone, aunts and uncles were also on hand, as were some friends and neighbors of Marie...something like 17 of us in all.

When she came in, it was obvious that, although she has been there many times before, Mother didn't know where she was and had a bit of a frightened look. She is also much more unsteady on her feet these days and needed help getting up the stairs to the main floor of the split-level ranch. I don't know if she could have said who was who...especially since there were people there that I didn't know either. But we got her settled on the couch with Rob on one side and me on the other. She seemed to settle in more.

Then the cat came and made a beeline for her lap. Animals know when they have fans in the room, and they don't care if you make sense when you talk just as long as you keep the strokes coming. Mother was delighted with the cat, and the feeling seemed to be mutual, so that was a huge plus. I have seen her so often at The Birches trying to get her stuffed cat and dog to come to her, to get on the bed, or other real-animal behaviors. It brought a lump to my throat to finally see her with a live cat that responded to her.

It took two of us to get her off the couch and to her chair at the table. That physical change is a large one. She still has the swelling in her feet, although it doesn't seem to hurt her. She ate well at dinner and interjected comments into the conversation, despite her unfamiliar surroundings. She has always adapted well to new circumstances, and that ability doesn't seem to have been taken from her. I made a mental sure to cultivate that ability. In the day when even the familiar places become new, it is a skill critical to emotional well-being.

After a few hours, David took her back to The Birches.

And that was Easter. It's a day about resurrection and new life. While there were some new behaviors, it's hard to call it new life. But perhaps in those times when resurrection doesn't seem to be the current reality, Easter comes as a reminder of the promise, much as a warm day in late winter promises that cold is not forever. Perhaps Easter was there at Marie's this year to remind Mother that she will not always be trapped in this increasingly useless body/mind. Perhaps it was there to remind us that her own day of resurrection will come, as will ours...and that's a good thing. "In that great gettin'-up mornin'" maybe we'll all sit by the edge of a heavenly lake, pet one of heaven's cats, and remember the days when we were so distressed about earthly things...things that will seem just an insignificant blip on the radar from that new perspective. We'll laugh at how we thought we could be separated, when love is really eternal.

It was Easter. It was good. Easter is always good.


Blogger Tim Greene said...

My name is Tim Greene. My mother also had Alzheimer's. She went home to be with Jesus the last Saturday of January at 4:30AM. I can relate to your writings. I was her sole caregiver til Alzheimers progresed to the point that she needed more that I could provide while I was working a full time job.
She is in Heaven now where there is no Alzheimers. Check out my blog.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Deb Peterson said...

Anne--My mother also responds to animals. I and my two dogs have been staying with her at her house, and my dogs are happiest when they are sleeping at someone's feet. (Actually, they'd probably be happier in someone's lap, but they're collies--a bit too big!) My mother was apprehensive at first about having them around but now she dotes on them. They follow her from room to room and plop down right where she is. I had to weigh the risks of her tripping over one of them against the benefit of their company during the day, and the latter won out.

7:14 PM  

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