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, November 24, 2008


Okay, so she looks ornery. Like you don't want to be slow with her turkey. But unlike so many Alzheimer's sufferers, she has never had that mean streak take over. Although you can't tell that from this picture.

This was taken today at the Clough Center. Instead of having a Thanksgiving celebration on the actual day, they had it today. And they had their act together. I drove into the parking lot about 10 minutes before 12 and was greeted by a parking attendant. He directed me to the next attendant, who heard via push-to-talk before I got there that I was attending the dinner. I went through three or four such gentlemen who guided me right into a parking space. Very nice.

They were equally prepared inside. I walked in, was greeted promptly by a friendly hostess and told her who I was visiting. A quick check of the seating chart told her where to take me and I was escorted out to the sun room where David and Laurie were already waiting with Mother. The tables were set beautifully, a flautist played in the background, and young servers came around with water, cider, and egg nogg. The food was served at each table and was quite good, although you have to remember that for me anything I don't have to cook is automatically gourmet. The above photo came courtesy of the Clough Center staff who came around with a camera. I had the photo in my e-mail by the time I got home.

It's a nice idea having Thanksgiving early, although being on a week day, Rob and Stephanie weren't able to get the time off from work. But it acknowledges the dilemma of holidays at this stage of things. To spend the actual holiday at the Clough Center is hard. It's hard because of the travel on a busy travel day. It's hard because of the added emotion of family holidays. It's hard because all family traditions go by the wayside when you celebrate in an institutional setting.

Putting the holiday on another day recognizes that most of us need a more normal setting for a Thanksgiving holiday, but also need to be with the ones we love in some semblance of the occasion. Mother has no clue that today wasn't really Thanksgiving, so we got to celebrate that with her. Come Thursday, we will celebrate together as a family. Her place will be empty, which is always brutal, but in some ways it's not unlike those Christmas times when you saw part of the family on Christmas morning, others Christmas night, and still others across the next week. It would be great to have them all together at once, but they were still all a part of the holiday picture.

Mother was fairly alert today, although she made no responses other than to nod in a way that indicated she preferred pumpkin over apple pie. They've increased her Parkinson's medication, which makes me wonder again about the connection between Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. When she first began the Parkinson's meds back at The Birches, she showed mental improvement. I've only seen her twice since they increased those meds, but both time she has been a bit more alert.

So it's Thanksgivng. I can't say I'm thankful for her state. In fact, I'm pretty mad about that. But I'm thankful that I could take the time from work today to share a meal with her, even if she thought I was some stranger who dropped by for lunch. I'm thankful that the Clough Center made such provisions and took such care, realizing that most of us live torn between the guilt of wanting to celebrate holidays at home but feeling we need to be with our loved ones. Today was like a guilt-free pass to spend Thanksgiving Day in whatever way we could find to dull the pain.

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