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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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The cold

It's a new year and a lot colder. I didn't go up to New London on Christmas. How do you not visit your mother on Christmas? I don't know. But I didn't. Neither did I go anywhere else. I stayed home and played World of Warcraft with a friend in Atlanta.

I guess it's that the drive is so long and with my brother elsewhere, he would not be able to meet me there and lessen the coldness of visiting with someone who is both present and absent at the same time. I guess I simply couldn't face Christmas in real life, so I went to a virtual world and opened virtual presents under a virtual tree from Greatfather Winter with the thousands of others who couldn't face Christmas in real life either.

But I had two weeks off from work, and if I didn't get up there in two weeks off, I wouldn't ever let myself off the hook. So I planned to go on New Year's Day when the traffic around Boston would be lighter. And it snowed. So I didn't go.

But I did go the day after New Year's and Rob and Stephanie met me there. I called ahead and the gracious staff at the Clough Center adjusted her nap schedule so she could be up and at least quasi-alert when I arrived at 1 pm. I arrived about half an hour before Rob and Steph and saw that Mother had new braces on her hands and forearms.

We had noticed in prior visits that her left hand seemed to always be curled up in a ball...although it looked more like a claw than a ball. When we asked about the braces, it was indeed that problem that they were trying to forestall. Her jaw moved around like an independent contractor. I mentioned that to the nurse who said it rarely does that. But it does that every time I visit for the entire visit. Ditto for other visitors. We concluded that the excitement of the visit triggers the response.

As we sat there just the two of us I said to her, "I wish I knew if you could understand what I say. I have no idea if you understand the words but can't communicate a response or if everything I say just sounds like jibberish to you." Maybe it was just my imagination, but she clearly looked like she was trying to say something in response. If so, she could not successfully form any words. Maybe her jaw moving is her body trying to remember how to speak.

Rob and Stephanie came and we chatted for well over an hour. Mother watched quite intently. Perhaps she knows. But her mind can't be entirely clear. If she could understand everything and just not communicate, that wouldn't explain her confused actions back before she lost her ability to communicate. When she couldn't follow the directions on signs or when she called me to settle an argument she was having with David about what day of the week it was.

I hadn't wanted to go. usual...I didn't want to leave either. I wish we had health care that enabled us to care for our loved ones--or at least to live with them while someone else provides the care we cannot. It would take some of the chill out of Christmas.


Blogger STILLMAGNOLIA said...

Thanks for this. I am experiencing this with both parents. My dad has Vascular mom altzheimers....stage 4. It has been tough. I am glad to read someone else's journey.

4:39 PM  

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