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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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shut Out

It's been quite awhile since I've posted, but not for want of activity. Things have been over the top in issues surrounding Mother's care, but they have been issues with another family member so I am not at liberty to write about them in a public blog. At such a time, I hope that Mother is as unaware as she seems. She was always so precise and organized, especially on financial matters, that she would have a cow if she understood.

In any case, I will only say that I am now the guardian of her estate. We'll leave it there.

All my visits of late have been to huge state and federal bureaucracies on her behalf, so it was only yesterday that I was able to see her instead of just her social security number. I met Rob up there and picked up a packet of doctor's information. Not that there's anything new, I just haven't had access to such a report since 2006. Along with the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, it says she has a humeral neck fracture. I think that must have happened that time at The Birches when she broke her arm. Probably why she lists to the right.

In the last couple of weeks I've caught myself sitting at my computer...listing right. I straighten up in a panic!

When Rob and I arrived they were wheeling Mother back from lunch. They brought her into the TV room where there were a lot of others, more or less watching TV, and where there were a couple of other chairs for us to sit and visit. Rob was the first to notice that, for the first time in as long as I can remember, her glasses were not sliding down her nose. They might even have been new glasses. Hooray for that!

Of course the irony was that her eyes were shut. For the entire one hour and fifteen minute "visit." They were shut when we saw her from a distance being wheeled toward us, and she never opened them. They looked purposefully shut and her brow was furrowed, even as her jaw continued its independent, spasmodic life. But she was not asleep. She did not appear actually tired until the end of the visit when she yawned some. As we sat there trying to get her to open her eyes I thought she might have been tired from a morning visit and said, "Maybe David was here this morning." She instantly said, "No." She spoke only one other time during the visit...two words that were much softer and that I didn't catch later on.

In that later part of the visit (which is when this picture was taken) she seemed more relaxed. She also was doing some odd things with her left arm. Her right isn't much good. She lifted her whole arm up and out as if to take something out of the air. Did that twice. Each time I went over to her chair, took her hand and put my arm around her, but she didn't respond. And of course didn't open her eyes.

So I think she was elsewhere. Somewhere more pleasant. Maybe she was in some pain earlier that furrowed her brow and she decided to get out of Dodge and go to wherever souls go when they need a break. Of course she was also in a different room. The TV room was more and more crowded so we went out to the lobby area.

You can see in the picture that her hair is down to her shoulders. The last picture of her with hair that long was when she was about 6. She has always worn it quite short. So Rob and I arranged for a haircut and showed the staff a picture of how she has always worn it. We checked out her clothes and found an odd assortment of things, including some very frilly blouses. Nothing looked really comfortable. I turned to Rob and said, "Should you ever be caring for me in a situation like this, give me sweats. I want comfort. And do not, under any circumstances, force me to wear a bra."

As we went to leave, I gave her a kiss and she kissed back. But she never even once opened her eyes. Maybe she does have new glasses and they're giving her a headache. But I think she travels somewhere else--to a place that is green, with flowers. To a place where her mind comprehends and where her only guardian is her Lord. One day she'll stay there, and I will not try to get her to open her eyes.

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Anonymous Deb Peterson said...

Anne--I remember seeing my mother make that same gesture: reaching out as if to grab something. Very slowly and with her eyes closed. I came to believe that it had something to do with her own journey. As Frost wrote "And miles to go before I sleep."

3:11 PM  

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