Mother’s Day and a mom with dementia

I became increasingly upset by Mother’s Day marketing this past week or so. It is really amazing how every product known to humankind suddenly becomes the next best Mother’s Day gift opportunity. I did not expect this. I imagine people whose mothers have died have a terrible time with this holiday. It’s not so great with a mother with dementia, either.

Last year, Mom thought I was the one who deserved some sort of recognition for Mother’s Day. She referred to a facility calendar mentioning the holiday and said, “I’m sorry – I don’t have anything for you.” I just laughed it off at the time, told her she certainly had nothing to worry about. I might have even tried to explain to her that she was actually the mom, but I simply can’t recall. She still calls me her daughter from time to time when she introduces me to people at the facility. But when talking TO me for the past year or even more, she has said, on a phone message, for example, “This is Bonnie, Emily’s daughter… .” Or otherwise indicated in some way that she no longer had our relationship straight. The concept of having had children doesn’t seem to resonate with her. Relationships seem to be difficult for her. She calls her other children “relatives” sometimes. She recently referred to “our relatives from the north,” but I really didn’t know whom she was referring to. She also recently referred to having “met” me rather than having given birth to me. When she recently complimented my skin, I said, “I got that from you.” That made no sense to her at all.

The facility planned a special Mother’s Day lunch event. I missed it last year – inadvertently planning a vacation over Mother’s Day. This year, I realized my vacation would coincide with Mother’s Day again and really felt no remorse over that. The facility activities director called to check on whether I’d be attending the lunch. I said no, I will be out of town, and Mom won’t notice because she doesn’t realize it’s Mother’s Day. Agreed. A day later, I had stopped in to visit Mom and the receptionist asked what my Mother’s Day plans were. I repeated that I wouldn’t be there, and that Mom wouldn’t care. I suggested signing up Mom for the first of the two seatings for the lunch, because she would follow the crowd in thinking it was a regular lunch day. At Thanksgiving, I signed us all up for the second of three seatings at their special weekend-before event. When my husband and I arrived for the noon seating, Mom was in the dining room already, having finished her lunch during the earlier seating. That in particular led me to believe she wouldn’t notice my absence today.

I did call her this morning. I woke her up at about 9:15 a.m., which makes me wonder if she is routinely missing breakfast or if she can drift off that quickly after that meal. She seemed OK. She said, “Did you have a nice time?” and I told her I was just relaxing, and had driven all day to get where I was. I told her she’d be having a special lunch today. “Will you be here?” she asked. I said no, I was away on a trip. “Who’s going to take me places?” she said. I told her she didn’t have to go anywhere – that the lunch was right there at her facility and things would be pretty much the same, but the food would be better. “What’s the news?” she asked. I told her I had no real news, was just checking on her. I asked about the cat. He was fine. We agreed we were done talking and she said: “Bye!” So, we’re off to a good start.

I did not give Mom anything for Mother’s Day. In general, gifts no longer carry much meaning for her. At Christmas, she received several gifts, but in the course of opening them, forgot about the items she had earlier unwrapped. She didn’t recognize anything for long as something new she had received for a holiday known as Christmas. So now that this holiday is over I won’t have to be annoyed anymore by the Mother’s Day marketing. And I won’t have to feel guilty by suggestions (my perception) by facility staff that I should actually be there on Mother’s Day. They witness Mom’s behavior regularly. They should know her cognitive awareness is pretty limited. Mostly it will just be nice not to be reminded anymore that I don’t have a mother looking forward to a spa day, or flowers, or cosmetics, or perfume, or a gift card, or a special brunch, or fancy chocolates. A new pair of socks, maybe. A jar of almonds, probably. Something memorable, not necessary anymore.


1 comment so far

  1. albamaria30 on

    Wow. My mom just told me this past weekend that her mom had started calling her, “Mother” when she goes to visit.

    I sent grandma a card & a picture of the kids, even though I know she’ll have no idea who they are — or who I am. I did it a little more for my mom than for her.


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