‘What’s your name?’

The last time I visited Mom, she certainly recognized me when I arrived. She and Mr. R were sitting on a couch together in the program area, as usual. I hugged her hello. She asked Mr. R to scoot over to make room for me on the couch. We sat together and chatted a little bit. Mom was not in great form conversation-wise. I suspected she might have some recollection of an activity she had done earlier, or an event that had happened sometime recently, and talked in circles about things that, in the present moment, did not make sense. I just nodded and went along with it. At one point, she reached down and started to pull up my pant leg. I wondered if she was having a physical memory of something – getting dressed or undressed? Being showered? I really don’t know. She was definitely confused. But perfectly content.

And then she looked at me and said, “What’s your name again?” She seemed a little sheepish. I said, “Emily.” “OK, that’s right,” she said. And it was fine. I said, “Do you recognize my face?” And she said, “Oh, yes.” It was not a test for her – I just never want her to think I’m a stranger. I don’t want her to fear me. I don’t suspect she would now that she is in the Alz center – the atmosphere is so loving and comforting that just about every human contact is a positive experience for the residents unless they are in crisis for some other reason. I do believe she will always know I am her person.

I filed her fingernails. They are so long, and I had once again forgotten to bring clippers. She seemed to think the filing tickled, or was a little uncomfortable, but she let me do it. And then I plucked some hairs from her chin. At some point, I made a reference to Mr. R being her boyfriend. And he said, “We’re just friends.” And I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. OK.” They had been kissing when I arrived. So they are very good friends. Eventually Mom suggested we get up and go somewhere, so the three of us took a walk. As we headed toward the lobby, Mom said, “I’m so happy.” Nothing beats that. We crossed the lobby and walked to the skilled side, and then turned around. Walking back toward the program area, Mom and Mr. R were holding hands. I took her other hand. Once again, Mom said how happy she was to have her two good friends with her. “But you’re more than a friend,” she said to me. “You’re such a good person.” I replied, “And so are you.”

Later in the week, at support group, when it was my turn to talk I said I am suffering from some hurt feelings. That Mom is so wrapped up in Mr. R and that, being on borrowed time with Mom, I am missing out. When I had arrived for the visit, a family member who is always around had told me I should just tell Mr. R I want to be with Mom and that he would understand. Maybe so, but it wouldn’t necessarily be what Mom wants. And it could create temporary conflict between them. As I talked about this in support group, I told the doctor that I heeded his advice: Do what is best for Mom, not for me. That can be hard for caregivers – to figure out what is best for the patient, and then to do it. With Mom, it’s pretty easy to tell she is quite content to hang out with Mr. R all day, every day. The doctor reminded us that loneliness can be one of the worst consequences of Alzheimer’s disease. That social interaction improves quality of life dramatically. I am lucky that Mom has found a way to fend off loneliness. The comfort I get from knowing she is happy outweighs any other emotions I might have.

7 comments so far

  1. IcedLatte on

    Cruel! It is not right that after so much loving, careful, attentive devotion that you’re being dumped for Mr. R. It’s like high school, except, of course, that your betrayer’s brain is slowly being turned into a tangled constellation of devilishly useless protein. Not fair. At least, unlike high school, you’re old enough to drink and buy yourself something to temporarily mitigate the pain.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Iced! It does feel just like high school sometimes, which is just too weird. I am more relaxed about it than I was at first. Mr. R just hasn’t seemed to warm up to me all that much, but he is very kind to Mom. That’s what matters. I DO drink and buy things, most definitely, as one of my many therapies. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Sherri on

    I’m glad to hear that your mom is so happy. Maybe next time, you could sit with her for a while and chat with Mr.R too, then… steal some alone time with her??? Wonder how that would go over with her…. Anyway, I’m glad all is well. Maybe you and your Mr. K could go out for a nice dinner or drinks afterwards :-).

  4. Katie on

    Hi Emily! Thanks for sharing your stories & I am so sorry for the feelings you are going through. It sounds so hard & I am thinking about you! It is hard to do everything that is best for your mom & even know what to do.

  5. momsbrain on

    Sherri: Today, Mr. R took a little nap while we visited. Mom kept trying to wake him up! But you are right – it is good that she is happy.

    Katie: I am really doing OK. Just feeling sorry for myself sometimes! Believe me, a happy Mom, no matter how that is achieved, is a very good thing.

  6. jgemacher on

    Hi, I have just been reading your blog and enjoying so much your view from the perspective of taking care of your mom. You are right that it is a different relationship than what I have with my husband and yet so many of the emotions and thoughts are the same. The not wanting to give up being the most important person in their lives being foremost. I’ll be back to read more when my emotional state isn’t so fragile.

  7. momsbrain on

    Hi, jgemacher – I’m sorry it’s such a tough time for you, though I completely understand why it is. I was in bad shape a year ago, anticipating Mom’s move from assisted living to nursing care. The move was tough but since I found this specialized nursing home, she has done so much better, and I have done better. I do have a special place in my heart for spouses of Alzheimer patients. Thanks for commenting, and take care.

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