Archive for January 30th, 2011|Daily archive page

Two years of blogging

I missed my blogiversary. It was Jan. 14. I didn’t realize I had missed it until last Wednesday, which was Jan. 26. I was driving to support group, wondering what I might talk about, and realized that here it was, January, and that this is the month during which I started the blog two years ago. I have gone over before the reasons I started the blog. Mostly, I was a mess at that time. Really stressed out, consumed with Mom’s care and especially her financial situation, feeling very alone and upset a lot of the time. And I thought maybe, just maybe, others in similar circumstances could benefit from a no-nonsense report about the disease. Blogging has definitely been a therapeutic activity. Not just the act of writing about Mom and my emotions about her, but because it has really helped me redirect my thinking about this part of Mom’s life and my life.

I felt so sorry for myself in the many months leading up to and after Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I was concerned for Mom, but I could see plainly that I was going to be stuck looking after her. That is how I thought about it. But over time, and especially while reflecting about Mom in this blog, I have come to actually value this experience, or at least to stop hating it and thinking about myself so much of the time. I have learned a lot about what might be going on in the Alzheimer’s mind, and have had the chance to consider the hell that Mom must have been going through in the early months and years of her illness. How frightening it must have been, and how deftly she really handled it, all things considered. So much sucks about it all, no doubt about it. But I try not to dwell so much on that, and instead try to be a cheerful and comforting presence in Mom’s life. And at this point, that is what she is in my life.

All that said, I had a somewhat disappointing visit with Mom today. I found her sitting with Mr. R on a couch in the program area. I approached the couch and said hello, and she greeted me, but not with any particular enthusiasm. I pulled up a chair to face her and plopped down. She spoke off and on, but in her typical nonsense fashion. She had one sock on, and I noticed that her bare foot looked a little crusty, like she has probably developed a fungal condition. I asked her how she’s been feeling, and even that didn’t yield a normal answer. The last time I saw her, her lips had been very chapped. They looked better today. I asked her if her lips feel OK. She didn’t seem to understand. I pointed to my mouth and asked her if her lips hurt. She really didn’t understand. And then she asked me, out of the blue, where my house is. I told her it’s about three miles away, not too far. And she nodded, but I suspect the answer wasn’t meaningful – does she have any idea what a mile is?

Mr. R ignored me. He rubbed the skin on his arms over and over, and studied his hands. I think his skin is irritatingly dry. But he wasn’t scratching; he was rubbing. He rubbed his fingers. Just once or twice, he rubbed his legs. He also removed his upper teeth at one point. “Do you need more room?” Mom asked him. His rubbing was making a lot of noise, and his arm was bumping into her. He didn’t respond.

Across the room, residents were watching a movie on DVD. We could hear the music from the movie. At one point, people in the movie were singing “Amazing Grace.” I asked Mom if she could hear the music, and I sang a few lines of the song. She didn’t seem to understand the question, or at least she couldn’t produce a meaningful response. One thing Dr. Liss, who runs support group, tells us is that Alzheimer’s is primarily a failure of retrieval. So I guess Mom occasionally can make sense, like asking me where my house is, but can’t always find the words to form a proper response to a question I have asked. The good thing is, she doesn’t seem frustrated by this. And I trust she has no idea that that is what her main limitation is – because can you imagine, having all that information still in there but being unable to access it, and being aware of that? She sat as peacefully and contentedly as always, with her hand on Mr. R’s leg much of the time.

After about half an hour, I decided it was time to go. I asked Mom if I could hug her goodbye, and she said yes. She then said, “Maybe you should come back sometime and we can play.” And I said, “Yes, playing is always a good idea.” She said, “Monday, then.” And I said, “OK, I’ll see you then.” I enjoyed this little exchange. On the way out, I paused to talk to a resident and her daughter – this resident was a good friend of Mom’s in assisted living, and she just moved to the Alz center a few weeks ago. The daughter told me that her mother recognized my mom, but Mom, not surprisingly, doesn’t recognize her. While we were talking, Mom and Mr. R walked by. Several minutes later, I headed down the hall toward the lobby. Mom and Mr. R had turned around and were approaching me. Mom did not make eye contact or look in my direction. Mr. R waved at me.

I decided Mom didn’t really recognize me today. That left me feeling bummed, but I know enough about the ups and downs with this disease that I am aware that her lack of recognition of me today isn’t necessarily a permanent thing. So I’ll just see what happens next time.

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