Archive for January 29th, 2012|Daily archive page

Three years

I began writing this blog on Jan. 14, 2009. On Jan. 14 of this year, I noted the blogiversary in my mind and mentioned it to my husband and another blogging friend while we were out at dinner. I then wrote a post on Jan. 16 but didn’t mention that an anniversary had just gone by. Perhaps I knew then that I would take a little breather from the blog and from Mom. Until yesterday, I hadn’t visited her for almost two weeks. I can’t say why, for sure. She was perfectly pleasant when I last saw her, talking and being social and sort of funny. I can say I have been feeling a little bit sad about her. I looked back at some old posts when I realized I had hit the three-year mark, and it was a reminder of how much Mom has changed in that time.

Taking care of her was more difficult back then. Already a needy woman, she was so very needy at that time – which was one reason I felt the need to start a blog. As her bank account emptied and the move to a nursing home neared, I hoped that her disease would progress so that she would be less with it and therefore, in my mind, more able to handle the transition to a nursing home. Well, her disease did progress, but she didn’t handle the first transition well at all – and I think her state of mind wasn’t the issue. For those two weeks she lived in a traditional nursing home, she was simply in the wrong place. Once she arrived at the Alz center, she settled in immediately. And as I read some old posts from her first months at the Alz center, I was reminded of how well she was still doing at that time. She would say “Hallelujah” when I came to visit. She knew my name and my face. We could still go out to eat at a restaurant. She carried dog/cat and wore lots of jewelry. Now, she doesn’t know what jewelry is.

So, now her disease is very progressed. And I find myself regretting those wishes I had that she would lose her mind quickly for my convenience. I did truly think it would be best for her – I assumed that the sicker she was, the less aware she would be of the change in her living arrangement. And being less aware, I reasoned, might mean she’d be less afraid, or angry, or both. But I can’t deny that I hoped, too, that her tolerance of the change would mean there would be less heartache and fewer headaches for me.

Now I can look back with a clearer head and realize she put up with so much early in her illness and handled it all relatively well. I can say this after hearing lots of stories from caregivers whose loved ones had a much more difficult disease process. After she had a minor traffic accident, I took her car keys away. That was it – no more driving. Six weeks later, in the course of two days, my siblings and I moved her out of her apartment and into a much smaller assisted living apartment. With that move, she began eating meals with strangers and was subjected to regular visits from nurses, a housekeeper and other staffers. Her most common complaint was that she was living in a cave. She could still call me on the phone then, and she did, with frequency. She was fretful sometimes, and scared and confused. She made the occasional nasty remark, but she was not mean to me, or to the strangers who in short order became her friends. She would imagine that her cat was missing or call me convinced that something – something she couldn’t explain – was somehow out of order. Those days are long over. She stopped calling by the summer of 2009. What a treat it would be to pick up the phone now and have Mom greet me on the other end.

This past Friday night, I watched an old Frontline program I had taped, about the funeral home industry. There was one very sad story about a young couple burying their toddler son. And that made me cry. But there were also many images of the undertakers handling elderly bodies, washing them and dressing them and putting makeup on their faces. Those images got to me. The employees were very tender with these bodies, and I’d like to think it wasn’t just because they were on camera. I recalled preplanning Mom’s funeral and thought about how many decisions still lie ahead. And I thought about how I used to obsess about Mom’s death when I realized she had dementia, because at that time I had no idea how much living she could still do in spite of the disease. And I thought about how I am not in any hurry to see her life end now that she has become this fragile but resilient little buddy of mine. And I cried and cried.

My eyes puffy from the night before, I went to the Alz center on Saturday morning. I found Mom on a couch in the program area.

Mom at rest, not long after breakfast had been cleared away.

I pulled up a chair and looked at her. “Bonnie,” I said. “Bonnie, are you awake?” She opened her eyes and looked at me and closed them again. She straightened her legs. I touched her hands and rubbed her arm but didn’t talk anymore. She fell asleep. I could tell because she twitched a little and made funny movements with her mouth. She opened her eyes and reached up and touched my arm and then rested her arm and fell back to sleep. I thought about crying again, but I didn’t. I sat there for 20 minutes. She never woke up.

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