Minimalist Mother’s Day

The Alz center hosts a Mother’s Day event every year: punch, cookies and sandwiches in the main dining room close to the lobby. Parties at the Alz center have become more complicated as Mom’s disease has advanced. Even though her mood is mostly good and she has been stable in many ways for years now, she doesn’t always respond well to crowds and noise. This year, I had to call to confirm the time of the party because I had lost my invitation. It was 2 to 4 p.m. Patrick was going to come with me this year. We decided to skip the beginning, when it would be most crowded, and attend as things were winding down.

Well, when we arrived at around 3:30, things weren’t just winding down, but had been cleaned up and put away already. “Better late than never,” the receptionist said in greeting us. I like her a lot, and I’m pretty sure she meant that as a funny, throw-away line. But I found it hurtful. She knew I had called ahead because she was the one who had answered the phone. Our late arrival was deliberate. We weren’t blowing Mom off. I don’t have much of a visitation track record these days, I guess, but I don’t want to be judged about it. Only I am permitted to give myself a hard time about that, as far as I am concerned.

Mom on the lobby couch, not really acknowledging that she has visitors. I like the shirt she's wearing - I bought it for her last spring when aides asked me to get her more clothes.

Mom on the lobby couch, not really acknowledging that she has visitors. I like the shirt she’s wearing – I bought it for her last spring when aides asked me to get her more clothes.

Mom was lying on a couch in the lobby with three plastic leis around her neck – a sign of the celebration we had missed. Someone in passing told me that a staff member had been sure to get Mom some snacks during the party. That was fine – though I would have been able to do that had the party lasted as long as advertised (I am obviously feeling some leftover hostility about this). In past years the staff members have handed out flowers or small gifts for family members who visited for the party. I guess leis were the give-away this time. We stood over Mom and talked to her for a little while, and then decided to get her up for a walk. Mom was agreeable to this. I swung her legs around to the floor and Patrick heaved her up, holding onto her hands. We walked toward the program area, Mom in the middle, holding hands with both of us.

We wandered around in circles as a threesome. Mom chattered away, and we offered affirmative responses when that seemed appropriate. I sensed she might be a little tired so we guided her to a couch – though another resident was approaching the couch at the same time, so we made a detour. We took her toward another wing and eased her onto the couch there. She immediately hoisted her feet up, lay down and curled an arm so she could rest her head on it. This was a signal, as far as we were concerned, that she was done with the visit. No ill will or unpleasantness – just time to lie down and close her eyes. We kissed her goodbye and left, only about 20 minutes after we had arrived. It was sufficient Mother’s Day celebrating for Mom, and that’s what matters most.


4 comments so far

  1. Stephanie Marlowe on

    Having a parent with Alzheimer’s is so hard. I had a friend that went through it and it feels like you’ve lost them before they are truly gone. The fact that you are still trying to do your best to see your mom and celebrate with her, even though she doesn’t recognize it, is amazing. Even the little stuff matters.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Stephanie-It is hard, and though for me it’s not as hard now as it was earlier on, there are times that I still feel very discouraged. I don’t visit as often as I think I “should,” but I also am against the “should” mentality for caregivers. Sigh… Thank you for the supportive comment!

  3. foodhoe on

    Sounds like a nice visit! Wandering in circles, kisses and chatter are wonderful things to share on Mothers Day. I have a hard time visiting my Mom too because I feel that she is in a phase where she appears to be suffering, and she no longer interacts with the world…

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, foodhoe – I was just thinking about you recently, wondering where things stood in your family. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. This is one of those ways that I feel lucky, all things considered, that I don’t think my mom is necessarily suffering. I did have some quite low feelings recently, though, about her prolonged existence in this state. Kind of some “why her?” types of emotions. There’s no answer to that, so I’m trying to get out of that mode. Take care and thanks for commenting.

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