Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Saddest Times of Dementia



This is my beautiful mother enjoying her grandchildren forty years ago. At the time, she was younger than I am now and a very loving grandmother. The grandkids thought she was the best. She let them stand at the sink and wash dishes. She pretended to let them help her make doughnuts. She played Rummy with them and didn't always let them win. She had three more grandchildren after this picture was taken and loved them all as only grandmothers can. A good love. A "I believe in you" love. A "you can do anything you set your mind on" kind of love and support. That's a grandmother's job. To spoil a little. To love a lot. And to think grandbaby hugs are a gift without price.

But now she has dementia. Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. One place I looked said that one out of five people 80 and older have dementia. Then it went on to say that although elderly people suffer from dementia, it is not a normal process of aging. And yet, normal or not, it happens. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do things like getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there. Some of those things have happened to my mother.

Of all the things that do happen to a person with dementia, the worst is the agitation and unhappiness. Not all people who suffer dementia have the uneasy and sometime angry agitation, but many of them do. My husband's mother did not. My mother does. She does so want to "go home." Back to her childhood home. A house that is long gone. And then at other times, she simply wants her husband to show up. He was here just this morning, she'll say, but he didn't tell her where he was going. But a husband is supposed to be with his wife.  Or she saw him in town before she came to the house here. None of that has happened. Nor are there children in the house, but sometimes she needs to go home to see about the kids.

All that is sad. But the saddest thing is how she's forgotten her family. At least the family still living. She hasn't forgotten her parents and sisters who have passed, most years and years ago. She knows them in photos and doesn't seem to have a problem jumping from very old photos to newer ones. The ones she doesn't know are her children and grandchildren. Most of the time she knows me. Most of the time. But sometimes she wants to know where "the other Ann" is. Then there was the day I looked at a picture of her and her grandchildren taken three or four years ago and she knew herself but not them. I'd tell her their names and she'd smile as if remembering a grandkid hug.  But by the time we got to the last person in the picture, she was asking about the first one again. She does seem to remember the old pictures a little better. Or maybe baby pictures simply take her back to a better time and make her happier.

That day with the memories of her grandchildren buried deep under her dementia and no way to bring them back was a saddest day. For her and for me. I look out into the future and think of perhaps someday losing the precious memory of my own children and their children if my mind fades like mother's has. A saddest thought and one there's no reason to dwell upon. We can't predict who will suffer from dementia and who won't. We can hope for better treatments.

Right now, the only "treatment" that seems to help Mom is prayer. I appreciate all my friends who pray for her. My own prayer is that she will have peaceful days as we take it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time and try to make it through each of those worst times back to the not as bad times. The times when she's almost her old self and seems to remember the kids and their families. That day we were looking at their pictures, she kept wishing to see them. Whether she can remember their visits or not, she wants those times. As for me, I want to treasure the memories I have right now since none of us can know what tomorrow might bring.

On a happier note, the e-book version of  Words Spoken True is available for the low price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook and $2.39 for e-readers on Christianbook.com. A great chance for you to give that book a try if you haven't read it. It's not free, but pretty cheap. It is a limited time offer so don't wait too long to check it out if you're interested. Also I'm getting ready to send out a newsletter tomorrow with a new giveaway to celebrate Scent of Lilacs being back in print with a new cover. Fun happenings. If you don't get the newsletter, I'll let you know about the giveaway on Wednesday - if I don't forget it's Wednesday the way I did last week. But I made up for it on Thursday. Or sign up for the newsletter on my website.

Thanks for reading. And remember you have three more chances to throw your name in the hat to perhaps win a copy of Scent of Lilacs. Leave a comment on this post or on Wednesday's post or on Jocie's blog tomorrow night and get another entry.

17 comments:

  1. Oh, Ann.... I'm praying for you, your mom, and your family.
    We're in a similar (if there is such a thing) situation here. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago. One day my husband (her eldest; his name is Ray) brought her here for lunch and then took her to a doctor's appointment. While sitting in the waiting room, Mom said to my husband, "Your house is bigger than Raymond's house!" She had no idea. She often calls each of her five sons by their brothers' names. She can't put a face to a name for her daughters-in-law, but she still knows "who belongs to whom". She has no clue re her grandkids' names or who belongs to whom anymore. Seems like every week something else in her memory is "gone". We're thankful she still knows her kids, but we know this won't last much longer.
    Mom currently has gallstones that require surgery. We are thankful they moved and are no longer painful, as she has a weakened heart and probably won't make it through the surgery. They've said that if she does make it through, her Alzheimer's will be even worse from the anesthetic. A double-edged sword. So we pray the gallstones don't move again.
    At almost 86, we keep reminding ourselves (and our children) what a great mom and grandma she used to be, how giving she used to be, and how happy she used to be, despite living through hard times, including numerous (painful) foster homes.
    And we continue to "be there for her". She has an apartment at a nursing home/retirement residence, and she has the most visitors of anyone in the building. The brothers (especially my husband) take her out almost daily, whenever they have a day off work. She has no idea what sacrifices they make to put her needs first all the time, but all the spouses recognize what loving husbands we all have. We're pretty lucky she did such a great job raising them all....

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Laney4. You made me cry, but maybe not in a bad way. Your mother-in-law is fortunate to have such a loving family. May her gallstones stay in place and not give her any more trouble. And may she know joy in the visits you all make to her place.

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  2. Such a wonderful and sweet post. Praying for you and your family. Hugs and prayers.

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    1. Thanks for those hugs and prayers, Laura. That has been one of the most amazing things about this journey with Mom - how people praying for her can make such a difference. And I feel those cyber hugs.

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  3. Oh, Ann, life can be so hard and cruel. My mom has passed now and as hard as the several years were before her passing, I thank God that she always knew me. She knew I was with her :)

    God bless you as you walk this path. There is nothing easy about it.

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    1. The dementia is the hardest thing to deal with, Loretta. You can help someone with declining physical health and they can realize why they're declining. But with Mom, every time she goes to get up from and chair and can't due to losing strength in her legs, she's surprised. The hard thing is that thousands of others besides Mom are suffering from this too. You're right that it is not an easy illness.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your heart, Ann. I pray for peaceful days for both of you. We visited my husband's sweet grandmother at the beginning of her journey through dementia. She made us a wonderful lunch. We left the house to go for a walk, returning after a little over an hour. She had lunch prepared. So we ate again. It was very sad to see her like that. She lived a few more years and declined until she didn't know anyone. My heart goes out to you. It's a difficult journey.

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    1. Thank you so much, Betty. Peace is what I often need since I can't change Mom's dementia. I think what can be hard for family caretakers is remembering how independent and capable and understanding their loved one used to be. Just like your husband's grandmother. You keep thinking how could she not remember, but it's like a constant erasing of what's happening. For a while Mom remembered the old times, but now that's gone too. What she does think she remembers is often a delusion.

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  5. Hi Ann,
    I love how you share your feeling with us. I found another one of your old treasures... "Discovery at Coyote Point". I LOVED it and couldn't put it down. Absolutely loved the simple life of Ance's grandparents. Loved how you added suspense to this story also.

    I saw where you dedicated this story to your father...how special and wonderful. I know he is so proud of you.

    Blessings to you Ann,
    Cathy

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    1. What fun that you found my old Coyote Point story. That was one of my favorite young people stories. I got a lot of great response from that story from kids although some of them wanted me to rewrite the ending. I guess that might have been a life lesson for them.

      I always appreciate your comments, Cathy.

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    2. I can sure see why Coyote Point was a favorite of yours and many young people. I sure did enjoy it. I have read "The Gifting", "Bridge of Courage" and "For Sheila" also. All of them great. That's all our library system has, so now I just can't wait for your new book... "Small Town Girl".
      Blessings to you Ann,
      Cathy

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  6. Hi Ann, Tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I read your post today. You & your family are in my prayers. Each time I visit my precious 85-year old mom I try to cherish each moment. I do see changes and it hurts. After she is gone I want to remember her spunky attitude, the fact that everything she wears has to have bling & the way she has become a clothes-hog-to make up for the feed sack dresses she had to wear as a child. She is too much! Have a blessed week and may God continue to enfold you in His tender, loving care! Linda

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    1. Thanks so much for your prayers, Linda. It humbles me to know my friends here take the time to pray for me and Mom. Keep treasuring your mom and her spunk. It may stand her in good stead in the years to come. A little bling is good as you get older. :)

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  7. Ann , your accounts with your mom parellels to me and my dad so much, it is helpful to me,I pray for your mom while asking prayers for my dad. His alzheimers is getting so bad, he "roams" the nursing home 15-18 hours in a 24 hour period, every day,his legs are so swollen and hurting, but there is no way to make him understand he needs to rest his legs.This weekend I showed him old pictures of, him, his brother and his mom and dad. The only person he knew was his mom.He still enjoys my grandbaby(Tanner, 2 years old) being there, Tanner calls him Pa and dad will say"He called me Pa" with a big smile, So we do the best we can, wondering every visit , what that day will bring, will he pretty much ignore me or will it be a day that he gets upset when I have to leave? I tell him he's always been a good daddy and it brings tears to his eyes, so I know there is still a little bit of Daddy still there.Thank you so much Ann, you will never know how much your writings help me. Lisa Bragg, Glasgow,KY

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    1. Hi Ann,
      I'm praying for you, your mom, and your family.

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    2. Alzheimer's does make sufferers roam. I had an uncle who suffered from it and he walked for miles before he had to go to a nursing home. It was so sad since he was such a independent and intelligent person. It's so great that you take your grandbaby to visit your dad. If Mom so much as sees a baby or toddler on t.v. she's all smiles for a minute. The people in the nursing homes do so much need to see children, but often people don't bring children in. Our parents are still there. It's just the disease that's stealing them from us. So many people are suffering from some kind of dementia and their families are suffering with them. Thanks for telling me about your dad.

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    3. Thanks so much, Emma. That means a lot to me.

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Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.