Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Hard Choices of Dementia

When I was a little girl I always wanted to look like my mother. I thought she was the prettiest woman ever. And I wanted to be like her too. Strong. Determined. Smart. Patient. Loving. She was ready to do whatever necessary to take care of her family. She loved us, her three daughters. 
Mom grew up during the Great Depression years. She had three sisters, no brothers. She and her sisters were always close. They loved their mother and father. My grandfather was a blacksmith and served in World War I as a cook. He died when I was five. I only have a couple of memories of him. I'm not one of those people who can remember when I was two. I do well to remember when I was twenty. LOL. But Mom always had a great memory of how things were when she was a little girl. Those memories were the inspiration for my first Rosey Corner book, Angel Sister. While the story is completely fiction, I owe the inspiration for the background and the characters to Mom's stories of her childhood years. 

Mom's only a few weeks from being ninety-four. She always said she wanted to live to be a hundred. But she never planned to lose her memory to dementia. We never thought she would lose her memory to anything. We thought we'd have our mom with us as our mom until she moved up to heaven. It hasn't happened that way. When she reached her late eighties signs began to show up that all was not right. She began to think things had happened that had not happened. Always things that made her unhappy. Still, she managed for a few more years with us dropping by to help with the little things. Then she fell and although nothing was broken, it was a traumatic experience because she was unable to get up and lay there for we don't know how long before my sister stopped by. 

We didn't think she would pull through that. She got better, but her mind continually got worse. We started staying with her around the clock after that fall although at first we could make quick trips to the store or wherever. Then her mind got even worse. We couldn't leave her alone. She started wanting to "go home." Home was not this house where she'd lived for over twenty-five years. Home was most often her childhood home. Her parents hadn't told her she could stay so long and they were going to be upset. At times she also thought about her home with my father who has been gone for almost thirty years. She had to fix supper for him and the "children." Nobody was watching the "children." She had things to do and she really needed to go home. And because she has always been a determined "I can do it" type person, she would get up and try to go out the door. If nobody would take her home, she'd just walk. After all, the "home" she was seeking was just over the hill. 

And so, the lies began. At first it was difficult for me and my sister to lie to our mother, but it is cruel to tell a dementia sufferer that their loved ones are dead. It doesn't stay in their brain and is a fresh pain every time. Besides, Mom would sometimes look at you as though you were the one without good sense since she'd just seen her mother or father or husband that very morning. So a lot of time her mother and father were "out of town" perhaps visiting "out of state relatives." Nevermind, that they had no out of state relatives. Dad was doing various farm jobs. Perhaps in the hay in the summer or stripping tobacco in the winter or feeding the cows. Whatever came to mind. And "tomorrow" became the promise that never happened. Tomorrow we'd see about going home. Tomorrow we'd talk about it. Tomorrow we'd do whatever we had to do. And that is what happened. We did whatever we had to do.

And now tomorrow we're going to do what we have to do again. We're moving Mom into an Alzheimers' Home. It's a beautiful place with a caring staff. It's our way of trying to give her some more time out of the nursing home since her funds are getting low and we may need to sell the house to keep financing her care. We are naturally concerned. So much can happen. We want Mom to be happy. She's not happy here most of the time. She may not be happy there. She may not be happy anywhere until she moves on "home" to be with her mother and father and sisters. It's a difficult choice. It may not work for her. Then I don't know what we'll do. 

If there's ever a time when a person has to take it one day at a time, then dealing with dementia is that time. Sometimes it's one hour at a time. I know many of you are dealing with the same illness, and it is an illness, a cancer of sorts of the mind. So may we all take it one prayer at a time. 


24 comments:

  1. Oh, Ann. I'm sure this has been a hard decision for you and your sisters to make. Praying for peace, comfort, and an easy transition for you and your mom.

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    1. Thanks for your prayers, Brooke. We are hoping she will be happier in the new setting. She's always looking for the "others." There she will have others.

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  2. My goodness, your trials are indeed difficult. I'll be asking God to guide you step by step, and to reach into your mother's heart and give her peace. :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers, Nancy. Prayers have made a difference for Mom and for us. Peace would be a gift for Mom right now.

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  3. My grandmother is in her 90s and has similar issues. She doesn't remember us and keeps looking for my dad (her only son that passed away 2+ years ago). Its hard and you're right, lying (or what I call playing along) becomes an act of kindness. God bless you and you're family and be with you during this most difficult time. *hug*

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    1. I guess it is better to say we're "playing along." That's what we're doing. Trying to ease her agitation and mind. Thank you Juju for your prayers and for the hug. Both are very much appreciated.

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  4. Soooo hard! Sounds a lot like my Gramma. I understand the "lies". Every day hearing truth is fresh pain, fresh grief. She thinks Grampa it's in the war....we keep assuring her he's fine.

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    1. That must be tough for your Gramma, Jaime, to have to go through the worry again of your grampa being in the war. May she move on to a more peaceful memory. That's what I always want for Mom. Peace.

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  5. Soooo hard! Sounds a lot like my Gramma. I understand the "lies". Every day hearing truth is fresh pain, fresh grief. She thinks Grampa it's in the war....we keep assuring her he's fine.

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  6. May God richly bless you and your sisters, as you care for your mom. Praying for you as you make your decision, & for it to give her, plus the three of you PEACE, that can only come from God.

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    1. Thank you so much, Anonymous. Peace is a gift. And prayers have been a powerful ally in our caring for Mom. And so we will continue to pray and to thank others for their prayers too.

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  7. It's hard. Everything about it. My goodness, that was going down memory lane for me. I'll be thinking of you all day and this week. Even though you hate it, try not to feel guilty. You have to consider your health and stamina, also. You aren't much good to anyone when YOU are so depleted. I send you a hug of comfort. You will get through this.

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    1. Not a good memory lane to walk down, Loretta. I do appreciate the hug you sent my way and the prayers and thoughts for us this week. It wasn't really us so much we were thinking of although both my sister and I are tired. We were even more concerned and hoping that she could get settled here and be happier than at home since she doesn't know she's home there either.

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  8. Ann, praying for you and your sisters as well as for your mom. I understand from your mom's point of view. I'm 70 and starting to have those scary signs. I still am able to live alone, but have moved close to my daughters so they can help me. I'm also trying to write my first novel and struggling at times to find the right word. (I know we all struggle wtih that, but...) God bless you. Pat

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    1. Dear Patricia, perhaps your problems stem from something completely different. You should talk about those scary signs with your doctor since sometimes certain medications or lack of vitamins or minerals can cause some cognitive problems. May the writing of your novel encourage and strengthen you and may that right word come when you are searching for it. So glad you have daughters to help you.

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  9. Thinking of you, Ann, during this period of transition and concern. There's nothing 'fair' about dementia and often living longer doesn't equal happiness. Your Mom is blessed to have a family who love and care for her as you do. May there still be moments of joy in her days and yours despite the challenges.
    Jennifer in NS

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers, Jennifer. I do hope she will still have moments of joy. I visited today and it was very sad because she was sad. She did get better after I was there a while, but now I have to think about her perhaps being sad and worried again now. All the people there have dementia problems but most look content to be there. I hope Mom will settle in like they have, but I wanted to go get her coat and take her home today. So very hard!

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  10. Such a touching post, Ann! I can relate to the pain of caring for, and providing housing for for, elderly family members.

    I'm praying for a peaceful and content adjustment and lifestyle for your Mom at the Alzheimers Home and thereby, more peace, contentment, and rest for you and your sisters. You're so right when you say that this is a situation you have to take by the day, hour, or prayer!! There are so many decisions that have to be made during the care of ill elderly family members. They often don't agree, with those in charge of their care, on what is best for them - dementia, or not - making difficult situations even more so. Even substantial finances dwindle quickly when the time comes that a family member requires permanent care, and I can SO identify with the decisions you are needing to make in that area, also. We are so blessed in having more time with family members who have longevity, but it often means more care decisions to be made, also.

    I'm praying also that you continue to receive spiritual strength and insight re: continuing decisions you will need to make, and always feels God's loving arms around you!!

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers, Bonnie. I so appreciate your kind words and thoughts. Caretaking is a difficult part of life and dementia is a difficult malady for sufferer and family. I do feel all your prayers wrapping around me and do pray for the Lord's loving arms to be around Mom and give her peace.

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  11. You and your sisters are wonderful children who are doing the best you can. I have said a prayer and will add y'all to my prayer list. When you get a chance, give your Mother a hug from Texas. And know that you are all well loved children of God.

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    1. We have tried to do our best, Annette. We do so want Mom to have a peaceful heart, but dementia makes that difficult for her. Thank you so much for the prayers and for the Texas hug. That's so kind.

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  12. I am so very sorry my dear friend. I know you have had a hard journey watching your beloved mother going through this period of her life. It is hard to even imagine how hard it is, tho I have been around those in her condition. You know if they had a choice they wouldn't want you to have to go through this time, but we aren't in control of times to go to the LORD. Tho we do sometimes wonder why? I am glad my mom left before this happened to her. I know that sounds heartless but two things that she worried about were going to a Nursing Home and getting Dementia or Alyzheimers. So I prayed it wouldn't happen. He called her home before it did. I guess it was from seeing her Aunt in a Nursing home with this for years and years. I remember it was a very long time since she had remembered anyone. And she had other friends in Nursing Homes. I pray for you and your sisters and the rest of your families for strength to get through this. And, I pray for GOD to give her HIS mercy and help her have peace. ((hugs)) and much love. And, continued prayers. Maxie

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    1. Maxie, I appreciate your prayers for Mom and for us, her children. I certainly understand your mother's fears and so perhaps she was blessed to move on up to heaven without having those fears happen. This home is a peaceful and caring place and I'm hoping in time Mom will feel that peace and caring. But right now she's not happy. It was difficult seeing her so upset. I am praying peace for her and appreciate your prayers and hugs too.

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  13. Ann, I pray that your mother has a peaceful transition and is content, comfortable, and happy in her new home. I pray that fear that sometimes comes with confusion, does not enter her mind. I pray that a calmness finds her and stays with her. And I pray for you, that the time you have with your mother is a loving and fulfilling time for a daughter that still remembers and a mother who does not.

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