Momma has mid-stage Alzheimer’s and that makes my heart hurt. My pain comes more frequently than this time last year, and it is certainly more frequent than five years ago.
Five years ago, Momma made the wonderfully wise decision to move to Agape Senior Assisted Living. At that time, she was working as a sales person and she still drove everywhere she wanted to go. Life has changed in these past five years. She no longer works and her car was sold shortly after she called from the other side of town confused as to how to get home.
Today, Momma is happy. She loves where she lives, and she loves the people who also live at Agape. She loves the care she receives and she is very proud of her wonderfully neat apartment. She is happy, content, and smiling.
She is also forgetting more and more each day.
I am a Certified Dementia Specialist. I wrote a best selling book on dementia. I understand more about dementia than the average person, yet Momma has a way of making my heart stop. It happened just a few days ago.
I visit Momma every morning to take her freshly made fruit and vegetable juice for her breakfast. I help her choose an outfit that keeps her looking young and vibrant, and we add accessories for that extra bling factor many senior citizens lack. Upon arriving one day, Momma said, “Is that a new jacket you are wearing? It is really pretty!” I explained, “Momma, Mrs. T made this jacket for me. I just love it.” Then I left her bedroom and went to the kitchen to acquire the morning juice.
Upon entering the bedroom with the juice, Momma said, “Is that a new jacket you are wearing?” My heart hit the floor. It had only been a minute, maybe two, since she asked that question. Yes, I understand WHY she repeated herself. Yes, I know how to properly respond. Most of the time I can even justify possible reasons she might be confused. This time, however, I just hurt.
The Momma I love so dearly had slipped a little further from the vibrant Momma I have always known. She gets confused more easily, she gets agitated more easily, and she certainly forgets more frequently. But here is the good part. She is still happy. As I mentioned, she gets agitated, but it is short-lived and not frequent. She seldom gets upset with her children, though. She loves on my sisters and me every time we enter her world, and she makes us feel like the most special people she knows.
My job is to offer that some emotion back to Momma. She IS the most special person I know. I just need to help her remember that each and every day. If that means answering the same question repeatedly, then so be it. “Yes, Momma, this is a new jacket. Feel how soft the fabric is.” And so our day continued. Life is hard sometimes, but life is still good!
Carol Howell is a Certified Dementia Specialist and Endorsed Life Coach with an emphasis on Creative Music Experiences. After her husband’s closed-head injury in 1996 and her mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2006, Carol began her study of the brain and the various forms of dementia that exist. Through her not-for profit company, Senior Life Journeys, she is actively involved in the lives of individuals who are caregiving for a loved-one with dementia as she helps them develop caregiving techniques. Carol’s latest book, Let’s Talk Dementia-A Caregiver’s Guide, is an Amazon #1 Best Seller, and it is an easy to read guide for caregivers of individuals with dementia. She also wrote the best seller If My Body Is A Temple, Why Am I Eating Doughnuts? It tells of the amazing miracle that caused her to lose 100 pounds. You can follow her blog—Something to Ponder—at www.seniorlifejourneys.com.