Mom lives entirely in the moment—a three second window where everything is “just delightful.” It’s quite peaceful though arguably too boring for her. She is, at heart, an active person who enjoys being of use to those around her. As for me, I not only like being with her but increasingly crave it—an oasis of calm in a contentious world. Someone recently asked me, “Why do you go there when she won’t remember?” It’s because I go there as much for me as much as for her—even though I know that three seconds after I leave she will have no memory of my visit.
But I have to make sure that I meet her in her world—not ask her to come to mine. I made that mistake once.
Once, with everything at work not going at all well, I called Mom. To be honest, I wanted my Mommy—someone who would understand and tell me that everything would be all right. But all she was hearing was the hurt in my voice and I could feel her pulling away. Worse, she was getting upset. I stopped and switched roles. I became the Mommy, telling her everything would be all right. I cried that night. It’s actually delightful to be able to take care of her. It’s just that sometimes you just want your Mommy.
People have been kind enough to write with their stories about family members with A/D. One in particular speaks to this issue. “I learned with [my mother-in-law] that conversations with Alzheimer’s sufferers can be almost relaxing, once you quit trying to make it conform to our reality. And in her case I found that the ‘animal’ instincts became stronger, she often sensed my mood even if she couldn’t interpret it. Ever since then I’ve had my ‘nursing home face’ for visiting…and make sure it’s real.”
Now I follow Mom’s lead and think and speak only happy thoughts. When I need to explain something, I’ll make a story of it—brief, funny and happy—or explain it with a song that we can sing together. We’re both the better for it.
Another comment – “A long time ago, I read a story where a gal likened her
mother’s Alzheimer’s to our frequently obscured Mt. Rainier—‘the beauty and glory are still there, just shrouded at that moment.’ The image made me smile.”