It’s interesting to see the reaction when I talk about Mom. There is a lot of laughter – lots of surprise that life with Alzheimer’s can be joyful – and sometimes more than a little disapproval that I should be treating this “tragic” disease with humor.
When Mom was beginning to realize that the illness was taking hold, it was tragic – she had cared for her mother during her dementia and was adamant that she would not “become a burden.” In fact, she continually told us that she expected us to throw her off a mountain should she ever “lose her mind.”
As the disease emerged, she became depressed, anxious and more than a little dangerous in the kitchen. Dad, himself dealing with Parkinson’s and the beginning of Alzheimer’s, was in a wheelchair. Mom, seeing only her big, strong husband, had no memory of his inability to walk. She kept telling him, “Hop up, Bob!” with the result that he fell 22 times in the last year of his life.
But it’s often said “it gets better as it gets worse.” As the disease takes hold, fear subsides and something pure emerges. In Mom’s case, it is pure delight. In Dad’s family (Alzheimer’s runs in his family, usually hitting at the age of 80) what emerges runs to anger.
It’s tempting and easy to mirror the emotions of your parent. With Mom, it was more than easy – it was delightful. With Dad, I realize it was a trap – my visits mirrored his unhappiness. If I knew then what I know now, I could have made these visits far more rewarding for both of us. Bit more on that next time.
So as I visit Mom today, I know that I am going to laugh and will bring that that joy to my interactions with all the ladies in Assisted Living. My time with Phyllis, Kathleen, Flora, Jane and Gloria is as much fun as visiting mom. You’d be surprised at how much joy you can find in a Memory Unit.
This Mom’s painting from last week with the model. Enjoy!