From Mary Beth Sammons
Recently, a friend sent me this lovely essay on how she is coping with her mom’s dementia. She invited me to share. I hope it inspires you:
By Ann Mehl
My mom hides her purse behind her pillow at night. Inside her bag is a roll of pencils, a set of steel pliers, a wallet full of change, four hair curlers, safety gloves, a deck of playing cards and three rubber bands. Why is her bag in that specific spot and as heavy as a box of rocks? A child of the Great Depression, I suspect it’s because she was raised to keep your valuables close, and to throw nothing away. But if you were to ask my mom, she could not tell you why she is carrying the contents of a plumber’s toolbox in her pocketbook. She probably wouldn’t even recognize it as her own. My mom suffers from dementia. She’s all mixed up and she knows it.
Since my father passed away over four years ago, I’ve watched my mother slip deeper and deeper into a shadowy fog of memory loss. The most difficult part is watching her observe the changes in herself. "I just don't know what’s happening to me. I used to be so on top of things," she will often lament. Beyond historical events, her cache of recent memories is fleeting. The furniture in our home where she has lived for 35 years is unrecognizable to her. The day of the week, the month, even the year: all are beyond her powers of retention. Facts and details flit away like butterflies.
What is most remarkable – aside from the fact that modern medicine cannot find a cure – is my mom’s resilience in the face of this cruel disease. She tries to laugh. Sometimes she is silly. And even when she doesn’t know where we’re headed, she willingly climbs into the car and comes along for the ride. Rarely does she get upset.
Her situation is certainly not unique. According to the Center for Disease Control, the numbers surrounding dementia are staggering. Worldwide, there are now an estimated 24 million people living with some form of dementia. Sooner or later, we all will deal with parents and loved ones whose health and memories are failing them. As my siblings and I learn to care for my mom, here are some of the lessons I have found to be important.
Through this journey, I’ve learned that is important to get the paperwork in order, accept them where they are and put yourself in her shoes (or slippers)…
I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in part two of Things to Remember When They Forget.
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