Thursday, August 27, 2009


Maybe I should have seen her button-confusion, years ago, for the beginnings of dementia, but I didn't.
Now that I look back, there was always something going wrong with her computer. I just thought it was an old slow computer, but maybe some of it was her.
She has a difficult time with anything that has buttons.
She had a cordless phone, when it rings you have to pick it up and press 'on'. If you want to call out you have to press the numbers then press 'on'. This was too confusing for her. I realized that when I would call her and she would run to the kitchen to answer that phone, "The bedroom phone's not working right." So I replaced her bedroom phone with a corded phone.
She has a electric garage door opener, with a keypad outside, "that thing never works."

She was told by her friends that she should have a cell phone, driving alone in the winter. Yes, I realize it's a nice safety feature, but this is years after she already had one, that she never used, and just paid and paid on it. So some ninny at the phone store sold her a tiny-tiny phone, with lots of bells and whistles. I sat for hours with her, trying to teach her how to use it. Keep it plugged in at all times, when it's not in your purse. "Mom, use it to make all your out-of-state calls, because they're 'free' with this phone." But, here we are again, with buttons for answer, buttons to push after dialing, buttons to end the conversation. We sat at the table together, I'd call her phone, I'd make her call me, back and forth. Next month we'd do it again, practice. If it rings, just open it up. To hang up just shut it. Nope, she could not understand it. I put a list of names in the "contacts". If you want to call me, just go up and down until you find my name - then press the green "go" button. Nope, too confusing. I have tried to cancel this phone contract, but they won't let me, she signed up for two years! Can't you see this woman has never used this phone?! Actually, she cannot even find it now, I believe she put it away someplace "safe". But the bills keep coming. "What is this bill for Mom?" "I don't know."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

truth and lying

I no longer can rely on truth of anything my mother says.

"Yesterday I..." could mean yesterday or last week or last month. "Mary and I..." could mean Mary, Joan, or Rebecca. "You know..." No, Mom I don't know, you have to tell me.
(what's with this blogging software that we can't have tabs??? jeesh where did the paragraph go?)
I also know, as a mother, she is protecting me by not telling me things. She doesn't want me to worry about her, so she doesn't tell me some things. She doesn't tell me about her bouts of diarrhea or of falling down in the bathroom in the middle of the night. "Mom! Where did that huge black and blue come from?"
After a phone conversation with her, the only facts I know are that she is alive in her home and talking to... me?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Garnett Walker

I am listening to "Prodigal Summer" by B. Kingsolver, the audio version of the book. I listen to a lot of audio books while driving or working. Today, on the trip to visit my mother, I listened to chapter nine. It was the first chapter about the character Garnett Walker. First person narrative, Garnett talking about his day, and suddenly it hits me, he has dementia! The world is becoming blurred and confused around him. He wakes up disoriented, and his excuse is because he's widowed and she's not in bed beside him. (But she's not been there for years.) He drives to town and sees the landscape on the side of the road as it use to be... and not attentive to his driving. He gets to town and sees the Saturday Farmers' Market all set up, when he knows it's Friday. He's goes into town on Fridays especially for the fish special at the diner. He is fixated on his neighbor and her business and their neighborly battles. BK has written the wavering perception of an intelligent man, I wonder how his story develops.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I took away her car keys

The car... I took away her keys... It was a horrible day.
After hearing from her friends, nurses, and other folk that she probably should not be driving, I realized that I had to be the one to take the keys away. This is what they call "tough love".
"I've never had an accident." I've heard a thousand times from my mom. "Why are you doing this to me?"

The turning point:
We met one day for lunch. After lunch, I followed her home in my car, her in her car. At one intersection she turned right instead of left. I wondered if she wanted to visit a store down there. (This is in a town where she once lived for 25 years.) As she pulled into a fast-food restaurant to turn around, she yelled out the window, "I really wanted to go the other way but the traffic wouldn't let me." (???)

Continuing towards her house, we got onto a rural stretch of road, two lanes, a numbered state highway, with a speed limit in the 45-50mph range, infrequent houses and shops. She was going 75 mph! I could hardly keep up. Later that day, I'm trying to keep my cool, I asked her if she knew how fast she was going on the state highway. "Oh at least 70."

All that day, and any time we discuss this incident, she has no guilt and no remorse, as if she was doing nothing wrong. This is not the response I would expect from my mother. Not a worry for the other drivers, the bicyclists, or pedestrians we passed. This road is posted and notorious for deer and moose crossings.
Her response is "I didn't have an accident, I got home fine, there was no one near me. What's your problem. I've never had an accident."

We made a deal, her very reluctantly, if she passes the driving evaluation test (that her doctor wanted her to take last winter) she can have her keys back.

I called for the driving evaluation. He was very gracious and kind, all through the time with my mother. She constantly berated him while she took the written part of the test. Do you know what this sign means? "I'd know it if I saw it on the street." "I don't know why I have to take this test, no one else has to take this test, I've never had an accident."

The whole time I'm in the other room, praying that she'll fail. Her reflexes are good, her vision is fine, she can use all her limbs. It's her reasoning, decisions, and memory that are so skewed. He failed her, even though she did well on the driving part of the test. She was so angry, at me and the examiner.

I have all the car keys, but her car is still in her driveway. Now we are trying to sell the car. But, I can't find the registration or title.
"They're in the glove box."
"No Mom, there is nothing in the car, nothing." In a fit, she took everything out of the car, put it in a bag, and put it in a closet, which she forgot she did.

Anyone want to buy a car? Low mileage, driven by woman who has never had an accident.

From Mayo Clinic: When To Stop Driving.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I am the meddlesome daughter.
I talk about her with her doctor.
I listen to her friends, as they worry about her.
I check her refrigerator to see if there is any food there... how many opened jugs of ice-tea, how many wilted heads of broccoli, how old are the eggs, what year is stamped on the cottage cheese.
I open her windows to let in fresh air, she promptly closes them, the house is stale, stuffy, and has a lingering heavily-perfumed-cat-sand smell.
I call to verify her appointments. Why would there be four ophthalmologist visits marked on her calendar for the next two months?

...the beginning...

...with and without her... is a blog about my mother and me.
She has dementia.
I never thought that something like this could "take" my mother away from me. I'm loosing her. She's not the same person she use to be.
Today I went to a dementia care-givers support group meeting. My third time. Does it help? I think so. Just to know that you are not alone, and not the only one going through this. Laughing hysterically at something so sad, because there is no other way to cope with it.