Monday, June 27, 2011


On Saturday I brought Mom to a cousin's cookout. It was fun, a great time to reconnect with relatives who are now scattered about the country. When I was growing up, these cousins were the "little kids" as they are four to ten years younger than me. Now their children are the young adults, going off to college and traveling around the world. Time really does fly.

My parents and their parents are good friends. They did lots of things together as a foursome: fairs and festivals, cookouts and campfires. My folks even helped them build their log house, their retirement home, on the pond. "Do you remember building the log cabin?" Mom asked everybody, over and over.

After both women became widowed they still did things together, even traveling to Europe. Cousin P_ understands what is going on with Mom. Her own mother had Alzheimer's disease. She understands Mom's limitations and absurd conversations. Cousin P_ is still warm, fun, and loving toward Mom.

At the cookout Mom did not want me to sit with her. I was afraid that she might become lost because she was someplace "new", there were a lot of unfamiliar people about, and it was quite loud at times. She kept trying to shoosh me away, so she could talk to people without me around. "These are my relatives, not yours." she repeats.

I am again stung by the "thoughtless" things she says. I know she is "taking claim" to these people, they are hers, they are her friends, they are important to her. She is collecting what she knows. Gathering her possessions to her bosom. Just like when she says, over and over: "this is my church", "this is my cat", "this is my friend".

She doesn't remember: if these people are her relatives, I would be related because I am her daughter.

"It was nice to see all the cousins today." I say as we walk to the car.
"These are my relatives, not yours." she repeats.
"They are my cousins too." I say quietly.
She gives me a sideways disdainful glance, "No they're not."

The truth is, these people are my Dad's cousins, not Mom's. I am the one related to them, not her. But, today they are hers, I'm just the driver.

Friday, June 24, 2011

the hamper

Mom doesn't know how a hamper works. It seem so bizarre but it's true.

I know, there are many, many Alzheimer's caregivers, some who read this blog, who are going through much worse; such as helping a parent who doesn't remember how to use a toilet.

You put the dirty clothes in the hamper, the nice girl takes it away, and brings back clean clothes. No, I guess that's not true, in my Mom's mind.

Mom and I were talking about going to a cousin's cookout this weekend.
"I can't go, I have no clothes to wear."
"I thought you wanted to wear your new black pants and your black and white blazer." She had already set the blazer aside with her black purse and shoes.
"Those pants are too long."
Oh no, not the too long pants again...
"I can hem them for you, please try them on so I can see how much to take up." She holds them up to her hips, bends over and looks down to see them touching the rug.
"They are too long, look at them!"
"Ok Mom, I'll hem them for you, before the party. While we're here, why don't you put on a clean jersey, this one is spotted." It has lunch dribbled down the front. I reach into the closet and grab another jersey, this too has a dirty front. The third one looks ok.
"That one is dirty!" she yells.
I turn it around and examine it well, "It looks clean to me."
She takes it and starts to dress. "Don't put those in the hamper!" she is frantic.
"They are dirty, Mom."
"Don't put them in the hamper!" she is stamping her feet and yelling. All of a sudden she is on fire because I want to put dirty clothes in the hamper. She's yelling that they won't wash her clothes, they don't wash her clothes, they steal her clothes, you have to put them on the floor, that you can't put clothes in the hamper, you have to hang dirty jerseys in the closet... this is so bizarre. She is yelling and screaming at me like I don't know anything about laundry, like I'm an idiot. Oh my gosh, may-day, may-day, divert, divert - get me out of this "conversation".

"Mom, let's go to the kitchen and have a glass of oj."
"Ok" she looks at her chest "This shirt is dirty."

use the good dishes

Did you ever hear that adage, that you should use the good dishes?

I was reminded of that yesterday when I visited Mom. Here at her assisted living residence, where people are living the final chapters of their lives, they are "using the good dishes", literally and figuratively.

Everybody there knows my Mom. Everybody knows her business. As a shy and reserved person, sometimes I am taken aback by all this "in your face" intimacy. However, as I have said before, it's like I have acquired a dozen sisters and brothers who are taking care of Mom. They are there for her, they know her needs, they are responsive to her, and they accept her as she is. Which is sometimes hard for those of us who knew her from "before".

Yesterday I saw the chef having a game of chess with one of the residents. He was feeding the soul as well as the body.

One staff member helped Mom tell me all about the outing they had the other day. Not by talking to me over Mom's head. But by talking and reminiscing with Mom about all the fun they had had together on that outing.

When the local bridge club meets at the assisted living residence, they are served coffee and cookies on the good dishes, the pretty cups and saucers on a big flowery tray. Not paper cups and cookies in a plastic sleeve.

Every day is a special day, use the good dishes - what are you saving them for?

Friday, June 10, 2011


Hate - such a powerful emotion.

I don't hate too many things, actually I can't say that I really hate anything. Well... anything except dementia, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, war, greed, and hate. Ok, so I've got a list.

It's just that I've noticed the word hate is used frequently in the blogs of other Alzheimer's caregivers. We hate Alzheimer's disease. We hate what it has done to our loved one, our family, and ourselves. We hate it and we say we hate it. We scream and cry it out loud. We scream it quietly into our sleeve at the grocery store and muffled into our pillows at night.

Is hate the most powerful emotion?
No, I think love is the most powerful emotion.
Hate is second on my list.
The love will see us through this.