Friday, December 21, 2012


I keep procrastinating. I know she is not going to like it. I know it will make her angry. I know it will make her sad.

I have to get the ring cut off her finger. The ring has scarred her flesh. It is way too tight. This is the same ring she lost two years ago, when her fingers had become so thin from not eating.  Now her body is swollen and her fingers are too.

Two months ago I managed to massage the other ring off her hand with a lot of hand-cream and tugging. I told her I was taking it, I told her I would keep it safe. I told her it was cutting into her skin. I told the aides, I wrote it in her guest book. However the next time I saw her she was crying and saying "lost... Grammy's... lost..."  Trying to communicate to me that she had lost her mother's ring. Once again I tried to reassure her that I had it and it was safe. But it didn't matter what I said, when she looked at her hand, it was not there.

Over and over, day after day, she will look at her hand and see that her ring is missing. It will make her very sad.

This ring won't budge, It has to be cut off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


When I got to Mom's, she was still in bed. I could not rouse her. She grunted a "no" when I asked her to wake up and visit with me. She yelled a "no" when I asked her to get up and eat breakfast. She didn't respond when I asked her to wake up to look at the Christmas cards and gifts that she had received. The aide said Mom had grunted "five more" each time she asked Mom to get up that morning.  We all like to sleep in "five more."

I have to remember to "be with her where she is." 
I climbed onto Mom's bed and spooned her, stroking her hair and shoulder.   We are not a pair of tea-spoons, that's for sure, more like two casserole spoons, I giggle to myself! I look down at the cat curled by Mom's knees, I see the bed post.  It is the bed that I had as a child.  How many times did Mom crawl into this bed and spoon me when I was little?  How many times did she cuddle me, when I was sick with the chicken pox, the flu, or a broken heart?

The aides came in again and finally got Mom up and into the bathroom, where they helped her to wash-up and dress.

We "walkered" into the dining room and had a little breakfast. She must be prompted to eat, she seems to have lost her drive/motivation/initiative to eat.  I guide her through her breakfast, handing her the glass, the toast, then fork, then glass... over and over. 

We look at the new Christmas cards after breakfast. She can't open the envelopes, she can hardly open up the cards. Some names bring a smile, some bring blank stares.  

People:  please sign your cards and letters with more than your first name!  Mom knows a lot of "Barbara's".  I certainly don't recognize your handwriting, and I know she doesn't.  Some dear-old-friends are gracious enough to write a sentence or two, to prompt an old Christmas memory and connection.  "I was just remembering all the fun times we had decorating our second grade classroom for the holidays."  "What sticky-fun we use to have making wreathes for the church fair."  These small sentences really bring a smile to Mom's face.  And they help me decode which "Barbara" you might be, so that I can help Mom recall happy holiday memories.  But, thank you, thank you, for all the cards and letters. They bring me joy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

one word

If I could describe Mom's journey through dementia in one word, it would be anger.

There is a new person at our Alzheimer's caregivers support group. She is a caretaker wife. Her husband is a large and intelligent person. He is someone who was always responsible, in-charge, providing leadership, and direction. Now he is angry.  People are telling him that he can no longer do things he once did, that the things he is saying or doing is "wrong". He is arguing back. He is yelling and angry. She is scared. I am worried for his wife.

He, like my Mother, will not believe the chaos that dementia is causing. They will both keep fighting. They both know they are right.

Dammmmmdementia I hate you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

sing with me

My brother, EJ, came to visit. After a delay caused by hurricane Sandy, he finally got his trip rescheduled and came east.  It was really good to see him.

On our first visit, we got to Mom's after lunchtime. She however was still at the table, now eating alone, as her neighbors had finished lunch and walkered away.

(Did I just make up a new word?
"They walkered away." You know what I mean.)

Mom was slowly finishing her meal. The aide would come over periodically to keep Mom on task, stabbing food and handing her the fork.  Mom looked at the fork of food being presented to her, looked at the aide, and then looked at my brother. She began to cry, big sobs and big tears. I've never seen her cry like this. I think, Mom was deeply mortified that she was being fed like a toddler in front of her son. The aide, was quick to understand what was going on. She got cheek to cheek with Mom and whispered comforting words to her: it was alright, we all need help some times, your son understands.

Having a conversation with Mom is difficult. She gives no meaningful or appropriate responses to our questions or comments. Maybe twice in three days, she looked at EJ and gave a genuine acknowledging smile. Mostly her face is just a curious or blank expression. I interpret her expressions as: what are you people doing here, why are you talking to me, I have no idea what you're talking about, or I don't know how to respond to what you are saying.

This week is Mom and EJ's birthday.  EJ asks Mom "It's my birthday this week, can you sing the happy birthday song to me?"  We both start singing. Mom just looks at us with questioning crooked eyebrows.  She doesn't sing a word, she's not even lip-singing or humming along.

Later, EJ tried to get her to sing, one of the favorite songs that she would teach her students, but again, she just looked at him with that questioning expression. We're singing, but she's not.

He stopped again to see her on his way to the airport.  He was unsure whether he could fit in another visit with her. Then he told me, "Yes, I'm going to see Mom this morning, it could be the last time."