Friday, December 7, 2012

A Post In Which I Get Emotional

I don't often do this on social media but today I make an exception.

This past year, I've read a number of infuriating references in books, in movies, and even in cartoons making light of Alzheimer's disease.  No, I'm not naming names but they exist.  Perhaps you've seen them too.  They'll be seemingly innocent references in a book or maybe a movie that go something like: "I think Bob has early-onset.  He's forgetting where he left his car keys again." Ha. Ha.  Cue the laugh track.

As a daughter who recently lost her mother to Alzheimer's, let me describe for you just how funny Alzheimer's can be.

First you'll learn that your mother was unable to find her way back home during one of her daily walks.  She'll say it's only because she's tired or pre-occupied with the stress du jour.  You'll buy the excuse and go on living your own life.

A week, a month, or maybe a year later you'll visit and notice that your mother's house looks untidy--so not like your neatnik mother who always had the perfectly dusted home and thriving houseplants.  You'll notice that she's not keeping her normal beauty parlor appointments and she always seems to be wearing the same clothes.  You'll start to question her about it and she'll get a little defensive.  Tell you that you worry to much.

Next she'll call you by a different name, forget your birthday, forget how old she is.  Forget where she is.  But then she'll blink when she's talking to you and recognition will return to her blue-green eyes and everything will be remembered, go back to normal, if only for a moment, an hour, maybe a day.

Soon you'll have to insist that she can't drive anymore because she tells you that she goes to the grocery store and doesn't remember how to get home.  She'll get mad when you take away her car keys and keep chipping away at her independence.  You don't like when people tell you what to do; neither does she.

Finally you realize that you can't leave your mother alone.  She wanders.  She doesn't sleep at night.  You stay at her house and try to take care of her but she's up at night, often accusing you of being an intruder because she's forgotten who you are.  You stay up with her until her anxiety passes and she remembers you again.

Racked with guilt you realize she needs more help than you can provide.  How did it get the point when you can't take care of your own mother?  Guilt will eat you up.

Along with forgetting her most recent memories first, she'll forget how to feed herself, take care of herself, even walk.  Yes, one day your beautiful mother will be confined to a wheelchair and she will hate every second of it.

The lucky ones usually fall, become bedridden and then die of pneumonia.

The notsolucky ones forget how to eat, swallow, and then ultimately forget how to breathe.  You'll watch your loved one die a very slow and painful death.  You'll be grieving for them long before they pass away.

Isn't that hilarious?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Nothing funny about it at all. And so sorry you had to go through all of that.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Liz, I'm so sorry. You're very brave to share your pain on your blog. Somewhere inside your mom, she always knew who you were. You have to believe that. Mothers know. I'm witnessing the downward spiral of my father-in-law with severe dementia. I wish there was more dignity for him. No one deserves to live out their days like this.
I'm thinking of you.

Karen Walker said...

Oh my God, Liz, I am so so sorry. And you're right. When people make light of something so serious, it is infuriating. I know the holidays must be especially difficult for you. Sending virtual hugs.

LD Masterson said...

Liz, you know I went through this with my beloved mom, too, so I understand your outrage. Why don't people realize jokes and comments like that are hurtful and stupid.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My aunt is going through that - she would get lost and couldn't find her way home. They finally had to put her in a home. I know it's really rough on my cousins.

Charity Bradford said...

I've known several people who suffered through this. It is horrible. One sweet neighbor from my childhood lost his wife of over 50 years this way. We all sat and cried like babies as he told us about her last week when she couldn't eat or swallow and it was just a waiting game.

I also remembered one sweet memory of my papa. My granny and I went to visit and he didn't know us at first, but before we left he remembered my granny. He cried and begged her not to go. The sweet part was when he told her how much he loved her and he worried she would find someone new because she was still so beautiful. Until that day I'd never heard him be affectionate like that.

Tara said...

It's not funny at all, and I'm sorry. I understand where you are coming from and yes, people are heartless with their jokes. I feel similar things when people make deaf, dumb, and blind cracks. I don't find it funny at all. I wince. "You'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind..." Thanks a lot, you know? Anyway, I get it. I do.

Danette said...

It's the worst kind of death and even harder to watch. She was lucky to have you watching over her- so many elderly have no one.

Liz Fichera said...

Thank you for your comments, kind friends.

It's bad enough that people with Alzheimer's lose their independence and dignity but does society have to make light of it too? That's what irks me most.

Trisha said...

It's awful that people make light of things - in truth it's through sheer ignorance because if they'd been through it they wouldn't be kidding around.

So sorry about your experience Liz, I can't even imagine the heartbreak.