Posted by: suekenney | December 6, 2011

Just Another (Almost) Four-Letter Word

I’ve lost my mother.

No, she hasn’t died.  She’s still very much alive.  And I know right where she is, to within a hundred yards or so.  Being confined to a wheelchair, and her body increasingly frail, she doesn’t get out much except for doctors’ appointments.  She’s still in the nursing home we had to put her in almost two years ago.

No, I’ve lost my mother mentally.  She has this condition called Alzheimer’s.   Ever hear of it?  And if you object to the word on the grounds that Alzheimer’s can’t be diagnosed with 100% accuracy until the patient is dead, then we’ll just call it senile dementia.  Whatever you call it – her mind is slipping away.

We’ve been watching it for several years now – bouts of forgetfulness, a few delusions, losing track of the day or date, some enhanced agitation, and a few other symptoms.  But it keeps getting worse.

I called her this past Thanksgiving morning, shortly before my husband and I were to head out the door for his mom’s house.  I didn’t pick a very good time, I guess – woke my mom up from a doze, so she was groggy and grumpy.  And I’m sure that affected the “conversation” that followed, but I still found it very unsettling.

After a few seconds of mumbling at me, Mom suddenly started describing a flower arrangement on the window ledge of her room, noting that there was one part of it (I never did get all the details of the arrangement straight in my own mind) that was very unusual.  I said something about wishing her a happy Thanksgiving – and she described the flower arrangement again.  I asked her who had sent her the arrangement – and she described the flower arrangement again.  I said something else – and she described the flower arrangement again.

Her brain was stuck in a loop with this flower arrangement.  I managed to end the conversation (if you could really call it such), and then I completely lost my composure.  This was my mom – a former librarian and bibliophile who can’t read books any more because she can’t remember what she read two pages ago – an octogenarian who told one of her daughters-in-law, on this same Thanksgiving, that she was about twenty years old – the lady who introduced me to many of our family histories, but now can’t remember that her dad, my grandfather, died back in 1976, and talks about him as if he were still alive.

I know that many others before me have gone through similar scenarios with relatives smitten with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.  I’m afraid many more will go through this long after my mom is truly, physically gone, since there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s.  The disease can’t be reversed, only slowed; and some of the symptoms can be temporarily eased.

And it’s not even that I’m bearing the brunt of my mother’s deterioration.  I have two younger sisters who live much closer to Mom and have been dealing on an almost-daily basis with this for years.  God bless them.  I see Mom maybe once every few months.  I guess because I do see her at such long intervals, her deterioration looks more severe each time.

I have no proper ending for this.  I wish I had breaking news of a radical new treatment that could cure Alzheimer’s, or reverse the symptoms.  But at the moment, all I know is that I’ve lost my mother, as she fades away into a strange place where her children and grandchildren can’t follow her.

Alzheimer’s.  Almost a four-letter word – just as cruel and ugly and obscene as any four-letter word I know.

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Responses

  1. I know it is hard – We are praying for you! (and we love you lots!)

  2. Thank you for putting this into words so honestly – not only the living death of the person with dementia, but the pain of those who love her/him. May the Lord give you the strength, patience and loving endurance you need.

    • Thanks for reading, Catherine. It’s one of those situations that, as a younger adult, I never thought would happen to me – but here it is, and I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for it. Still trying to get over a lot of the denial, and wanting to just forget about it – and her. Thanks for your prayers and loving thoughts; very much appreciated.


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