As I’ve contemplated writing this — for a few weeks now, it’s been very difficult to watch the “declinings” that are now a part of Mom’s everyday life.
The month of May brought changes — Eating a simple meal now takes 60 minutes or so…. not because she’s savoring each bite, but because she’s forgetting what she’s supposed to do with that stuff that’s on the thing in her lap (she prefers to eat in her favorite chair). She’s become a little more compulsive with some other things and those tend to overwhelm and take over at the oddest of moments. Getting her handful of pills to her mouth is sometime lost and there’s that look of what’s the next step? But it is what it is. We give directions leaving her dignity in tact.
One thing I have decided to shift in my own thinking as a caregiver during this process. Imagine. We’re on a staircase and with each step, we can choose to go up or down. Despite the fact that Mom’s capacities are declining, that doesn’t mean we can’t take another step up and support her; encouraging, adapting and honoring all that is still there.
The other day, I read a short book to her. A book about Mothers. We read slowly, reliving memories from days long gone. Laughter, smiles and the “light” was back on, albeit too briefly… she’s still there — just on a different step than I was in that moment, but reaching out a hand to hold on as we move forward in this journey called Alzheimer’s understanding that she’s our guide. We’re all learning from her.
Turning 85 is worthy of a family gathering and celebration!
Thank you Kristie Moss Photography for spending the day with us and catching some very memorable and cherished moments on this very special day. Feeling very blessed to see the smiles and joy on Mom’s face as she was greeted by those who love her the most.
Recently, we celebrated the birth of our 10th grandchild into the family. We waited with great anticipation to meet him for the first time — what happened during that first visit was what I would call an awakening.
What is it about babies that make such a difference? Mom held, rocked, cooed with and loved on H for over an hour. She held him after his feeding and rocked him back to sleep. Earlier, I watched as Mom counted his fingers and toes and rubbed his head to feel the peach fuzz he has for hair. She held him as if she was a brand new mother — close and cuddled. She was very disappointed when it came time for H to go home. She didn’t want him to leave — and she let us all know with a few words about that.
During our bedtime routine a little later that evening — as Mom was finishing things up, we reviewed the day. In most instances, any review would bring a blank stare, but that evening, no. She remembered cuddling with the baby, his name and was pleased as punch at remembering the other 4 great grandchildren who had visited as well that afternoon and evening. The satisfaction and love on her face filled my heart with joy and a question as to what had happened to bring this lucidity to light?
Later that night, we awoke to Mom having a conversation in her bedroom. The “chat” lasted more than an hour. There would be a pause as if she was listening to her invisible friend or friends for that matter and then a flurry of words and laughter as she shared the day’s events. She was sharing her version of spending time with her newest great grandchild and she was looking forward to the promise of his return later that week.
Fast forward to Friday. Dinner held no interest. She wanted to hold the baby. She did and for an extended period of time. While she didn’t vocalize as much this visit, you could see the tenderness and love in every touch and gentle rocking as she held him.
We look forward to our next visit with H and the awakenings it will bring — even if it’s just a brief pause.
A recent conversation with a colleague provided some time for deeper reflections. I’m ever grateful for the space to solidify what I already knew and connect with my heart even more deeply. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me…we treasure the moments — good or bad. We feel blessed when the connection resonates at a heart level and tears fill our eyes, just because we both know the feeling is mutual and treasured.
I know even more deeply that the journey we’re currently on is one that allows us to make deeper connection, honoring the relationship as daughter and mother, and the reversed roles we now hold.
There is dignity and love as we continue to explore and live each moment with grace, love and hold space for each other — the lessons you taught me at a younger age, now become a part of each treasured moment we share and I have the opportunity to shower you with love, patience, joy in the little things you try and accomplish on a daily basis. Even those moments your thoughts turn to days gone by and relish in the memory of something long past that seems so very real in the moment; or re-reading a letter or page in a book over and over as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it.
Thank you, Mom, for reminding me that without a doubt, we’re here for the right reason and each moment matters.
— to acknowledge that you see and are present.
If nothing else, the last 10 months have taught us that hugs, a pat or rub on the back, a kiss on the forehead or cheek, or a gentle touch on the hand connect and ground at a cellular level.
Something we learned early on with Mom, was that when left alone, the confusion and “alone-ness” grew and fear set in. Lesson learned: We never leave the room or enter without acknowledging our presence and hers. “Mom, I need to go to the other room. I’ll be right back…” touching a hand, knee or a shoulder, establishing connection and repeating the same when entering the room and saying, “I’m here, Mom.” and if needed, “What can I do for you? Do you need anything?” Giving space for their voice to be heard as well despite any limitations that day/moment holds for them — the frustrations are there, but, the gentle touch lessens the fear and anxiety in that moment.
Every day brings a few challenges… the adamant “no” in response to a question. The reframe a minute later that gives us a different answer and accomplishment. Gentle touches, hugs, an affirmation that we are in this together … and that our love for each other is boundless.
Our days are never dull. The connections are many and Mom’s face brightens with each connection and frankly, so does mine.
I think that after 10 months of being “home” I can finally say that we are “settled.” It’s been amazing to be back in the west and have the mountains in view every morning as the sun rises. There’s beauty in the sunrise and beauty in the sunset. I love the colors and the mountain as it transitions from season to season.
The leaves are changing color – and every time the wind blows, there’s a flurry of fluttering leaves that fall to the ground in every yard.
Alzheimer’s reminds me of the changing seasons. While Mom’s memory and physical being continue to fade, her smile and gentle spirit hasn’t faded. She enjoys conversation, but rarely joins in as the language that she once had command of becomes less available some days.
There are days, however, where she is outspoken, in command and can throw a few zingers out that are right there with the best of them. She laughs, smiles and even requests to watch certain old shows from days gone by with stars she remembers from long ago…
She gives me oodles of opportunities to serve and honor the mother/daughter relationship that continues to grow every day. We are continuing to find ways to communicate using language based on love and honoring the gifts she presented to us in our youth and we can now shower that same love and the treasured gifts on her in her aging.
Mom is settled — she is happy and thriving as best you can be at 84 and having Alzheimer’s. She no longer asks who sleeps in this room (hers) or is this my bed? She has her good days and thankfully, they are more numerous than the bad days. She enjoys our monthly family gathering time and marvels at how our extended family has grown – expanded beyond the grands into great grands.
Enjoy all the “settled” moments you can.
Nearly a year has passed since my last post here. Life certainly presented lots of challenges and change in 2015. We’re finally settling in our new home in a different state closer to family for a multitude of reasons.
Grateful for nudgings to move forward.
- a husband and daughter willing to pick and up move across the country
- new beginnings
- becoming 24/7/365 caregivers of an aging parent.
- gifts in disguise, both large and small.
- for humor and laughter that continues to resonate and bring smiles to each and every face!
- for contents in boxes that still need to find new homes
- for family near and far who have open hearts
- compassion, support and services rendered
- the more that is always available and there if we look for it
- understanding, flexibility, resilience
Change is difficult — regardless of whether the changes are small or large. We’ve made so many since August, all of them worth it giving us the opportunity to reflect, refresh and renew in 2016.