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.
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.