About not having done a post in entirely too long (I am sorry about that) and remembering a time when I was so embarrassed about my mother and her Alzheimer’s. I think to some extent we all have moments of being embarrassed by/about our parents – especially during the teen years – but when they become ill that takes on a new form. Why was I embarassed? My mother was sick, she had a disease that there still is no cure for, it wasn’t her fault, she wasn’t the only one with Alzheimer’s in the world, she was old…and there were too many times I was ashamed (yes I said it) and embarassed to be seen in public with her.
Well, for one, when out in public with her I was always freaking out that she might wander off but more so I was ashamed of how she looked and acted and by the stares from others. If I could reach back in time and smack some sense into myself I would. Mom went from being a woman who had a regular you could set your watch to it appointment at the hair salon to looking as if she didn’t know what a brush was. She went from keeping herself and the house clean to both being a total mess. And of course she went from knowing how to have a conversation with people to heaven only knows what would come out of her mouth!
And I was ashamed to be seen with her. I was embarrassed that she was sick with a disease that at the time I had no idea what the hell was going on and like too many ill informed people considered it a mental illness of the type where “we don’t talk about that family member” type. When I did go out with my parents (by this time mom and dad were pretty much glued at the hip) I would walk some steps behind or in front of them because I didn’t want to be associated with this old sick couple. I didn’t mind if people thought I was with dad – he still had both legs and the diabetes hadn’t taken over yet – he looked and acted “normal” but mom? Ugh!
Her hair was often not brushed, she wore clothing that was too big for her sometimes and often you could read their breakfast menu by the stains on her shirt which often was on it’s 3rd day of wearing. I was ashamed, embarrassed and hurt. I know about the hurt now because, well, you know how hindsight is. I was hurting because my mother was sick, I didn’t know what was going on, I felt powerless and I needed to have my mom be my mom! I wanted to have a mom like everyone else I knew – not sick. As the dementia progressed and she began to become violent sometimes when we would try to go out with her or have people come in to help, I gave up trying to go out with them unless I really had to. It was just as well because it was shortly after that that they both became too ill and had to go into homes.
If you are a caregiver who is dealing with a loved one who has dementia or any other disease you will feel moments of shame and embarrassment. You can count on it happening! Why? Because we are humans and we have our shortcomings and because when we have someone we love who is sick our emotions will and can run the full spectrum of emotions. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn how to deal with it as best you can. First and foremost learn about your loved ones illness so that not only you will understand what’s going on but also so that if the need arises you can inform others that your loved one has such and such disease. It’s entirely up to you if you wish to do that last part.
They are sick and need your help and trust me, inside they are fighting the twin monsters of shame and embarrassment too! I wish during those times with my mom I had shown her more kindness or at least tried to. It took me a long time before I learned to go where she was and find some joy in the midst of all that ugliness that was her Alzheimer’s. I wish I could’ve said “My mother has Alzheimer’s” when met with quizzical stares with my head up and now down. It took me a long time before I reached that point.
This week their annual grave blanket with candy canes (mom’s fave candy next to chocolate) was placed on their grave. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad.