Posts Tagged Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and Dementia

Mother’s Day is just a few days away and while some of you are pondering what to give mom it made me think about A. how I still miss mom and B. what can someone whose mother has dementia/Alzheimer’s do for them for Mother’s Day.  It really all depends on what stage they are in.   In the very early stages you can go about celebrating with mom as you always did; perhaps with a bit more patience if she has gotten foggy in the memory bits.  But this is the time to treasure with her because it will only go downhill from here.  Sorry to say that but we all know this is a disease that while we may keep it at bay for awhile in the end it creeps in and over.

As she progresses you might have to be very careful if you are a family that celebrates by taking mom out.  She may have reached a stage where anxiety about being out in a crowd can be daunting or she may be aware of her “shortcomings” and prefer to celebrate at home instead of being out some place.  I truly believe that those with dementia who are self aware have moments where they know what they are and aren’t capable of and would rather not have to have a moment out in public.  I know my mom was embarrassed about not being able to do something as simple as look up a phone number in her own handwritten phone book so instead of dealing with the frustration she would call me and frustrate me instead to look up the number for her.

If you normally celebrate at home or have to do it there (or in a nursing or assisted living home) then keep things simple.  As time and the disease progress, having too many people around and a lot of stimulation can be a double edge sword.  On one hand it is good to be around those who you love and love you and in some cases it brings the loved one “out” again but over stimulation can also lead to anxiety and potential behavioral issues.  As the disease gets into the later stages your celebrations may be limited to just a few people or just you and mom.  Which leads us into what to give a mom with dementia?

Again, it depends on what stage she is in.  Flowers are always nice as are balloons and cards but don’t be shocked if the woman who once loved these things looks at them with disdain.  Behaviors and likes and dislikes change with the disease.  I will say that candy is always a winner no matter what the stage unless of course they are in the late stages and cannot have candy or they never liked it in the first place.  Up until mom was no longer able to chew and swallow, she loved chocolate!  So I always brought her chocolate and fed it to her in small little bits.  Seeing her smile and chew away happily always made me smile even though I knew she hadn’t a clue about who was feeding her.  I also would buy her the wildest t-shirts I could find when I went traveling.  She had no idea what they said but the staff knew her daughter cared about her and had a weird sense of humor.  Your mom might like a favorite meal or to hear music she’s always loved instead.  Thoughtful creativity may have to come into play.

In mom’s early stages I gave her cards and – surprise – chocolates.  She would smile and thank me and dive right into the chocolate.  Once she was in a nursing home I brought her cards and balloons but they were mainly for me; to show others that she was not left in the home and that she was still cared for.  They made me happy even though she never noticed them.  Of course we know the chocolate was still a winner until…  That last Mother’s Day when she was on hospice I still brought her some balloons to tie to the foot of her bed.  I needed something cheerful in her room at that time and I wished so much I could feed her chocolate one more time.  She died a few weeks after Mother’s Day and I packed away all of the cards we had taped to her wall and put them in a safe place – sigh.

Whatever you do for your mother for this day depends on you and where your mom is with the disease but I can say this with 100% assurance – the best gift for her is for you to be there for her and with her and to show her love.  Even if she doesn’t or can’t respond I firmly believe that in there somewhere she feels it.

 

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Before the darkness came…

Yeah I know that was melodramatic but that is how dementia and Alzheimer’s is, it is a darkness that looms over everyone’s heads.  But I want to talk about the light instead of the dark; tell you a little about mom before she was stolen from us especially since this weekend is Mother’s Day.  Let me first say that mom was by no means a winner for mother of the year.  She did some things that I don’t want to talk about that weren’t always the nicest or best to do.

She could tan our hides with a spanking, made us do all kinds of chores while she sat and relaxed, made me clean the fish that she caught when she used to go fishing with one of my sisters (oh how I hated doing that with a passion!), was overly protective and didn’t allow me to do some after school activities in high school, and got into a major row with me on the day of my first wedding. Sometimes mom was all about mom but I want to show that she was a mother to me in the best sense at times before she became ill.

She did do some very motherly things in her time.  I can recall having the measles and being bored out of my mind stuck in my room so she made a bit of a bed on the sofa and let me lay down there to watch television.  She wasn’t able to travel when she had all of my siblings but when it was just me, she sparked the travel wanderlust that I now have by taking road trips out west.  And she could drive with the best of them! Lead foot is what daddy used to call her.

I got to see things that many of my friends in elementary school wouldn’t get to see (if ever) until they were adults.  Part of the reason we went out west a lot was because at the time I had terrible asthma and doctors told her that being in the Arizonan climate would be good for me.  They were right.  So before I was even ten I had seen big cattle ranches in Texas, spent the night in a log cabin near the Grand Canyon (I also nearly gave my mother a heart attack when I tried to climb between the railings to peer into the canyon), had a blast at Disneyland, saw them making a movie in Old Tuscon with Angie Dickenson and Robert Mitchum (who waved at me), and nearly gave mom another heart attack by crawling into one of those Indian cliff dwellings in Arizona even though the sign clearly said Beware of Rattlesnakes.

Mom took care of me through all of my injuries and sicknesses – with a serious side of being fussed at about them – the best she could.  There were many trips to the ER for my asthma, a broken leg, stitches in my hand from a broken glass while doing the dishes, and your usual sundry mishaps that many children go through.  But she also pawned her wedding ring to help pay for some of my medical bills because money was so tight.

When I first made her a grandmother she transformed right before my eyes into a sweet and loving woman.  Who are you and where is my mother I thought.  You see mom was never vocal or demonstrative in her showing of emotions except to dad.  I really cannot recall her ever saying I love you to me or being that touchy feely, but with her grandchildren? Oh yeah!

They could do no wrong and she would cook their favorite things for them to eat when we came to visit.  Dad taught them how to play (and cheat at) poker and she would talk your ear off about them to others showing their pictures to you.  She didn’t have an accordion of pictures that fell from her wallet like you’ve seen on some cartoons but she did have a few.

Once when she was holding my then newborn daughter for me at the mall while I went into a store for something she disappeared and sent me into a panicked frenzy when I couldn’t find them.  Turns out mom was walking up and down the mall showing off her grandbaby to anybody she could corner.

She always, up until dementia took her, had a smile and a big hug for her grandchildren but I’m at a loss to recall getting hugs from her.  It broke my heart to see my children – the youngest grandchildren she had – lose their grandmother when they were so young.  Oh she was physically still there but that was about it.  But to this day my son can still recall her spaghetti and carrot cake fondly and that makes us both smile.

So for this week I too would like to remember the better things about mom instead of the Alzheimer’s.  Happy Mother’s Day mom and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.

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