Posts Tagged tips

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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Rub a dub dub…cleaning up Mom

Mom used to be good at keeping herself and the house clean.  She had a standing, nothing short of the end of the world would cancel her appointment, appointment at the beauty parlor that you could set your watch to and every Sunday no matter what, when I was a child she would make me mop the kitchen floor.  But as the dementia crept over her it changed that woman into messy Bessy.

It is common for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s to change personalities and habits which includes keeping clean.  Mom went from doing the laundry faithfully to Dad taking over.  I don’t recall if she could no longer remember how or if Dad took over for safety sake but whatever the reason was he was doing it…that is when he could get the clothes off of/away from her.

She would take clothes out of the hamper thinking they were ok to wear again or she would sleep in the clothing that she wore that entire day.  The hair appointments slowed down until they ended and her hair was just there with no style at all.  But bathing? I don’t know what Dad did to keep her clean and to be honest I was embarrassed to ask or to do anything about it.

Mom bathed me, I just couldn’t bring myself to bathe her.  I was beyond weirded out – super awkwardness.  The most I could do when I dared try to tidy her up was to get her into the bathroom by saying I wanted to brush her hair – or something along those lines – and then while talking to her constantly to keep her occupied and calm, I would do my best to give her a sponge bath… to an extent.

For those of you who have had children do you recall when your little ones loved playing in the water at bath time and then one day they were terrified of it or would have tantrums?  Yep! Almost the same thing with adults with dementia.  As I wasn’t about to try and cajole mom into the tub lest one of us (probably me) would get hurt I left it at a nice warm soapy wash cloth nice and I’d spot clean her face, neck, arms, under arms, and legs.  Well, the legs if I could get her out of her pants which didn’t happen often; the shirt was a tough enough job to peel her out of that many was the time it was just whatever I could get to with pushing up sleeves.

But her private parts? I couldn’t do it! Just thinking about it I feel awkward.  But it is very important that those parts of the body be cleaned because they are prone to the skin breaking down and becoming infected.   Even more so if your loved one has or is beginning to have issues with incontinence.   If you cannot afford to hire a home care worker who knows how to bathe someone with dementia and you have to do it, what can you do?

Here is a article from which has some useful tips on how to deal with bathing mom (and dad too) which I found to be very helpful and informative.  At the end of the article they mention that if your loved one really isn’t for bathing then you could talk to their doctor about anti-anxiety medication to help with the process.  When mom entered the nursing home she became even worse about bathing, eating, and everything else because she was terrified! (more about that in the future) She was eventually prescribed some medication which they only gave her before bath time which, along with a kind nurses assistant, made bathing easier.

It’s a scary road to travel for you and your loved one.  Don’t be hard on yourself;  just keep trying until you find what works.



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