Category Archives: Alzheimer’s

This is a sad week for my family.

My mother was moved into a memory care unit at her retirement community. She and her husband moved to the community a year ago with the idea that someday this would happen. What no one expected is that someday would arrive so fast. But it is here and it is time that she moves to a space in which she will be well cared for, kept safe and no longer a full time burden to those who love her.

The reality is that the person who was once my mother is mostly gone. There is still a joyful person inside, but she is mostly anonymous, with no past, no future, and only a present and that is short term at best. The many details that make up a long, full and rich life are largely gone from her memory.

Seeing my mother’s life reduced to circumstances that I know would appall her is beyond sad, beyond grief, beyond words. And now to have to stop living with her beloved is just heart breaking.

While I grieve her lost memories, reduced life and our relationship, I also worry that perhaps this is my future too – all children of parents with Alzheimer’s worry about this.

I know that as we age, all of us suffer from some short term memory loss; this is normal and to be expected. But since my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis any little blips in my memory are a frightening reminder of what might be in store for me. The bottom line is that none of us are promised a long and healthy life. Anything can happen.

Each of us has the possibility of coming down with some catastrophic disease or suffering from misfortune. I have written a little bit some of what I have experienced: the random murder 38 year ago of a beloved cousin in Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop; my cancer adventures; several years ago I shared a post from a friend whose son tragically died way too young, In This I Will Find Beauty; as well as a few posts about my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Because of my experience with tragedy, medical scares and other random events, I have always been a sucker for quotes that tell us to “LIVE AS IF THERE WAS NO TOMORROW” or “NO REGRETS,” because we are not promised tomorrow no matter how healthy we eat, how much we exercise or how often we meditate.

Years ago I chose a quote for my highschool yearbook page, that I felt drawn to then and still holds sway with me today.

“If I Had My Life to Live Over

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I’d be sillier than I have been in this life. I’d take fewer things seriously. I’d take more chances, more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I’d eat more ice cream and less beans. Perhaps I would have more troubles, fewer imaginary ones.

You see I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely hour and hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments but if I had to do it all over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments one after another instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, hot water bottle, raincoat and parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I’d go to more dances, ride more merry-go-rounds, pick more daisies.” – an 85 year old woman

So in honor of my mother, who can no longer take a juicy bite out of life, I will laugh too loud, take up too much space, make tons of mistakes, apologize with an open heart, and love fiercely.

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Alzheimer’s Is Not Always Awful

A few weeks ago my mother came out to the bay area for a visit. Her husband had work to do in San Francisco so she stayed with me in the south bay where I now live. As I have mentioned in past posts, my mother has Alzheimer’s. It is not so bad that she doesn’t know who I am, but she is very limited in what she remembers; her daily care is also affected.

Her disease has also brought out a wonderful and joyous connection for us. I can’t say that our relationship up until her diagnosis was troubled (although maybe I am in denial), but I will say that it was not satisfying to either of us. This has changed completely. And our connection during our four days together was joyous and even fun. We went on adventures and walks and spent the time being together in a peaceful and cheerful manner—something we have both yearned for for decades. It wasn’t easy taking care of her, but I am very grateful that we had that time together.

Here is a post from an online friend who has an amazing blog about her relationship with her mother who also has Alzheimer’s. Susan’s blog is a great resource for anyone going through the Alzheimer’s adventure. She has helped me articulate the positives that have come from my mother’s diagnosis as well as provide ideas and suggestions for dealing with the negative. This post talks about the 7 reasons she visits her mother every day:

Have you had a relative with the diagnosis? What was your relationship with them like as they went through the disease’s progression?

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Someday is Today

Last fall, long before we sold our home, and I started renovating a new home, I made plans to go east to see my mother. I haven’t written much about my mother because it is complicated—what mother/daughter relationship isn’t? For years, we each wanted to get along better but we never managed to do so. Then in May 2013 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and everything changed.

Alzheimer’s is a sad disease. I have nothing new or profound to add to the heartache that this cruel wasting away of a brilliant mind means. But I can add that much to my surprise, my life has changed in some ways for the better since her diagnosis.

First of all, every child of an Alzheimer’s patient worries about getting it themselves. And odds are that many of us will. This is not a pleasant outlook, but it forced me to make some decisions about what I do and do not want for the rest of my life—with or without Alzheimer’s. Within a week of her diagnosis, I found myself back on a yoga mat, after having been absent for many years. It was always one of those things that I thought would be back in my life someday. My mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis made “my someday” happen today.

Second, for some strange reason, our relationship started to improve dramatically. Over the years, we have both wanted a different relationship with each other, but neither of us managed to make it happen. We were both disappointed and had resolved to accept the relationship for what it was and was not, but deep in our hearts we both wanted more: more connection, more understanding, more loving. And now we have it.

She is suffering from Alzheimer’s; this is not a subtle disease. But she is still there and while visiting her last week we had some beautiful heart-to-heart connections. Alzheimer’s may have robbed her ability to remember words and where her glasses are and even large batches of information about her life, but it hasn’t affected her ability to open up her heart. Over coffee, we both talked about how much we are now enjoying our current relationship after decades of yearning for more from each other. Ironically we both think that the other has changed while the reality is that we both have. And this has allowed us each to open up our hearts to each other.

Alzheimer’s may be taking away all the details of her life, but it has left her heart intact. The bottom line is that she can still send and receive love and really what more is there?

Here are some photos of me with my mother, my brother and my mother’s husband on my recent visit east. She doesn’t like her photo taken and I know she would not like the way she looks in the photos, but they capture a loving moment of us together that I will remember.

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As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!