Dementia is slowly claiming my mom. I have shared on my blog many times in the past couple of years the struggles that my mom has had as her dementia worsens. It helps me to write things out and to remember them this way and I think, judging from comments from others, it also has been helpful to some others who are on a similar journey with a loved one. I don’t write these posts to garner sympathy. Not one bit. There are so many other people who are going through so much more than we are going through as a family. I write because it helps me to process, to remember and to somehow come to terms with the changes in my mom.
I arrived after an interesting day of travel on Thursday to see my sweet mother in her Memory Lane room . When I got there there was another lady who was trying to sit down on her bed with her. I finally was able to convince “Margie” that I wanted to spend time with just my mom and I would come visit her later if she wanted. When you are in a unit like my mom is in there are a lot of folks that drift in and out of the rooms. They don’t always know where they are, they don’t always respond appropriately but you just have to go with it. I know it bothers my mom a lot at times – she likes her privacy and doesn’t always know how to deal with wanderers and the staff is usually able to keep folks where they are supposed to be but sometimes it happens.
My mom didn’t know me this visit. That is the case more and more. She said three times in the span of 10 minutes that she thought I must look like my mom. It made me giggle each time and I told her each time that I must look like her. She was just puzzled by that and asked me why. When I told her that SHE was my mother she was astonished. Maybe a little incredulous. She just could not understand that I was her daughter.
So what do you do when you visit someone with dementia? You focus on what you can talk about that will be uplifting. You redirect the conversation when she starts saying “I want to get out of here”. You look at cards that have been sent to her and talk about the people who have sent them. You look at the pretty pictures on the cards. You talk about your new kitten. Anything that is a distraction from her current situation is the right thing to talk about.
One of my favorite things to do with her is to look at photo albums. I have a couple that I have made for her that have family pictures with big labels with the names of the people in the pictures on them. That helps to remind her that there are a lot of people that care about her. Her current mantra is that her family never comes to see her. That is another typical thing for folks with dementia to believe. Even though it is not true it is her reality. Her days run together and she has no concept of time. She did not remember I was there the day before or even that morning. I have learned to not take that personally. It is just her memory is so bad that she does not remember. It does no good whatsoever to correct her so I just make vague comments and keep the conversation steered away from topics that make her sad.
I know my mom never thought this would be her life. She is comfortable and well taken care of and relatively safe. She is very independent and tries to do things on her own when she probably shouldn’t. Falls are inevitable but she has not hurt herself so far so I am very grateful for that. I learn each time that I am with her something new or something is reinforced.
This visit I learned that no matter what obstacles that try to keep me from her it is well worth anything to be able to spend any amount of time with her. The trip was a fairly short one but it was precious and so worth the time, money and inconvenience on my part to see her. Totally worth it.