Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Blog 45: Alzheimer's and Dementia: A Different Mom
A slow change is taking place with my mom. She’s slipping even more out of my life. Since I don’t live near her, I rely on our phone conversations to keep in touch between visits. Those phone calls aren’t as frequent as they used to be, but that is because it's so hard to talk to her now. Many times she doesn't engage in conversation or she doesn't remember how to hold the phone up to her ear, or she puts the phone down and she is gone.
Today she told me she couldn't hear me and I told her to hold the phone closer to her ear. She did for a few seconds but I had to keep reminding her to hold the phone by her ear. Mom asked me what I was doing and I said I was reading. She asked me if Abbie was coming over. I was shocked that she remembered her great granddaughter's name, and I assumed she must have remembered her visit last month. Oh, how she loved spending time with Abbie!
Sometimes she remembers and says things that completely take me by surprise. Remembering Abbie was one of them. Another time she asked me if I still play the flute. I played in school and obviously that memory came back to her. Last week she told me to, "Get your butt over here so I can see your pretty face." She was being bossy in a fun, loving mom way, which is what she used to do. Often she can't even remember what she did a minute ago or who came to see her that day, but then she can remember a person who came to see her a long time ago. Every day seems to be different, as much as it is predictable, if that makes any sense. You just never know when those neuro-transmitters in her brain are going to make a connection.
During our very brief conversation, mom said she had a purse and she was trying to find it. Her voice trailed off in the distance and I knew I was going to lose her. I called out for her and she said, "Wait, Liz, wait!" For a brief moment she remembered I was on the phone, but those seconds that went by stole her memory of being on the phone with me. I kept calling out to her and saying, "Mom, are you there?" I could hear her in her room, but she forgot she was talking to me. After a few moments of calling out for her, I finally, sadly, hung up the phone.
I sat there and just stared at my book, unable to read, unable to concentrate on anything, as my thoughts couldn’t break away from her. I want so bad to be able to have a normal conversation with my mom, but I know that is never going to happen again. Some days she is more 'there' than others, and I appreciate those moments. Her voice is still the same, and I feel so soothed by the sound of her voice.
Yesterday I was going through photos and videos on my computer and I came across a video I took of my mom talking on the phone to my son in California. I was visiting my mom when my son called. She didn’t seem to notice or care that I was video recording her. They spoke for about 10 minutes, and even though she repeated some things and talked about her ‘make believe’ world, she seemed to be engaged in the conversation and answered questions, etc. A lot has changed in eight months.
I feel bad about recording my mom on video and for taking so many pictures. Before my mom became ill she always hated the camera, and would stick her hands up to block her face whenever she saw one. She’s different now and she will even pose for a picture. She never complains. I keep having this battle in my head about whether or not I should be taking pictures or if I should respect her wishes of how she felt about it before she got Alzheimer’s. I just feel that in some weird way, if there’s anything good to come out of her illness, it’s that we are able to capture some memories of our visits and our times together that I can cherish, and my kids and grandchildren can cherish, for the rest of our lives. I’m sure it’s a good thing...those four generation pictures, those moments of tenderness, hugs, smiles, and togetherness.
Too bad that when Mom was well and healthy we weren’t able to take many pictures of her. I frequently talk to my aunt, and she said that Mom fussed about getting her picture taken, even when she was a little girl. I don’t know why because she was so beautiful. She still is beautiful. Dementia has changed her, but I still only see my beautiful mom whenever I look at her.