Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blog 34: This Is Lizzie, Mom

Mom has been in a nursing home for almost 14 months now.  The thought of ever getting to move her out of there resurfaces often, still, especially when she says certain things that tug at my heart strings, namely, that she misses her home and her family, and she doesn’t want to be there where every one is sleeping and people are dying.  I know that I cannot do what my sister won’t allow, so I try to put that thought out of my head and just concentrate on making my mom feel as happy and loved as I possibly can.  With every phone call and every visit, I give her all the love and attention she can absorb. 

I call and talk to Mom usually every other day, and sometimes we are on the phone for ten to twenty minutes, and sometimes it’s only a couple of minutes, before she is ready to get off the phone.   She always asks me if I’ll come over, and now, instead of telling her I can’t today because I don’t live there, I tell her I will come over, because she won’t remember anyway. I want to make her feel happy for the moment and it really does make her happy.  I tell her how much I miss her and she tells me she misses me, too.  I tell her I love her so much and she tells me the same thing.  It feels so good to hear my mom tell me she loves me.  Hearing those words from her make my day so much better, and I always hope that her hearing those words from me make her day so much better too.  When my mom is irritable or hangs up without saying she loves me, it seems to affect my day.  I know she hangs up sometimes because she forgets she is on the phone, or she thought she already said goodbye to me.  I also know that being irritable goes with the territory.

Sometimes when we are talking she will forget it’s me and she will say, you are Kathy, right?  And I’ll say, no, this is Lizzie, Mom.  Then she'll say, oh, that’s right.  She will also set the phone down and walk away or else hold it in her hand but forget I am on the line.  I’ll call out, Mom, Mom…Mom, are you there?  And usually she doesn't come back to me.  I’m afraid her talking on the phone is going to be a real problem down the road, and then I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I fly out to go visit my mom every two to three months.   Every time the date draws near that I am going to go see her I am filled with excitement, apprehension, and anxiety.  I just can’t wait to see her and see her reaction when she sees me.  Will she know who I am?  Will she embrace me?  Will I be able to make her happy?   I always have that fear tucked away that one day she is going to see me and not have a clue who I am. 

My mom is slowly, but surely, losing her mind.  She still remembers her daughters, all five of us, and she repeats our names from oldest to youngest.  She has sometimes referred to us as being her sisters, so I know that she is starting to forget that we are her daughters, even though she still knows our names and faces.   When I have gone to see her she will introduce me as her oldest daughter, and then she might later say something about me being a sister.  At least, for now, she knows that I am Lizzie.

When I go to visit my mom, I am there for at least a week, and I spend hours and days just trying to connect with her on her level.  It’s hard sometimes.  I want her to remember things that she remembered only months ago but now seems to have forgotten.  I bring up things from my childhood, hoping she will remember, but she doesn’t.  She is even forgetting some key things from her childhood.  That doesn’t stop me from trying to bring out some sort of memory. 

I bring her gifts, like some of my jewelry, or my daughter’s jewelry, because I know how much she likes it, and I bring her snacks, photos, etc.  On my last visit I brought 4x6 individual photographs of each of mom’s daughters and grandchildren.   She could name most of them, but not all.  The next day I put a label on each picture with the name of the person in the photograph and then I put them in the photo album I bought her a few months ago.  When I went back to see her the next day she had the album on her bed, and she opened it up and said all of the names as she looked at each picture.  She seemed to really enjoy having those pictures.  It’s almost like she knows she’s forgetting and when she looks at these pictures it makes her feel closer and reconnected to her family.  I could sense her drawing from the deepest recesses of her mind to remember some aspect of that person, and she would say something that she remembers about them. 

Mom has a music box that I bought her for her birthday a few months before she went into the nursing home.  She doesn’t remember it came from me, even though it has a picture on the lid of her and I.  She appears to really like the music box, as it is often on her bed or near it when I go to see her.  It plays the song, “You Light Up My Life.”  That song is appropriate because my mom lights up my life and everyone else’s who knows and loves her. 


  1. What a sweet post. I feel like she has moments of clarity most when she is told "I love you" and then when she says it back. It's almost like she remembers... "Yes, I have a family that I love so much and they love me". I wonder if she ever hears that in the nursing home and if she does hear it during a visit... Is it very often?

  2. I always tell my mom we all love her very much. She still says she wants us all to be together, that is one thing she continues to say. I like what you said, "Yes, I have a family that I love so much and they love me." I don't know if the staff tell her that at the nursing home, but I am hoping all of my sisters are telling her that when they visit.