Friday, August 23, 2013

Update on My Mom

It's been almost three weeks since my mom returned home from the rehabilitation center.  I've been able to visit her twice, and there are some great things happening--along with some very hard things.

Everyone in my family is struggling with this slow loss of our sweet mother.  And each of us deals with it in our own way.  My way is through writing, so I'm just going to let everything spill out below.

The good news is that my mom knows her environment now and seems so much happier than she was within the unfamiliar walls of the rehab center.  Between me, my siblings, and some dear friends and neighbors, my dad now is getting help full-time for my mom so he doesn't have to shoulder this huge responsibility on his own.  

Mom is standing better than she was before the second break, she recently got a new haircut, she has some new clothes and shoes that my sister Lisa helped her pick out.  We're in a pretty good routine right now, and I'm finally able to relax during the day because I'm not worried that my mom will fall again.  (That's an enormous relief.  I can't even tell you how anxious I was about that.)

When I go to visit, we spend as much time as we can outside.  Here's a photo from last week when Spencer held my mom's hand while we crossed the street. (See how she points her finger to tell him where to go? She's so cute.)

We ran into our dear friend Marsha while we were on our walk, and I just had to post this photo.  Marsha's daughter Emily is one of my best friends.  We played together every day after school all throughout our elementary years, and now Marsha helps tend my mom sometimes so my dad can go on his walks along the seashore.  She's such a great neighbor.

This is from yesterday.  Alia's a good helper.

This is me and my mom--my best friend.  Doesn't she look happy?

So that's all good news.  And I am incredibly grateful.

It's just that along with all this good news, what's happening inside my mom's head is devastating to me.

At the visit to the doctor's this week, my sister found out that my mom's "dementia" can actually now be termed "Alzheimer's."  That shouldn't surprise me, but it still hurt to hear the word.  And I do think it helps me to understand what's going on.  Here are some examples:

At least one hour of every visit is spent in the restroom, helping my mom with those very personal, human needs that become so much harder when a person gets old.  She can't remember what's happening or how long she's been in there or why hand soap doesn't go on toothbrushes.  She pulls things out of the cupboards and wraps them up in towels and tries to hide them in the drawers--all while I'm saying, "It's okay Mom.  Let's put those things away and get you out in the living room to see your grandchildren."

And then she looks so happy and surprised and says, "Oh! My grandchildren are here? Which ones?"

So I tell her their names (even though she saw them just moments before), and by the time we get out to the hallway, she's surprised that they're there (again).

My dad tried to make a cake with my mom last week (to keep her active and happy), but every time he turned his back, she would hide the measuring spoons or some other kitchen gadget he was using (he found some items in the drawer under the stove), and although he was trying to be patient, it was just too much for him.  No cake this week.

I can tell my dad is struggling.  He doesn't know how to say it, but I know he's mourning the loss of his wife.  You wouldn't know it if you saw him, but I think it's harder on him than it is on any of us.

There are dozens of other stories I could tell, but a lot of them are sad, and a lot of them are too personal to post.

I'm handling this better than I thought I would be, but today on my run, I had to stop for a couple of minutes because I was just sobbing.  Same thing when I took my shower.  And right now.  

There used to be little moments of conversation--some recollection of our past together that we could talk about and laugh about.  But yesterday there was nothing.  She talks in circles and keeps trying to "accomplish something," but she can't focus.  She thinks her parents are there in the house with us, and for some reason, she's convinced that puppies and kitty cats are supposed to be there, as well, but she can't find them.

I hug her and kiss her and press my cheek to hers and say, "I love you so much, Mom."

She hugs me back and says, "Oh, I believe it, April.  I know you love me.  And I love you, too."

Last week, she asked me to take her to her bed early and just lie down next to her.  I hadn't done that since college.

I wrapped my arms around her and told her I didn't know what I would do without her, and she reassured me, "I'll always be with you. I'll always be with you."

When I turn out her lights and put the side up on her hospital bed, I always bring my children in to "kiss Grandma goodnight," and then I tell her that I'll be back in the morning so we can make pancakes.  I'm never there in the morning, but she doesn't know that, and the thought of pancakes always makes her smile.

I don't like this process.  It hurts, and it's difficult to manage with my four children--especially my five-year-old, who inevitably spills red punch or a whole bag of Costco goldfish crackers or falls in the bay with his clothes on (when we didn't bring extra underwear).

But this is part of life.  And it's binding all of us together with a common cause.  And I feel God with me, teaching me. 

Thanks for letting me share.  Just having someone to tell makes it so much easier.



  1. That was beautiful april. I will be praying for you
    Jen dunn

  2. Love you, April. Bless you! You are in my prayers.

  3. What an inspirational woman and family you have.

  4. What selfless, Christlike service you are giving. You are paying her back for all the acts of love and service she did for you as a baby and child. Life has come full circle.

  5. It's my belief that those who lose their memories in this life, will have everything restored later. So even though she has no idea what you are doing for her now, someday, she will be able to recall all your sweet kindnesses to her. What a hard experience, April! I will be thinking about you!

  6. I am so sad. I understand how hard it is on everyone, especially your Dad. Stay close to him as well. He really needs you now. Give your mom a hug from Carole Warner of the Long Beach 3rd Ward. Love you all!

  7. My family is facing a similar challenge. My grandfather has dementia, which began with hallucinations, memory loss, and rages, but he's calmer now. He's gone from seeing snakes in his house and thinking another family were building a house on top of his to forgetting the names of some of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He's in a nursing home now, with around the clock care, but getting him there was a difficult task. My Aunt and Uncle, his two remaining children, go six days a week to help him get up and ready for the day. He always wants to go "home," but he doesn't remember where home actually is and he is constantly "loosing" his tobacco, which he puts in his pants and shirt pockets. It is sad to see the decline of one you love, but I know God will bless your efforts in caring for your mother. You are giving your children a wonderful lesson in how to care for the elderly in their lives. You are making memories for them to keep for their lifetime. Best wishes.

  8. Your post had me smiling, laughing and crying. I have been through the dementia struggle with my Mom. She started getting to where your Mom was in 2002 and the Lord took her 9 years later. My children were young. The oldest was 10 and youngest, 1, in 2002. I see a counselor because if I didn't the grief would just be too much to bear. I also have some guilt because I've had chronic illness and was not able to see her as much as I would have liked. (she was widowed and I am her only child). It is a very hard thing. I pray that writing about it will help you.

    1. Denise, I"m so sorry for your loss. Nine years with dementia sounds like an eternity. And I can't even imagine having my own chronic illness while I'm trying to support her. I'm sure your mother knows your heart was with her. Thanks for your support!

  9. Talking and writing make most situations feel a little less difficult, I agree with you. You write beautifuly about your love for your mom, and the fact that she can say things like "I'll always be with you" or "I know you love me" show that she feels your presence and love. I wished everybody on earth could love and be loved back in such a way. Good luck, and enjoy your time with your family.

  10. April, thank you so much for sharing this very heart-wrenching, personal experience with all of us. It must be so, so hard. When you wrote about having to stop on your run because you were sobbing . . . well, that is so vivid. It made me just want to come and hug you, even though we don't know each other.

    I recently came across a video clip that has helped me while dealing with some postpartum depression. Maybe you've already seen it.

    I love that video! Watching the husband shakily try to feed his wife, gives me courage when I doubt my own offerings. I'm reminded to give my best, and God will make up the difference. Miracles occur when there's love involved.

    1. Andrea, that video was amazing. My husband and I watched it together. Thank you so much for sharing it. I love how you said it "gives me courage when I doubt my own offerings." That's a perspective I need to remember. Much love, April.

  11. My heart goes out to you and your family, April. The entire journey is bound to get more difficult as time passes on but I do hope that you all manage to find a way to get through it. Be vigilant and keep strong.

  12. April, I couldn't get through reading your post without crying and I am at work right now, so I had to explain to the person that just came to the door why my eyes are all red and I look like a mess ;-)Some of the things that you described your sweet mom doing reminded me of things that my one and half year old does right now...and I get so frustrated with him. And I thought about the patience and care and love that you and your family must handle your mom with right now and I feel so bad that I get so easily frustrated with my son who is just acting exactly how every one and half year old acts. Your sharing has encouraged me to, well, get my act together and show more love and patience and understanding. Thank you for sharing in your difficult time. God Bless You on your journey and Much Love.


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