Mom's Journey with Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's dementia had affected mom long before she was diagnosed. I always knew that something was wrong, but she refused to see a doctor. There were symptoms like, confusion, forgetfulness, repetitive speech, anger outbursts, among others. Her behavior had changed drastically, transforming her into a "stranger." My conversations with mom were challenging because she was often angry and repetitive. Every word out of her mouth was repeated several times over and over again. She lost interests in her favorite television shows and movies, and sadly....her ability to cook had diminished a great deal. Mom always took pride in her wonderful cooking, and the last time I experienced her food was during Thanksgiving, a few years ago.
Mom was always beautiful, well groomed, and her home was clean and tidy. However, as the dementia worsened....the house was cluttered and mom's personal hygiene became an issue. She wore the same dress at least 4 times a week, without bathing. Her hair was a mess, and she often used her lovely blouses and sleeves as napkins to wipe her mouth. I spent several days every week visiting with her, and playing the "mother" role as she became more "childlike" in her behaviors. We hired a PCA (Personal care attendent), which helped, but mom would not allow anyone to assist her with bathing, or cooking. As often as I visited with mom, I could not be there 24/7, and her behavior became increasingly more combative. She yelled, screamed, cursed, and made verbal threats towards anyone who wanted to help her. The only individuals mom seemed to trust were those who took advantage, and stole money from her. I cried virtually every day because mom became "prey" for the predators in our community. We warned her about them, but she couldn't comprehend that she was in immediate danger. She refused to move in with family because she percieved us as the enemy. Although mom lived in a senior building with 24 hour security personnel....she was allowed to leave her apartment alone at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning while still dark outside. She often confused days and nights. I know that God watched over mom and took care of her during these frightening times.
The intervention was necessary, but also the most difficult time in our lives. My siblings and I tried to get mom into assisted living, but were denied because she was a flight risk. They didn't want the liability. Mom needed 24 hour care, which we could not provide at home with us. She also needed meds every day, along with being on a special diet. We found a place with qualified nurturing staff who specialize in the treatment of Alzheimer's care. We visit her often, and she's doing well, thanks to the medication. The kids and I visited with mom during the Mother's day weekend, and we had an enjoyable time. Mom still gets confused, but she hasn't forgotten us. Sometimes, she forgets names, but her vibrant personality is still there. The bottom line is that our tough love intervention saved mom's life.
Accepting mom for who she is now was very important. I've cried many tears over losing the "old" mom, but very thankful for who she "is" now. I can still smile and laugh with her....and even cry with her. It's been a very scary, and unpredictable rollercoaster ride with Alzheimer's. But we're in a place of acceptance now, and I hope this helps anyone who reads about my mother's battle with the disease. We had an amazing support group of medical professionals, community outreach, social workers, family, friends, and neighbors. You're not alone...just reach out for help.