I lost my beautiful mother to Vascular Dementia on May 8th after a short, but heart-wrenching, journey of extreme delusions, paranoia and suffering.
The phrase, “Rest in peace,” has never held a huge amount of meaning for me. It has always just seemed to be an often used sentiment; almost like, “have a good day.”
Vascular Dementia changed that for me as it overtook my Mother’s mind, and seemingly, soul.
We had a lot of things on this journey with my Mom. Peace was definitely in short supply, especially as the dementia progressed. My husband and I live two states away, so being long-distance caregivers, we weren’t able to be involved in the day to day of her care.
If you have ever been a long-distance caregiver you understand the unique frustration of it.
As when you live close by, you can talk to your loved one and you can get them food and goods using delivery services.
But that’s where any similarity ends; and there the problems begin. You cannot check on them in their living condition. You cannot observe how they are really doing, because you simply are not there.
The most heart-wrenching part of long-distance caregiving is by far the absence of the connection of touch. You cannot give your loved one a hug, possibly one of the most therapeutic displays of affection there is.
This was our situation with my Mom.
We could talk on the phone and I could get updates from my Dad, but it didn’t really give me a full picture of how she was and how things were unfolding.
Like most parents, they didn’t want me to worry. But I was well past worry most of the time.
Disturbing lapses of memory quickly gave way to full-blown delusions for my mom. Those delusions brought outlandish accusations to members of the family, mostly the ones that were working so hard to take care of her.
If you know anything about dementia, you know that you never argue with or correct a dementia patient, especially one that is delusional. Most of the time it only exacerbates the current state of agitation and stress, and that was exactly the result with my Mom.
Any dose of reality, ‘No Mom, no one is trying to take your money,’ would only be met with more efforts on her part to convince you otherwise.
In the world of dementia, the patient’s reality is reality.
I thankfully learned about these strategies, and about dementia, in Memory People, an online dementia and memory impairment support group on Facebook. I had found this godsend of a group after my Mother-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years prior. This journey of Vascular Dementia with my Mother was shaping up to be a completely different journey.
I have learned that no two patients are alike, period.
The ensuing months with my Mom became a matter of what degree of delusions and accusations would manifest that particular day—and even that particular hour. I could call my Mom and we would have a very peaceful conversation for many minutes, and then dementia would rear its ugly head and, like a light switch, I was dealing with a completely different person.
Peace was nowhere to be found.
Vascular dementia took my Mother to her very last breath. I was with her in her semi-conscious state, and as her breathing became sporadic, I stroked her hair and held her hand. I told her that I loved her, that we would take care of Dad, and that I would see her later.
I had the privilege of walking with her to that point of time and eternity, and while I felt my heart break in two, I knew at that moment that she had found eternal peace, her mind and body no longer ravaged by the grip of dementia.
I now say, with a new appreciation, Rest in Peace, Mom.