The Hard Choices of Dementia

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

When I was a little girl I always wanted to look like my mother. I thought she was the prettiest woman ever. And I wanted to be like her too. Strong. Determined. Smart. Patient. Loving. She was ready to do whatever necessary to take care of her family. She loved us, her three daughters. 
Mom grew up during the Great Depression years. She had three sisters, no brothers. She and her sisters were always close. They loved their mother and father. My grandfather was a blacksmith and served in World War I as a cook. He died when I was five. I only have a couple of memories of him. I’m not one of those people who can remember when I was two. I do well to remember when I was twenty. LOL. But Mom always had a great memory of how things were when she was a little girl. Those memories were the inspiration for my first Rosey Corner book, Angel Sister. While the story is completely fiction, I owe the inspiration for the background and the characters to Mom’s stories of her childhood years. 
Mom’s only a few weeks from being ninety-four. She always said she wanted to live to be a hundred. But she never planned to lose her memory to dementia. We never thought she would lose her memory to anything. We thought we’d have our mom with us as our mom until she moved up to heaven. It hasn’t happened that way. When she reached her late eighties signs began to show up that all was not right. She began to think things had happened that had not happened. Always things that made her unhappy. Still, she managed for a few more years with us dropping by to help with the little things. Then she fell and although nothing was broken, it was a traumatic experience because she was unable to get up and lay there for we don’t know how long before my sister stopped by. 
We didn’t think she would pull through that. She got better, but her mind continually got worse. We started staying with her around the clock after that fall although at first we could make quick trips to the store or wherever. Then her mind got even worse. We couldn’t leave her alone. She started wanting to “go home.” Home was not this house where she’d lived for over twenty-five years. Home was most often her childhood home. Her parents hadn’t told her she could stay so long and they were going to be upset. At times she also thought about her home with my father who has been gone for almost thirty years. She had to fix supper for him and the “children.” Nobody was watching the “children.” She had things to do and she really needed to go home. And because she has always been a determined “I can do it” type person, she would get up and try to go out the door. If nobody would take her home, she’d just walk. After all, the “home” she was seeking was just over the hill. 
And so, the lies began. At first it was difficult for me and my sister to lie to our mother, but it is cruel to tell a dementia sufferer that their loved ones are dead. It doesn’t stay in their brain and is a fresh pain every time. Besides, Mom would sometimes look at you as though you were the one without good sense since she’d just seen her mother or father or husband that very morning. So a lot of time her mother and father were “out of town” perhaps visiting “out of state relatives.” Nevermind, that they had no out of state relatives. Dad was doing various farm jobs. Perhaps in the hay in the summer or stripping tobacco in the winter or feeding the cows. Whatever came to mind. And “tomorrow” became the promise that never happened. Tomorrow we’d see about going home. Tomorrow we’d talk about it. Tomorrow we’d do whatever we had to do. And that is what happened. We did whatever we had to do.
And now tomorrow we’re going to do what we have to do again. We’re moving Mom into an Alzheimers’ Home. It’s a beautiful place with a caring staff. It’s our way of trying to give her some more time out of the nursing home since her funds are getting low and we may need to sell the house to keep financing her care. We are naturally concerned. So much can happen. We want Mom to be happy. She’s not happy here most of the time. She may not be happy there. She may not be happy anywhere until she moves on “home” to be with her mother and father and sisters. It’s a difficult choice. It may not work for her. Then I don’t know what we’ll do. 
If there’s ever a time when a person has to take it one day at a time, then dealing with dementia is that time. Sometimes it’s one hour at a time. I know many of you are dealing with the same illness, and it is an illness, a cancer of sorts of the mind. So may we all take it one prayer at a time.