Visiting a Grandma with Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Yesterday while my two youngest children were asleep I decided to take my oldest to visit her Grandmother.  I sadly have not been able to visit my mom twice in one week in quite some time and figured it was the perfect opportunity.
On the way I picked up some ice cream for the three of us to enjoy together.  One thing my mom has always LOVED is ice cream.  My daughter and I have also seemed to have inheretated that gene.  🙂
Before arriving at my mom’s facility I had a little talk with my daughter about Grandma.  It had been a while since it had just been the three of us and since I didn’t have her brother and sister with us, I knew we would be spending more time with just my mom.  Usually “the talk” involves me telling her about how Grandma is sick and may act different, but that we still love her very much.  I have no clue what to say and honestly never thought in a million years I would have to have this talk with my 3 year old child!
My daughter was initially all about Grandma.  Interacting with her, hugs, kisses and singing her songs. As the hour or so wore on Addy started to become afraid of Grandma.  Mom’s erratic behavior and her not making any sense was making her nervous.  At one point my daughter said, “Mommy Grandma talks like Evie!”  Evie is my two year old daughter.  For the last year or so my mom has also decided she hate shoes and takes them off every opportunity she can get.  Addy was not happy when I had to explain to her that it was ok for Grandma to have one shoe, but she had to leave hers on.
There was also an “incident” while we were there that really put the icing on the cake.  I had gotten napkins with our ice cream and had them on the table.  Here recently the facility has been struggling because my mom has been “pocketing” things/food/you name it.  The problem with that is the fear of aspiration.  Mom could easily choke on objects and it is a serious risk.  She also is having problems swallowing and eating, but that story is for another day.
I turned around for one minute and by time I realized it she had eaten almost an entire napkin!  My first reaction was to look to the left at my daughter.  The look on her face broke my heart.  My focus then turned back to my mom and the fact that I needed to get it out of her mouth!  I tried to open it and she refused.  I tricked her into saying “Ahhh” and tried to fish it out and CHOMP!  She bit me!  This really didn’t go over well with Adalynn.  She was then super concerned that her mommy was hurt.  My heart was torn in half.  Help my mom and this large ball that she was now chewing or comfort my young daughter who was now terrified that Grandma bit her mom.
I quickly jumped up and grabbed a few staff members and explained what happened.  Long story short it took FIVE of them to get mom restrained enough to get in her mouth open and get the large ball of napkin out.  All the while she was screaming and hollering “NO, NO, NO PLEASE DON’T!”  Addy was done.  Officially terrified.
We left soon after and my heart broke all over again for my mom.  Here she was at 66 years old, not able to enjoy her Granddaughter and at this moment in time scared her to death.  When we walked out the door my mom gave me a precious goodbye that left me and many of the workers in tears.  I am learning that seeing her more often and when I don’t have all 3 children help her to connect with me.  My precious daughter however did not want to say goodbye or even hug her Grandmother.
Today my daughter was still talking about Grandma and the napkin incident.  My prayer is that the Lord gives me the right words to speak to her and that the memories that the does have with her Grandmother are good ones because my mom deserves that.  My job is to make sure all of my children know what an incredibly strong and loving woman their Grandmother was and to do everything in my God given abilities to fight this horrid disease!
Blessings,
Tk

Late night call

Tonight my phone rang at 10pm and it said unknown.  These last few months an unknown call means it is my mom’s facility.  It was late so my heart sank.  Is mom ok?  For the first time in at least 3 years my mother was on the other end of the phone.  As I held my newborn son in my arms, I listened to her as she jabbered on for at least 5 minutes.  I say “jabber” because my mom has makes absolutely no sense when she talks.  She has recently started to make up words and she has her own language.  Almost immediately when I heard her voice, I began to cry.

I have to be completely transparent.  I have not seen my mom for three weeks.  Three whole weeks. (Almost four) That is the longest I have EVER gone without seeing my mother since she moved to Texas in 2009.  About three weeks ago I was able to sneak away and see my mom alone without any of my three children.  I could not handle it.  Call it post pardom hormones, but after about 5 minutes of being with my mom I had a breakdown in her room.  Looking around at all of the pictures we have of us, pictures of my brother and I as kids, pictures of our families now… it was too much.  After I collected myself I followed her out to the main dining area to be with the rest of the community.  My mom never stays still, she is ALWAYS walking.  I saw some of her favorite nurses who asked about my precious newborn son and I lost it again.  Ugly cry.  Then I felt terrible because these women and men who work in these facilities have a hard enough job as it is.  The last thing they need is for a crying family member to further solidify to them that this disease sucks.  As I gave my mom a hug I realized how much I really needed her at this moment in my life. My life was harder than it had ever been.  A 3 nager who was testing my patience daily, a 19 month old that was becoming Evil Knievel and a 3 week old son.  Not to mention that my newborn was giving me the ride of my life with breastfeeding.  I needed her advice.  I needed the one person in my life who knows me better than anyone else ever will.. tell me it would be ok.

After a few minutes I put my cell phone on speaker so my husband could hear her.  He isn’t able to visit her as often as I am and even though I tell him stories he doesn’t understand how bad she really is.  And to be honest I think it breaks his heart also.  I told her how much I loved her and missed her, but she did not repeat it.  Usually she will say, “I love you too, honey.”  She then started saying something else I couldn’t understand and then one of her sweet nurses got on the phone.  She told me that my mom has been carrying around my picture all day.   When the workers would ask about me she would say, I love her.. I love her…I love her.  Her nurse said that she making them all cry with how she was acting.  They were crying because she knew what she wanted.  She wanted me.  They asked if she wanted to call me and she said yes.  And then my mom, who doesn’t ever stay in one place waited there for me to answer the phone.

She knows.  Somewhere in her foggy brain she knows i haven’t seen her in three weeks.  She misses me.  My mom is still in there. 

For some of you that may not know, my mom has late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.  She has had it 5 years and is now in her 3rd facility in 3 years.  (That will be an entirely different blog post.)   Losing a mom is so very hard.  I know that anyone who has lost a mother at any age can relate to the feelings of loss of such an important person in their life.
What I want to convey in this post is why I am so PISSED!  Families of people who have Alzheimer’s Disease have to face a double blow if you will.  Not only do we all have that feeling of loss, but we actually to watch it happen slowly.  Imagine your loved one being right in front of you… You can see that their hands are still the same to hold, their eyes still have that loving sparkle, yet they have no clue in the world that they even know you.  Traumatizing.

This horrid disease makes people die a slow and painful death.  It is hard on the patient, but even harder on the family.  As a young mom of three small children there is no reason why I should have to be facing this.  My mom is 66 years old.

For the past three years I have raised money for our local Alzheimer’s walk in September.  Every year I have beat my fundraising goals and this year is no different.  I can’t physically do anything for my mother anymore, but I can put a name and a face to this disease.  Share my stories and my struggles so you know that this is a very real threat.  It could happen to anyone.  

This year I am starting earlier with fundraising and building my team.
Has Alzheimer’s Disease affected you in some way or are you afraid it might in the future?
Did you know that every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease?  It also kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined!  This disease is serious and is only getting worse!  Join me in my fight.  All proceeds go to funding and research.

Will you join my team and help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.  Or will you donate to our team, Melanie’s Memories Matter to help us reach our goal?  Thank you in advance to all that can help.  <3

http://act.alz.org/goto/melaniesmemoriesmatter

 Blessings,
Tk