“Oh! That sounds so good! I can’t remember the last time I had Kentucky Fried Chicken!”
It has become kind of a joke amongst my family, as we heard this weekly for a while from my mom. My mom is turning 75 in December, and is battling memory issues.
Sometimes the stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia are terrifying, sometimes discouraging and sad, but other times – down right funny!
One time mom caught on that obviously she had said that before. So she apologized and started to get a bit upset. I told her that I didn’t mind at all, and that it made me laugh. She then said, “oh I am so glad that I am getting funnier as I age!” We both laughed then.
I have had a number of people tell me that I am so sweet to my mom, or that I do incredibly well with her, or that I am so patient. I say thank you to them, and tell them that it really helps that she is so good about all of this.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not been a cake walk. (What is a cake walk anyway? I mean really, if someone took off socks and shoes and walked through a cake I spent the time making – that would not end happily. Or maybe it’s a cake getting up and walking around? That would terrify me.) Some days have been down right challenging, and sent me to tears and to my knees. But other days, like today, have been a blessing. Today we went to a restaurant we had never tried before called Jalea, it was so yummy and also went to The Yarn Barn a quaint little shop.
I had a few errands, before lunch, which trial and error has taught us that if I have a few things to do, it’s best if she sits in the car for part of it. The excessive stimulation of new places and things can get overwhelming and jeopardize the enjoyment of the planned events.
Sometimes it is almost a game for me, to see how things change in conversation. For example, she has developed a routine for her meals, since they are served at specific times at her independent living apartment complex. What this means is when we are out, as it nears mealtime she will begin to say that it is almost time for the current meal, but that she isn’t hungry. She will then explain that she doesn’t often go down to eat. A few minutes later she will repeat all of this. At which point I will remind her that we are going to eat, and discuss where we have chosen. A short time later it will either be repeated, or she will mention she is hungry and ask if we will have time to get food while we are out. Sometimes I gently explain again our plans. Other times I say that it’s a good idea, and suggest where we are headed.
I think one of my favorite memories was with Chick Fil A.
Mom: I don’t really know what to get, I don’t come here.
Me: Well, I get the grilled nuggets and fries, I think you would enjoy them.
Mom: That does sound good!
Me: How about a peach milkshake?
Mom: Oh! That sounds good! I love peaches! You know me so well!
What was so adorable about this, was that we went at least 3 weeks in a row and each week, it was the same thing. I had a couple of options how to look at this. I could choose to be upset that she didn’t remember, or I could enjoy the excited pleased look on her face when she felt extra special that I knew what she liked. I picked the latter.
I have been so blessed that my mom willingly gave over her keys, I didn’t have to ask her to stop driving. Then the time came to move into independent living, and not be out on her own. She fell in love with the apartment and moved in the same week!
When the confusion got worse, we had some pretty in-depth conversations during the more lucid times. It was during these talks that she told me she wanted me to make choices for her that would be in her best interest, even if she didn’t agree at the time.
We both decided that having me set up as her power of attorney and health advocate would be a wise decision. I am so thankful that through LIFE Leadership she has Financial Fitness Services, which helped us do all that we needed so easily and economically. I can’t even begin to describe the peace we both felt once we had that done. We have heard awful stories of people not having the necessary protections in place before the disease progressed too far, and didn’t want that to happen to us.
I will be honest, I haven’t done a lot of research into Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Just a bit here and there, some of which I will share in a bit. But it saddens me to think of where this can go. I know that there is kind of a pattern of what to expect, but I also know that it varies per individual. I’m not burying my head in the sand, but I also don’t want to have a negative outlook. I want to live in the moment of positive memories. I continually tell her that for now I’m so thankful she remembers us, and that will be our goal for as long as possible.
Then we make jokes together about hiding her own Easter eggs, and never being bored because everything is new!
I find that I am more intentional with our time together. I am more aware of the moments of time slipping away.
Proverbs 17:22 ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine…’ I keep this in mind, and do what I can to make our time as cheerful as possible.
Sometimes I wonder why does it seem like memory issues are becoming more and more prevalent, not just with my mom, but with so many people that I talk to out there? What is the common denominator? So, like I mentioned before, I am going to share what I found when I typed in ‘Dementia Statistics’.
According to alz.co.uk it is expected that about 50 million people worldwide have dementia. Their site also said that somewhere in the world every 3 seconds someone develops dementia, but that much of the expected increase will be in developing countries.
Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but upon reading this site, a couple of things jumped out at me. Why would it be expected to increase in developing countries? The other thing was alz.co.uk explained that if global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world. Oh My!
My question then comes in to who is benefiting financially from this disease and why are we allowing it? As far as I am concerned, if it is mainly affecting those in either developed or developing counties, what is different in the underdeveloped counties? Whatever it is, we need to emulate that!
Ok, it’s time to hop off of here and call my mom. She’s always such a happy and loving person, I wonder what she will say today to put a smile on my face? I wonder if she will remember the fun we had yesterday, or will it be a new day just looking forward to more fun ahead? Either way, I love the closeness we share and the ability she has to be happy in the moment.
As I sign off, let me ask you, do you make the choice to be happy in the moment?
Also, do you show patience and love to those that battle memory issues?
Let’s make today a joyful day, for ourselves and those around us. Share a smile, it’s contagious!
Thanks for the memories, Amy