Today’s blog was sent in by a woman whose mother suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years. Anyone who has been in her position can identify with her.
Many years have passed since you died and I need to share with you the journey we took together during the last ten years of your life.
Remember when Dr. G knocked on the door of the beautiful retirement home you chose to live in? He examined and questioned you about your state of mind. It was at my request as I felt you were experiencing a degree of depression and thought medication might help. You were indignant with me for calling him, telling me you had never experienced depression, that it wasn’t in your nature. A few months later when I asked a social worker specialising in dementia to test you, you were delighted with the lady who came to play `games’ with you and proudly showed me the page of pictures you’d been required to draw for her; a clock at 10 o’clock, a traffic light showing green and a smiling face. I admired the unrecognisable scribbles you had produced and your comment was:
“I am not as stupid as you thought and can still do everything that is asked of me”. There were lessons to be learned. It was the onset of Alzheimer’s and while everyone around you was aware of the changes, you were oblivious to them. It guided me in how to react to the nonsensical events you described to me as time went by. Every night when the lights were out someone opened your window and birds flew in to nest under your bed.” Then there was the morning you asked me if I had any idea where you had slept the night before? You explained that your whole unit had been taken to the police station and you were put into a cupboard at the charge office to sleep. Due to these hallucinations, I questioned the staff about what could have triggered them. There was never a reason: it was all in your imagination. I had to learn to play the game with you. There were days when I laughed at our conversations, but more often than not, I cried.
As the disease absorbed your mind you started chanting numbers; first the multiplication tables and then random numbers. You’d had a wonderful memory for telephone numbers in your youth and I am sure it was this that prompted you to chant numbers; a subconscious attempt to show the world you still remembered them. I was amused to see the nurse aides at the home writing some of the numbers down that you kept repeating in order to choose them for the weekly Lotto.
Your friends found it too stressful to visit and on occasion when someone close made the effort to greet you, you’d ask politely, “And how are you? And how is the family?” When they left your side you’d ask, “Who was that? I’ve never seen them before.” Then you retreated completely into your private world of turmoil and sat all day with your eyes closed, only opening them when I told you it was me and that I’d come to say hello. There were days that you wouldn’t let me leave and many when you closed your eyes in dismissal within minutes of my arrival.
When those gentle blue eyes closed for the last time I took your cold hand in mine and asked for a few moments of privacy to take leave of your body that lay in repose. I hope that the spirit still hovering close by knew and understood the language of my heart expressed by my tears as I kissed you on your forehead and left the room