Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Long Journey

The diagnosis my mother received nearly 10 years ago from the Mayo Clinic was not unexpected -- she has Alzheimer's Disease. Not unexpected because her mother and aunt suffered from the same.

I wasn't totally unfamiliar with what happens to people with Alzheimer's. Grandma's diagnosis happened  smack dab in the middle of my parents' divorce when my sibs and I were teenagers. Mom moved from my hometown in Wisconsin to Michigan, and Dad and I ended up looking after Grandma while she was still in her apartment. She later went to a nursing home.

Mom and me in January
Watching Grandma and now watching my mom with the same disease is interesting. Grandma lived on her own and worked as a nurse. She raised Mom and her two sibs after my grandpa died of a heart attack -- he was 50 and Mom was only 16 at the time.

Grandma remained as independent as she could be -- she had taken care of herself and her family all those years and was not comfortable with a nursing home. She was particularly upset about her finances -- "Where is my money?" was a frequent question. Her father was a Methodist minister, and Grandma was not ever going to miss church -- so she and I went, week after week.

Mom has become more childlike. Since the disease was diagnosed, she has never been angry, at least with me. Caring for her was kind of like caring for a little kid. Unlike with Grandma, I read everything I could about the disease and how to care for someone suffering with it. (Back when Grandma had it, I'm not sure there was much out there on the disease). I joined a caregiver support group near my home.

Mom's now in a nursing home -- her second. Surprisingly, she has fooled us all and loves where she lives. She participates in activities and seems to be in a good mood. As my niece has commented, "She is the happiest Alzheimer's patient I've ever seen."

She doesn't know any of us anymore and her speech has become somewhat garbled. Other than that, she's in good health.

Alzheimer's and how to handle a loved one suffering with it will be one of the topics I'm blogging on during the month. It's therapeutic for me and hopefully my experiences will help someone else.


  1. From your fellow English major - you cannot be "roughly smack dab in the middle" of something. Smack dab implies exactness so the 2 are mutually exclusive.

    Love your friend and fellow word nazi DMB

    1. Awright!! You passed the test!!! English majors rule!!

      Or I could rationalize my mistake by saying being smack dab in the middle is rough....

  2. I appreciate the information and emotion flowing together in this blog. Also, because of my past relationship to your mom, I thank you for the picture. Write on. Bonney O.