This week has taken me on a journey I never
wanted to take. For the first time, my mother does
not know me. She has lost all connection to my face,
my identity and my voice. For the past five years,
Mom has been suffering with Alzheimer’s and lives in
a rest home nearby. Every day, my husband and I have
visited her and taken her out for a ride or for tea.
It has been a special ritual that helped her quality
of life and provided sensory stimulation Likewise,
it has given us the satisfaction of knowing she
looked forward to our times together.
In December, she became 100 years old. Even then,
she was able to walk without a cane and chat about
the simple joys of nature, trees, sunshine, clouds
and changing weather. I often joked that she is my
best teacher on focusing and coming into the present
July 2009 will long live in my memory. It is the
beginning of an ending. It marks the beginning of an
end of life as we knew it and an ending of a life as
her only child, her daughter.
After returning from a few days’ vacation, my
husband and I were both shocked to find that my mom
has “lost” any memory of us or the fact that we are
married. She has forgotten entirely that we have
been coming to see her daily for the past five
years. She continues to ask me who I am, if I know
where her daughter is and why her daughter never
comes to visit.
I am familiar with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I
knew that this could happen one day, although one is
never prepared for the emotional impact of becoming
a total stranger to your own mother.
These changes are further evidence that the
disease in now progressing full scale to take away
even the smallest consolations we had as caregivers
and that she had as an Alzheimer’s victim.
Unless one has had an “up close and personal”
encounter with a family member who has dementia, it
is difficult to imagine the heartbreak it creates
and the amount of emotional readjustment it demands
from both caregiver and loved one.
I have been told that the best way to approach
our visits now is to avoid making any reference to
being her daughter. Unless she brings it up, I do
not mention that I have been there to see her. In
spite of the personal pain I am feeling, it is
important to confront the reality and not walk away
from her at a time when she is most vulnerable.
Consequently, I must now try to focus on the
calmness and comfort I can bring to her. We have let
go of titles and relationships. We are now just two
pilgrims on this journey and our focus is on how to
relate purely at the heart level. I am holding on to
the moments of comfort in the midst of pain and
suffering over a lifetime of lost memories.
May you never have to take this life changing
May you not put off making time for those
you care for and
May you remember to cherish and
appreciate your loved ones
While you can.
Note from Mary: This is my personal story,
but I hope it has a message for other families who
are facing the progression of Alzheimer’s and its
impact on relationships.
Mary Muir, M.Ed., has an
extensive background and experience in Counseling,
Mind Body Wellness, Reiki, Pastoral Counseling and
Healing Arts. She has conducted numerous Women’s
Groups, CEU Programs, Professional Development
Workshops, Spiritual Practice Groups and Women’s
Wellness Retreats throughout New England.
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