Mary Muir, M.Ed.
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.