The memory is a funny thing

My mother has dementia. After recovering from a fall due to a urinary tract infection which led to dehydration, we felt it was time to move her to an assisted living facility. The best advice came from a clinical nurse who said to move her while she can still cope with the change.

And, she is coping nicely. My mother is very social and she is having more interaction with others, eating better and taking her medicines, which she had been letting slide. We moved her from the Rehab Hospital to a nice place which incorporates some of her furniture, pictures and books. So, she feels at home, except for the people wanting give her medicine all the time,

She can sing word for word old songs or recite a favorite poem. She reads beautifully and her penmanship is far better than mine. Being a former teacher, she corrected my poor writing on a card I sent her so she could read it. And, she remembers stories about her life, but not always the who did what.

Yet, she gets confused with the current. She has called me her brother, cousin and, even got jealous when I held my wife’s hand at my daughter’s graduation. She adores my wife, but I had held her hand as I ushered her to her seat.

Intellectually, my mother is in the right place and we can rest easy. Plus, this takes a huge burden off my sister who was the primary care giver. Emotionally, it has been tough, especially when we get to go back to her house and leave her there.

If you have struggled through this, I am certain you know these emotions. If you have not yet, note the words of advice from the nurse about coping with change. She said many wait until it is too late and the paranoia defense mechanisms make it harder for them to trust.

All the best. I would love to hear your thoughts.

24 thoughts on “The memory is a funny thing

  1. Both my parents are gone now but I can really relate to your post. My father was not very social (he loved his family but didn’t enjoy groups) so we kept him in his home with 24-hour care for as long as we could. He was as happy as could be at home and his caregivers loved him. After he broke his hip he had to go to a place that provided more care and he was miserable. I felt so bad for him but we really didn’t have a choice.

    I fear for my husband’s and my aging future since we don’t have kids to help us through the transitions.

    • Janis, thanks for your story. We did the same for my mother in law and aunt. They went quickly once we had to finally move them. As for you and your husband, there are a number of facilities that let you stair step your care, from little to a lot. They, of course, come with a cost, which is always an issue. Best wishes for the both of us on that journey. BTG

  2. I was an administrator in home care. Most of our clients had some form of dementia. Each person is different. Some embrace change and others fight against it. Some days will be good days and some not so good. The staff at the AL are trained to care for her changing moods. She will be well cared for. Wishing you the best.

  3. That is an encouraging story. I wonder what percentage of older adults are willing to make decisions about their own care when they are still able. It seems so many are unrealistic about maintaining their lifestyle after their health fails. I am worried about my parents being unwilling to give up their house while their “faculties” are strong enough to cope with the change.

    • I wish we had more discussions earlier as my mother went downhill fast. Do seek out and discuss a power of attorney, health directive and living will. Those cannot wait.

      • I agree with getting power of attorney, health directives and living wills set up. A living will only pertains to when a person is alive, so it is important to set up a will and/or pre-plan a funeral.

  4. Note to Readers: My mom is recounting stories we had not heard before, which is so cool. She said two teenage cousins hid in the trunk of my mother and father’s car as they drove off to their honeymoon. She told us where the wedding reception in the pictures on the wall were taken (at her Uncle’s house, which I believe was her grandparent’s home place) I presume to save money. But, on the flip side she sometimes thinks she is at a college dorm merged with memories of teaching her grade school students.

  5. making that decision has to be a very difficult one – at least for a sensitive person. it’s also hard to watch or to be ‘forgotten,’ and slowly fade into the gray area of your loved-one’s memory bank. when my mothee was dying of cancer, i will always remember the day i walked into her room and she did not recognize me. she just stared at me like, ‘who are you?’ she had always said that i was ‘a joy’ and to suddenly become a generic person in her room was heart wrenching, that my presence gave her no added comfort.

    then there were others who accepted me as a stranger every time i visited and i’d introduce myself, shake hands, repeat the same lines week after week, and it never bothered me at all that they didn’t remember me. to me, i was a friendly stranger who stopped to talk with the elderly!

    have you read marilyn warner’s ‘things i want to tell my mother?’ her blogs are always exceptional, though i’ve missed many b/c of limited internet.

  6. Z, great truth from someone who knows. When we visit my mother, we visit all of her new friends. My mother is very social, so it makes it easier. She improves every room. She may not know anyone’s name, but she is talking with others. All the best, BTG

  7. My parents are 81 and made the decision last summer to move from their large house in the woods to a retirement community that also has an assisted living facility. My children and I tried our best to help them keep up on 6 acres and a large house but it was hard for them. so I gave my full support and as you said they are in great shape so a good time for the move. I am sure this was their reasoning! It was a hard move even though we were there every step of the way. But now a year later they are so happy! We made sure to get over there (2 hours away) to see them every two weeks and still do. They have lots of friends and are so happy, it was the best decision! hope you mom is doing well sounds like she is! Nice post!

    • Thanks Lynn. Truly a wise move that is working out well for them. My mom is doing well. With her progressive memory disorder, she is doing well physically and getting a lot of social stimulus. It is terrific you get to see them. That means a lot to them and I am sure you and your family. Well done. Thanks for commenting.

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