life, love and everything

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It’s all a little bit over, isn’t it? Christmas, I mean. It hurled through the week like a train rattling down the line, and shot through faster than an express. I guess it always does.

Not that I am complaining, as we all know my capacity for niceness is severely limited and I can only be trusted in a social setting for a certain amount of time before I need to go and lie down somewhere quietly by myself.

We did have a lovely Christmas day. Mother Flamingo Dancer managed to stay with us until mid afternoon, when it was obvious that she was tired and needed to return to her care facility. She was fairly coherent in the morning, but once lunch arrived she started to hallucinate a little. I was sitting with her after lunch when she reached her hand out to me and asked me to help her “shut it”. Obviously she imagined that she was holding something, and kept asking me to help her close it, so I stroked her finger a couple times and told her it was now closed and she seemed happy with that. Later she held out her empty hand and asked me to give something to my sister, so I just pretended to take whatever it was from her hand, and reached over and handed it to my sister, who didn’t bat an eyelid as she continued her conversation. It all felt a little like when you play tea parties with little ones and drink imaginary tea and cakes.

There are funny moments though. Mum has developed two distinct behaviours. She either wants to give away things, or to take things. She developed a great liking to a little pair of Santa salt and pepper shakers that Daughter2 had found for me in Holland. On several occasions as we ate lunch she turned to my sister and instructed her to make sure she took them before she left. “I’ll take those when we go.”

Later she was picking at her blouse, trying to get the buttons off. She wanted to give them away. I said “But Mum, everyone will see your underwear!”

“That’s all right” said my once very prim mother.

“What if you’re not wearing your best underwear?” I joked in reply.

“No matter,” she returned, quite unconcerned.

Most times Mum appears to know me, but some times she asks for “the other one” and that means me. I guess my sister is the main support and I am the back up, the other one.

We are going to try one more Grandma Flamingo Dancer outing to our house on Saturday, when my niece, and her young family will join us for a late Christmas celebration. Mum adores the little people, so I hope she can find some enjoyment in the day. After this I think her visits will be limited as we have a great deal of difficulty getting Mum out of the car, and also to use the bathroom; so we will make the most of her time while we can.

Having two parents suffer from dementia, in two entirely different ways, does make me wonder what the future will hold for my siblings and I. It also makes me realise just how important living in the moment, and appreciating what I have, is.

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All Mum has now is the moment, and all we can do for her is make sure she feels our love and to preserve her dignity. Never does she ask about any of the contents of her house, and she no longer asks about her house. The care facility is now her house to her. The “stuff” that she hoarded and thought so important, the “good things” she kept unused for some special occasion are all now meaningless. It is a life lesson, well and truly. “Stuff” means nothing in life; love and family are everything. Everything.

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13 thoughts on “life, love and everything

  1. My mother thought my father was HER father, because we all referred to him as “Dad.” But then one day at my sister’s house a song came on the radio, and my regular old mother was there, singing all the lyrics and “waking up.”

    Christmas did seem to go by quickly. It’s the 27th here as I type this, and it seems like it’s been a lot longer than 2 days.

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    • apparently music is one way of reaching through the mists of their minds. They play a lot of music at the care facility and I know Mum really enjoys the sessions.

      I notice the local church has already taken down their Christmas lights – not even the church lingers with Christmas these days it seems!

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  2. Hubby has noticed MIL’s behavior getting more and more childlike. She’s more impish and silly now that she has no responsibilities anymore. Also have noticed the “taking things, and giving things away” syndrome. She “steals” bags full of those little jelly packets you find in restaurants, even has one of the caddies that hold them in her room. For Christmas, we all got a lot of books. Books that came from the assisted living place’s library. We do all the shopping for her now; she can’t even concentrate enough to pick stuff out of a catalog. But she still feels the need, every time we visit, to give us something. Jellies, magazines, old trinkets, and oh yeah, she’s got a spectacular collection of plastic utensils stashed in her room. Maybe preparing for the apocalypse.

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    • Lol! My sister was taking things from “home” to decorate Mum’s room but Mum was worried that someone would steal them (she has imagined people stealing things for years) or she just wants to give it away to family, so sister has given up trying. Mum likes to have cuttings from the garden, and has even taken to plucking bits off the artificial plants in the facility!

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  3. “All Mum has now is the moment, and all we can do for her is make sure she feels our love and to preserve her dignity.” Yes, that’s it.
    Although mom didn’t have dementia, a fact for which I am grateful, there were certainly the moments when we wondered and I did what I could to make her feel loved and to preserve her dignity.
    Then there was the “paranoia.” Near the end of her life, she thought the caregivers were changing the time on her bedroom clock to make her think it was later than it was to get her to go to bed earlier, a notion I thought ridiculous until I inherited the clock and discovered it gains time.

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    • Mr FD’s mother is 90 and rather clear of mind, though more or less trapped by her body, needing a wheel chair most of the time. We visited her yesterday and I realised that she only has “the moment” as well now. She still insists she should go home, even though she has trouble with bathroom and can barely stand. I do feel sorry for her, as she is in a facility that is also a home for old nuns! Very pious place, not joyful at all like my Mum’s facility, but it was her choice of place, though we know she never thought she would actually go there!

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  4. You’re handling it so much more beautifully than I did when I first was faced with my mother’s dementia. Whenever we were out shopping, Mom would suddenly blurt out to strangers that her daughter was lazy, a terrible cook, a poor homemaker, and a sourpuss. I tried not take her comments seriously—people usually smiled and winked at me as Mom babbled on—but her habit of snatching things off the store shelves and tossing them into the cart when I wasn’t looking or suddenly grabbing an item and demanding I buy it for her got to be trying. It was like shopping with a toddler again, except this toddler was over 80 years old and not very cute. As the months passed however, she took less interest in going out. She just wanted to sit at home and read or watch TV. It was as if her world was gradually shrinking until, as you say, all she had was the moment. Her dignity was harder to preserve unfortunately, as she often threw tantrums and screamed like a child, and needed help using the bathroom. My one reward came in her final days, when she could remember only one name, mine. In the end, yes, all there was left was love.

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    • So true about their world gradually shrinking until it’s all about the moment again. There’s those memories, those stories we hear EVERY TIME WE SEE THEM, those aren’t going anywhere. But did Katy call you this week? No clue. Did you know we were coming to visit, especially since we called 45 minutes ago? Afraid not.

      That’s okay. Maybe it’s true, our first birthday and our last birthday are eerily similar.

      And those last two sentences killed me, HG. Bless your heart.

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    • This is our second round with dementia. My Dad had multiple TIAs and gradually succumbed to dementia. In his case he was much more aware of what was happening and I can only think how frightened he must have felt. He remained very physically active, staying awake for 20 hours or more a day, and poor Mum and sister tried to deal with him way past the time they should have. He became quite paranoid about people visiting and would tell them to leave, and at times he threatened Mum to the point I went down one day and hid all the knives in the house. In the end I called the social workers and started the ball rolling to have him taken into care. It broke my heart, but we would have lost Mum from stress and exhaustion then too. I now wonder if the stress she suffered with Dad helped bring her own dementia on as she never seemed to be the “old Mum” after he died.

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  5. We saw the Give and Take thing with my Gran too. We used to sneak things back into her room or she would have ended up with nothing. The carers reported removing knives and forks from under her pillow. They weren’t that concerned – she wasn’t going anywhere.

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  6. Many many many years ago my aunt realized the pointlessness of hoarding her china, crystal & silver for “special events” – especially since she never hosted any. Starting that day, she used it all on a daily basis. I have no “special” silver but used to pick up random silverware at estate sales – and I used all of it all the time!

    It’s nice that you had a good 1/2 day with Mother FD.

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    • Yes, we are grateful for the time we have with Mum as if she is with us next year I am sure she won’t be able to leave her carers.We keep telling ourselves that she has lived a good 85 years and that is something to be grateful for.

      I try to use everything now, and I also try not to be too upset when things break. We lost a couple of things in the move, and I tried very hard to put it into perspective as just another “thing” and one less item to care for. Also an excuse to buy something else should the need arise!

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