My Mother and Alzheimer's: Home to Stay
Home to Stay
It was August 1994. My mother had been begging me to come stay with her ever since her stroke over a year before. The stroke was one from which she had never recovered, leading to a diagnosis of dementia, probably Alzheimer's.
Before I left Florida to move back to Alabama, I arranged to have flowers sent to arrive soon after I did. My mother would think I was just there for another visit, until the flowers arrived, and then I would read the note to her. The note would say I was home to stay.
When the flowers arrived and I told her, she cried and laughed and grinned all day. She was so happy.
That was on Saturday, August 19. On Tuesday, August 23, I wrote in my journal "My announcement on Saturday along with the flowers had the desired effect...But it wasn't long until that wore off. Sometimes I think she doesn't know me at all."
My journal entry that day ended with:"My dreams of making my mother all better show how little I knew about Alzheimer's...But I had to do this. And it is an adventure. I never know what will happen each night, how many times she will get up thinking it's morning, or the things she will say in the middle of the night. I'm off now, to another adventure..."
I wrote a series of poems while I was my mother's caregiver. This one was the first one, written that September:
Walking through the house
that doesn't feel like home;
You've forgotten it,
as well as all your children.
One day you woke up, and
those memories were gone.
You walk the floors and worry,
wishing for cattle and land,
for food, for cash crops.
You just can't understand how
it is today--why we don't need all that.
Your mind is still in the years
of the Great Depression.
So you walk and worry.
I try to explain, tell you
there's nothing to worry about.
I cook, and I tell you when it's
time to eat, and I give you your pills.
I clean the house.
I'm here for you, Mama.
We've got all we need;
We've got each other.
Please don't die, Mama;
You're all I've got.
By September my mother didn't know me and she had apparently advanced into another stage of Alzheimer's. She was up most every night, walking the floors, talking about babies and other people she thought were in the house with us. I wrote it all down, trying to figure out what was causing her behaviors, trying to decide if there was some kind of cycle, and anything I could do to make it better for us both.
There were better days along with the bad ones. And there was humor. And smiles, and holding hands, and hugs. All of that made it worthwhile, even in the dark, confusing times.
© 2018 Brenda S Parris