Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Stormy Weather - Precious Memories 28
I have mentioned before that I was unaware of the “stages” of Alzheimer’s.
As much as I read and tried to educate myself, I don’t think I could have ever have been prepared for the personality changes that took place so suddenly.
It is hard to say what was more disturbing and painful at each stage, but watching my mom turn into someone that she would never have wanted to be, was rough.
It was one more thing for me to grieve.
I have intentionally written about some of my childhood memories and what she was like as I grew up, to help me remember. As the disease began to overshadow our lives, it was easy sometimes to forget what she was really like. I go back and read those posts sometimes, to help me hang on to the mom I knew.
So many emotions and thoughts were swirling that my days were a blur. I was a wreck to be honest. Just a walking, numb, mass of confusion most days, struggling to find my way through. Some days I couldn’t accept that she was losing her mind. I hoped and prayed and wished. I had read enough to know that she was going to suffer. She was already suffering, and yet it would get worse unless God chose to take her.
At times I couldn’t stand it – I wanted to beat my fist against the wall and scream. And yet I had to push my anger and grief to the side, and focus on her well being.
The first behaviors I noticed were restless, repetitive movements. I would see her tapping her hand on the table, or rubbing her pant leg repeatedly. In bed, she would “pick” at the bedspread or if given a Kleenex, she would shred them. We quickly learned not to give her photos or important papers of any kind, as they were promptly ripped into pieces!
Then, some anger began to surface. Especially when paranoia or suspicion came into play. Bingo was always a fun and favorite activity of hers, but all of a sudden I noticed that she would become agitated when someone else “won” a prize. She began trying to communicate to me that they were “cheating” and her comprehension of fun and games started to decline. At one point, she went from laughing and moving her bingo cards, to cage fighter mentality, because someone else ‘won”.
Sadly, I realized bingo would have to be over.
It was getting hard to take her to socialize and make sure she didn’t injure herself or others. She would ball up her fist, ready to pummel whoever came near her. At times, she became very territorial and didn’t want anyone near her wheelchair. I would make sure there was wide berth in the hallways and especially the dining area. Anyone violating her space would receive a loud, hearty “NO NO NO!” and a shaking of the fist, warning them to stay back.
If they didn’t respect her wishes, she would often punctuate her phrases with cuss words, letting them know she meant business. I would sit and observe, trying to comprehend this new personality. My heart just ached.
Sometimes I had to laugh, but at the same time, I was embarrassed for her.
My mother would not have acted this way in her right mind. I tried to study and educate myself on how to keep her aggression levels down and create as much calm for her as I could. I also learned that at times, her acting out was a sign of not feeling well.
UTI’s (urinary tract infections) are very common in dementia patients and the elderly (something else I didn’t know). She had several of these over the course of her diagnosis, though she hadn’t had any issues with them that I could remember growing up.
Her immune system was weak and as a result, she would easily develop a UTI. We worked really hard to make sure she was clean, bathed and properly cared for. It was just something that happened and when it did, it would cause her to lash out.
Overstimulation was another trigger. My mom did best with a calm, normal, predictable routine. She never enjoyed crowds when she was in her right mind and she certainly didn’t enjoy them, once she had Alzheimer’s.
Overall, I took a crash course in how to expect the unexpected.
Though her physical body was still with me, my mother was gone.
I had to learn how to honor and love the shell of a woman, she left behind, and keep her as comfortable as I could.
*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.
You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1
You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Rules Of Engagement -Precious Memories 27