My Mom Has Alzheimer’s Disease
I have promised myself two things concerning my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease. 1.) I would become honest about her Alzheimer’s Disease. 2.) I would enjoy each memory with mom and cherish today’s laughter.
One of mom’s oldest friends is Mrs. Wiggins. They met when we first moved to Madison, WI in 1970. She has been wanting to visit mom for several months and recently did so.
I bumped in to Mrs. Wiggins last week at a luncheon and she updated me on her visit with mom. She said that mom was glad to see her and didn’t want her to leave. Mrs. Wiggins then leaned over and said to me:
“Alex, did you know that your mom sits in on team staffing meetings at the memory center?”
I didn’t quite understand, so I asked for clarity.
“The staff meets between shift changes to discuss the issues of the day. These are called staffing meetings. Your mom was just sitting there in the meeting and asking questions about some of the actions that were taken that day.”
This was intriguing to me because prior to retirement, my mother was a social worker, apartment complex manager/case manager, and family counselor. Staffing meetings were part of what she did for a living.
I visited mom the next day and asked her about Mrs. Wiggins’ visit. Mom seemed to remember the visit, or when along with the game. Some days it’s hard to tell the difference.
I slyly brought up in front of staff that mom’s friend had mentioned that mom sat in on a staffing meeting. The staff concurred that, indeed, mom had. I asked it that had been the only time in which mom attended.
“No, one of the workers, offered, nonchalantly, she’s sat in on a couple.” And he went back to caring for a resident. This really makes me laugh out of sheer joy because this reminds me that not all of my mother is altered. In fact, more of her is present than I have realized.
I’ll blog later about how I found this particular memory care unit, but they continue to amaze me with the ways in which they encourage mom’s independence, dignity and social skills.
I kept mom in her own home as long as possible. I felt awful when we were left with little to no choice but to get mom some better care. The upside is that mom has more social interaction than she’s had in many years.
I realize that mom isn’t really contributing at team staffing meetings at the memory care home (I hope!). However, what is clear is that I have been so busy trying to protect mom, manage her “reputation” and keeping her safe…that I forget at times to help her live and thrive today. I sometimes feel like an overprotective parent who is trying so hard to keep their child from getting dirty or sick that they risk allowing the child to be a child. At times I have been so focused on mom’s Alzheimer’s that I have forgotten that it is merely her diagnosis, not the some total of her life and abilities, or life.
My mom made a career out of helping others. Apparently, Alzheimer’s isn’t strong enough to completely take that away from her. That makes mom incredibly powerful…again…in my eyes. I have been so busy “helping” mom that I have kept her from attempting to “help” others. In fact, staff told me that if mom hears a patient crying or asking for help, mom will simply walk right into their rooms to see what the matter is.
Mrs. Wiggins and the memory care staff of Sylvan Crossings in Fitchburg, WI, offered me a great gift last week. They helped me with my own memory by reminding me that my mom is more than a patient…she’s still a helper. And although Alzheimer’s Disease, at times, changes the way I see mom; it certainly has not fully changed the way she sees herself. This reality check gives me lots to smile about because mom just helped me, too.
Believe me, we cannot change others, so why do we continue to try?
We are responsible for our own transformation, and that’s only possible through divine intervention and willing human submission. If one of our relationships is headed in a destructive direction, we must remove ourselves from that unhealthy situation immediately! When we are willingly tethered to a negative source…we’re at that mercy of that source. Why? Because if we are on evil territory…playing with unhealthy fire…we’re at risk of failure and jeopardizing our own peace of mind because we have already compromised our convictions by merely being there.
Aren’t we tired of the attraction to what’s mediocre yet? Wasteful? Harmful? There are 7.28 billion people on the planet. PICK SOMEBODY ELSE! Don’t allow people to wipe their feet on you because they don’t want dirt on their own shoes. You’re not a doormat, you’re a rare jewel. Stop pursuing what you think you deserve; pursue what you need ~ respect! You’re worth that much!
Live large and without apologies or regrets. You won’t regret it!!
The world has lost an amazing civil rights figure this week. Linda Brown, a central figure in the US Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated US educational system, has passed away. May she rest in peace.
Although this case was decided in the 50s, it took years for the full impact of this historic ruling to sink in.
Brown’s family felt it was wrong for Black children to walk miles to subpar schools when good schools…white school…were right in their communities. They fought to get the same educational opportunities for Linda Brown—and other Black children—that white children were afforded.
And history was made…
Reading Brown’s story reminds me of several important things:
*Linda was just an elementary student at the time of the historic ruling. She is a clear reminder that children often played an extraordinary role in civil rights. They are the real unsung heroes.
*Real change requires real concerted, selfless efforts and not just hashtags, reposts and tweets. People took to the streets and inconvenienced themselves for good of our country and humankind.
*This young girl’s family led the way in the overturning Plessy v. Ferguson, the legal basis for Jim Crow and separate-but-equal legislation in the US. Mr. Brown’s decision to stand up for his daughter caused a tremendous ripple effect that has made an impact on practically every Black child and family in America.
*And sadly, although Black students were integrated, Black teachers never were!! Today, we still limp from having lost tens of thousands of Black teachers who lost their jobs during integration.
America, we still have lots of work to do. Our schools are not yet equal, and we still lack sufficient numbers of African American teachers. Education was once viewed as a sure ticket out of poverty and disenfranchisement for African Americans. I am not sure that the majority of Black students still see education this way. People like Linda Brown, her family and the community she was surrounded by, fought diligently for educational equality because they knew the repercussions if they didn’t.
We cannot continue to allow the pipeline from schools to prisons to continue to carry our kids into hopelessness and incarceration. We must use the loss of this amazing civil rights leader to propel us into doing a better job of grooming teachers, holding higher standards for all children, and helping to remind our children that education is a precious gift that came to them at a very costly price.
Click below to see CNN article regarding Brown’s death.
*For folks who don’t know, African American women absolutely hate the fact that many white coworkers, classmates, roomates, male and female, etc., harbor an unnatural infatuation with Black hair! Although my daughter has heard about this phenomenon, she expereinced it today. She decribes the act and her subsequent feelings about the issue, below. Baby-girl snapped!! Please read in its entirely and listen to the song clip below by Solange Knowles, “Don’t Touch My Hair!”
PSA to my white friends and allies:
Do not walk up to black people and put your hands in their hair. Do not do this. I was at work this morning and one of my coworkers walked up behind me — I did not see her coming — and started running her fingers through my hair, saying, “Your hair is so pretty! How do you get it like this?”
It doesn’t matter that she meant it as a compliment. It doesn’t matter that she meant no harm. There is no reason to walk up to someone and just start invading their intimate, personal space like that. Do not touch people without permission, end of story. I am not a petting zoo. I am not something to be observed. I am a person who deserves basic respect.
Not only did it make me feel extremely uncomfortable, it made me embarrassed. I didn’t feel like I was being complimented. I had someone I’m not very comfortable with in my personal space in a way I didn’t want her to be. I felt disrespected, and then upon realizing I had to confront her about it, I started feeling anxious. I don’t go to work to educate people about things like this. That is not my job, it’s not something I should have to do, and not only is it frustrating, it’s extremely emotionally draining. Please don’t make the black people in your life do this.
She’s a grown woman. She has a teenage son. She even mentioned the half-black kids she’s taking care of as if it’s some sort of justification. We’ve never even shaken hands, but she feels comfortable enough to put her hands in my head?
So, with that being said, this is the mood of the day (and every day) for me and black people everywhere:
As an armchair genealogist, I have always been interested in the origin of my last name. I discovered years ago that my great-great-grandfather, my grandpa’s grandpa, Henderson Gee, was a slave. What I didn’t know was that Henderson’s father, Reuben Gee, was a Welsh slaveowner and the rapist of Henderson’s mother, Venus.
Last year I met, John, Reuben’s great, great grandson, on ancestry.com. We discovered that Henderson was the half-brother of John’s great grandfather, Robert Lafayette (R.L.) Gee. That means that we are the descendants of brothers! John and I decided to meet up at John’s home in New Orleans to discuss our family’s—and America’s—racial history.
NPR decided to do a story on our family’s meeting. Here are the links to that interview that will air on 220 NPR stations this weekend. Check out NPR’s To The Best Of Our Knowledge (TTBOOK) media pages for the interview and Gee family slideshow.
Audio, text, and a slideshow for the interview are available at: https://www.ttbook.org/
WEBSITE with audio for Gee’s NPR interview: https://www.ttbook.