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.