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October 2, 2017

Elderly Mothers and What the Heck?

“Enjoyed having your mother back in church yesterday.”

What? Mom hasn’t been to church in months. I‘m gone for five days, leaving Mom in my sister’s care and suddenly Mom is up and about, perfectly lucid and is off for church. Suddenly, knows she used to go to church, knows where her church is (which is an accomplishment in itself) and knows how to direct my sister to take her there. How on earth did that happen?

Mom has been steadily deteriorating in her ability to remember. I swear she has. I was certain dementia was setting in. Not Alzheimer’s fortunately. No angry outbursts. No violence. No cursing. No escaping. Well, maybe a little of that at the beginning. But not now. Just, not remembering.

(A friend asked me yesterday what Alzheimer’s first name was. I had no idea. “See,” she said, “you can’t even remember his first name.” I didn’t know IT was a he or that he had a first name! I guess I should have known.)

And now, thanks to Google, that font of all knowledge: “Dr. Alois Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness in 1906. His colleagueEmil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist who worked with Dr. Alzheimer, first named “Alzheimer’s Disease” in the eighth edition of his book Psychiatrie.” And now you know.

Dementia, apparently, is different. I didn’t realize that one could turn off dementia like a switch. Is it something we can overcome if we force our minds to remember? Can we avoid dementia by living consciously? By noticing where we put our car keys when we lay them down?  By always putting things in the same place? A place for everything and everything in its place? That is my husband’s constant mantra. I haven’t heeded it yet, although I try. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So, when my mother is with me, it is a litany of “Where am I? Where is my room? Where is the bathroom? Where am I? What are you doing here?” Is she doing it intentionally? Does she know it irritates the heck out of me? I have to grit my teeth and smile. “Yes, mother, dear.”

As soon as a guest shows up, my cousin, my sister, my brothers, a friend to have dinner with, or a dinner party, suddenly she is all better. They look at me like I am the evil twin. “There is nothing wrong with her.” Or the staff at the Residential Facility. “Oh, we just love your mother. She tells us all sorts of stories. She is wonderful!”

Well, you ought to see it from my end. Perhaps she is doing it intentionally to punish me for bringing her here. There is one other resident who sits in her wheel chair, demands constant care and refuses to budge just to irritate her family. I don’t think that is the case with Mom but the possibility is out there.

Nope, I’m not crazy. Finally got my sister on the phone and she was the one that looked up Mom’s church on good old Google. When my sister said she was going, Mom wanted to go too. She is always willing to go. Anything to get out of the Facility. And she does remember that I have told her that she is getting dementia. Is that a good thing or not? I’m not sure. But thank goodness, Mom is in good hands. Thanks Sis!

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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