Jen Monday, May 3, 2010

This is my mother. Her name is Marti. She's 66 years old, and she has dementia. I usually just tell people she has Alzheimer's because I think that's what she has, and they can't diagnose her until she dies. At this point, her functioning is at stage 6 out of 7 on the Alzheimer's scale (moderately severe/mid-stage). http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp

She and my dad live in a suburb of my city, so we see each other at least once a week. For the past month, however, they were out of town, and they just got back last night. (I have to admit that it was really nice to have them gone for a while.) So I dutifully went over to their house last night to say hi. The three of us sat down in the living room with glasses of juice, and my dad and I chatted about their trip (to their vacation home in Alabama) and what's been going on in the Twin Cities while they were away. My mother, sitting on the couch next to my dad, found a plastic bag in the seat cushions and put it on her foot like a boot, and tied it snug around her ankle. Then she got up and went into the kitchen and came back with a small screwdriver and a packet of envelopes, and she tried to write on the envelopes with the screwdriver. Every once in a while, she'd interrupt my dad and me to say something completely non-sensical. 

"Are there three of them?"

"Uhhhh, yes. There are three pillows on the couch. Here they are. One, two, three."

Sometimes I just look at that long, white forehead of hers and wonder what the hell is going on in there. Is her brain actually shrinking? I imagine it drying up and hardening, like a sponge left on the side of a sink. I use parenting techniques on her now; I squat down to put her shoes on her, I hold her hand or arm in public, I follow her if she starts to wander away. Parenting a toddler is great practice for having a parent with Alzheimer's. If you thought these skills were non-transferrable, you were wrong! 

3 comments:

alicia said...

My grandmother died of Altzheimers after like 10 years of her brain slowly dying (dymentia?). I had to babysit her some, but only a few times. My poor parents took her in and tended to her 24/7. It tied them down and changed their lives.
I feel for you. I wish there were better words of advice I could offer, but I have none. Good luck...

missris said...

My grandmother had dementia. She thankfully passed away from an unrelated issue before it got too far but my mom and I sometimes talk about it. Is that my mom's fate too? Will science catch up? It's hard to think about.

Deana Birks said...

I've watched a grandmother slowly go further and further down that road. It's scary and sad and so, so frustrating. And every once in awhile the clouds part and the person is themselves again...for a minute. And then they're lost again and you can't get them back. I'm sorry you're going through this.

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