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Tag Archive: Mom

Jan 19

Alzheimer’s, a season of ‘lasts’

“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” – Emily Dickinson

Most stories about Alzheimer’s catch my eye, but none more than one I read this past week, a USA Today story about a family’s ongoing blog about Alzheimer’s.

I am interested in this because my mother, 94, was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than 12 years ago. We have been in the throes of this dreaded disease ever since, so naturally I am interested in everything Alzheimer’s. And I must admit, I worry about getting it myself.

The story mentioned above is named simply Bob’s Blog, a personal journal kept in association with USA Today. It is about Bob Blackwell, 69, a retired and once brilliant and highly talented CIA analyst who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago.

At first, he started writing about his battle with the illness, but soon thereafter, his wife Carol took over blogging about their personal journey.

She tells poignant, sometimes humorous and always loving tales about their daily lives. Recently, Carol has been writing the blog they keep for USA Today about “the season of lasts — listing things Bob has done for the last time. He has been a lifelong fan of University of Georgia football, for instance, but following the games last fall was too challenging.”

And on and on the list of “lasts” continues.

Carol writes: “Here we are, and there’s no cure and no promise of a cure…I know it’s too late for a cure for Bob, the disease has moved into many parts of his brain, but I’m praying for my children and grandchildren. We have to find a cure.”

If you are close to someone who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, I imagine that you drink in every word as well on the subject of finding a cure for future generations and for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the very definition of Alzheimer’s is indeed foreboding.

Health reporter Janice Lloyd describes Alzheimer’s as “a form of dementia that causes progressive loss of intellectual and social skills, the only disease among the top killers for which there is no prevention, cure or treatment that will slow its progression”.

We hear constantly in the news these days that disease is thought to run in families and the growth of Alzheimers, the projected number of people over the age of 65 in the U.S., is now in the millions.

WebMD further explains: “Dementia is considered a late-life disease because it tends to develop mostly in elderly people. About 5 to 8 percent of all people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia, and this number doubles every five years above that age. It is estimated that as many as half of people in their 80s suffer from dementia.”

I find better news in the fact that new efforts are being made to raise public awareness, provide more funding for research and speed up the timeline to find a cure.

And even better news in the fact that once in awhile our loved ones with Alzheimer’s emerge ever so briefly from the fog and come back, sometimes long enough for us to catch a glimmer of the person we used to know.

For example, the other day I could not get my mother to open her eyes. It was lunchtime at the special care Alzheimer’s unit where she resides.

I tried to entice her to smell and taste her food and to take a sip of coffee, which incidentally she has adored her entire life.

It was the coffee I gave her that I believe brought her back to life. Right away, she opened her eyes and smiled. Then she squealed, “Oooooo, coffee. That’s good.” She then turned to a neighbor at the dining table and said, “Have you met my mother”, pointing to me. Looking at me she said, “Kay Jean (the name she has always called me) have you met my mother?”

And that is how it goes most days, but this particular day she recognized the smell and taste of coffee and said “ooooo, that’s good”, and for ever so briefly, she was back.

Feb 15

Simple joys delight the elderly on Valentine’s Day

“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.
Leon Trotsky

I had not planned on celebrating Valentine’s Day in a nursing home, but doing so
put all of life into crystal clear perspective. Call it an epiphany if you will.

For the past seven years I have frequented the halls of a nursing home visiting my mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, on ordinary days and on Valentine’s Day and other holidays.

It is easy to see that simple joys are better than roses there.

A can of soda pop. Valentine cards read by caring volunteers. A cookie with pink icing.

That is all it takes to bring smiles to aging faces that usually have little expression and blank, vacant eyes. Life is pure and simple if you can have a Coke. Bring in the cookies and the party, and smiles appear and eyes twinkle.

However, my childhood memories of nursing homes are not as great as these. Are yours?

Mine are filled with recollections of unpleasant odors of strong medicine, rubbing alcohol, urine, and Mr. Clean. I happen to have an acute sense of smell, good enough for a perfume tester perhaps. So, you can see why I do not want to “hang out” in nursing homes.

Visiting a nursing home was the last place I wanted to be on a regular basis. Nothing about this stage of existence looks pretty to me.

Yet, oddly enough the place grows on you.

I noticed rather quickly that the aged souls there are ripe with their own version of joy even if they do not communicate it much. As Brigitte Bardot once noted, “It is sad to grow old but nice to ripen.”

My mother, age 90, is a good example. While enjoying a Valentine’s Day party she smiled and said with perfect clarity rather than her usual confusion, “You know, I don’t have any worries anymore. I want a Coke and a cookie.”

Others wanted to roll a ball across a table. Some sorted baskets of buttons, some rocked their dolls, and some talked about their farms or jobs of days long past.

An internet writer A. Inglis summed up this stage of life quite nicely in a story on aging.

“At age 50, a woman looks at herself and says ‘I am OK’ and goes wherever she wants to go. Age 60, she looks at herself and reminds herself of all the people who can’t even see themselves in the mirror anymore and goes out and conquers the world. At age 70, she looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter, and ability; then goes out and enjoys life. At age 80, she doesn’t bother to look. Just puts on a purple hat and goes out to have fun with the world.”

And, I might add at age 90, men and women alike have no worldly worries at all and should be given all the cookies with pink icing and soda they want.

You go 90-somethings!

May 12

Motherly advice on Mother’s Day

Kids may actually listen to moms one day a year, on Mother’s Day, but who is counting?

Well, every mom that is who, and for the record, we moms have memories like elephants.

So listen up offspring.

Number one, just because your mother said you do not need to get her a card, flowers, or gift on Mother’s Day, do not believe her for one nanosecond. She still wants something and prefers the small, sentimental, thoughtful gifts to ones not thought out very well.

“You know that already, so I should not have to repeat myself. Am I talking just to hear myself think here? Look at me when I am talking to you!”

Number two, sending your card late is not a very good idea either.

You owe her guys and gals, and I do not mind a bit dumping this guilt on you because I am a Mom. Guilt is allowed and is one of our staple parenting tools, not to mention the fact that it is in our DNA.

After all, who embedded motherly advice into your psyche so deep that you will never escape it no matter how long you live. Your Mom.

It is all there for a reason, too. As our mothers and grandmothers explained to us a generation or two ago, “Trust me, some day you will thank me.” Time-honored advice of all our mothers will never, ever change either:

“Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!”

“What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?”

“Always change your underwear; you never know when you will be in an accident.”

“Close that door! Were you born in a barn?”

“Turn off the lights when you leave. Someday you will have to pay your own electric bill, and then you will see. Mark my words.”

“Be careful, don’t run with that pencil, you will put your eyes out.”

“You did not wash behind your ears. You have enough dirt behind there to grow potatoes.”

“Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.”

“I am going to wash your mouth out with soap if I ever hear of you talking like that again.”

Motherly advice. You just can’t escape it, but you gotta love it!

Celebrated in the U.S. since 1907, Mother’s Day is a custom honored on the second Sunday in May. It is based on the suggestions of Julia Ward Howe as long ago as 1872 and on the idea of Anna Jarvis in 1907.

Some consider Mother’s Day a creation of greeting card companies.

Some think it is a maudlin event designed to make kids and dads feel guilty.

Some folks say Mother’s Day conjures memories of the arguably sappy and mushy song most of us learned in elementary school, “M is for the million things she gave me.” The song may be overly sentimental granted, but it was one kids sang with great gusto all the same. I’ll bet you can remember the words. “M”, a mother’s day anthem, was written in 1915 by Theodore Moore with words by Howard Johnson (not of hotel chain fame).

Mother’s Day more than these is meant to be a reminder.

It is a living memorial to mothers who have passed on, a moment of honor for those who are still struggling through difficult life circumstances or illness, or merely a happy, joyful time for children to love their mommies back a whole bunch.

As my mother and grandmother said before me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”