Alzheimer's, Family

When the Children Become the Parents

A few years ago the family started to notice that my grandmother (here-to-for known as “Mother” or “Mom”) was forgetting… words. It was that “searching for nouns” as we liked to call it. “What’s that thing…oh I can’t think of the name…you know… ” and then she’d pantomime opening a banana. 


Actually this was farther into it – the not remembering a banana was a banana. What’s upsetting wasn’t that she couldn’t remember the word banana, but the worries behind why she no longer remembered the word “banana.” And why the HECK can’t she remember banana?! Where is the mind wandering? Where is it going and how fast? How long do we have…?


Mother is the über mother. She had her nose in our business all our lives. A real southern matriarch. She wasn’t easy. But she’s our mother. She was married twice. She divorced my grandfather (here-to-fore “Dad”) when I was only about 2, the youngest of 5, and remarried my stepfather. Dad passed away when I was 15, and my stepfather, in 2007. Once he passed Mom slowed way the heck down. We moved her to be closer to the family and she lived alone for a good while, about 6 years until my mother (sheesh – here-to-fore “Annie”– read the Hushabye blog to understand the confusion) moved in with her for a while. 

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t turn out to be the kind of elderly person that has that get up and go, takes painting classes or signs up for some geriatric online dating service. No. She is the kind that sits and watches TV, goes out with one of the family for dinner or to get her nails done. Not much more than that. And time takes a hefty toll on that. You could beg and plead with her, you could reason and cajole and try to inspire.

Nope. She’d made her decision. Just make sure the channels don’t have commercials.

But now I wonder if the decline in her memory was part of this equation. Maybe her brain –  shrinking – was what made it hard for her to read or want to paint. (She did use to paint a lot.) Maybe that’s what Alzheimer’s does. It’s a creeper.

I didn’t want to believe it. I just wanted to think she’s no different than anybody aging. Only I have known 98 year old whippersnappers that could put my brain to shame so no. It must have been that Dementia beginning. My great-grandmother, her mother, had “Dementia”. They never called it Alzheimer’s. Maybe they weren’t calling it then or they hadn’t actually tested her for that type of Dementia. But she’d have a piece of paper beside her bed with the names of all of her children and grandchildren.

I’ll never forget the time her great grandson, only 8 at the time, walked in and she asked “Who’s that?” Oh, the pained and surprised look on his face. The
disappointment. No one had warned him but no one really had caught up with it. It seemed to be always ahead of us.

Mom isn’t there yet. Quite. There are a few distant cousins that are fading in the wind. But once we remind her it seems to jog. Or is she just bluffing? She can be a cagey one.

About 3 years ago the sibs got together for a family chat to discuss how to proceed with Mom. Because Annie was already, as primary care taker, beyond lost in her “tired”. We made the rotten decision to move mom into an elderly care facility. We were going to move forward and work it all out. Hard decision. But the right one. Only a rotten decision because having to do that stinks to the core.

But nothing happened. Yep that’s my family for ya. Great follow through! No one did a thing. We simply couldn’t. Even Annie. So for 2 more years we stuck with the status quo. But then Mom’s decline in memory hastened, Annie was beyond burnt, and we began to worry for Mom’s (not to mention Annie’s) physical safety. Mom had begun “shuffling”. If she should fall, Annie wouldn’t be able to lift her. And Mom had by this time received an official diagnosis.

So the hunt began for the new facility. One where the care givers were pros in the field of Alzheimer’s care.

And Mom, even though the doctors said she was “moderate to severe”…

She. Was. Pissed.




To be continued…