Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Thursday, November 21, 2013


This morning I went to a support group for people dealing with dementia and Alzheimers.  It was a group of about 10 people, the leader of which was actually an old friend.  Surprise, surprise.  He had come to the group because his mother died of Alzheimers, and I guess he just stayed on to be part of the support system.  His co-leader was extremely knowledgeable about everything.  She has a mother with Alzheimers and a sister with a different psychiatric problem, so she is dealing with it on two levels.
There was a woman in the early stages of Alzheimers, and a man with Louie body dementia (which is Alzheimers paired with Parkinsons).  Both of those people are still high functioning and able to live independently and are still driving, though the man was encouraged to give up his car.  The rest of us were dealing with loved ones in various stages of dementia or diagnosed Alzheimers.
There was the older man who moved with his wife to the University Retirement Community, the Cadillac of assisted living facilities.  He said that he was attracted to URC because of the many, varied activities that they offer.  But his wife has not left their apartment in the 6 months they have lived there. That made me feel better because that pretty much describes my mother, though she does go to the dining room and sometimes goes to the table where they work puzzles, but nothing else.
There was a woman whose mother was just moved into assisted living back east.  She is here and her brother lives 2 hours away from Mom.  She's feeling great guilt for being so far away, and also still suffering grief over having to pack up the family home.  She seems not to be getting much support from the rest of her family and I suspect she will, like me, return to this meeting next month.
There was a man whose wife is in end stage Alzheimers.  He has obviously been coming for a long time and was mostly there just to be a part of the group.
The last woman is taking care of her husband, also with Alzheimers.   I had to leave before she had a chance to speak much, but assume I will get to know her in the future, since she seems to be a long-term member as well.
The dynamic of the group was wonderful.  Each of us with immediate concerns got a long time to tell our story and get feedback.  I know there is nothing anybody can do, but being with people who all understood and who cared was such a wonderful feeling.
From there, I went to Atria for my weekly lunch with my mother.   I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it again many times, but there are perks to dementia.  She barely remembers our fight last night, does not remember yelling at me and hanging up on me.  I laid out for her the new rules, which are that she is going to do her own laundry, but with my help, so she won't feel that anybody is taking her clothes and leaving her with clothes she does not recognize.
I told her I would take her shopping to get new clothes and when faced with the choice of going to a regular store nearby and paying full price, or going back to San Rafael to the thrift shop where she worked for so many years to shop there, she decided she really didn't need any new clothes after all.  She did try to bring up all of those unfamiliar clothes and I just told her that I wasn't even going to discuss them with her any more and that she could do what she wanted with them.
Then we went to the dining room and had a very nice lunch with my friend Peggy and another woman.  I was pleased to see how many people my mother greeted coming into the dining room.  That was a very good sign. At one point she had to sign a ticket for me to eat there and she couldn't remember her name.  I thought she was kidding, but she wasn't.  When I told her it was Mildred she wrote that and didn't add her last name because she couldn't remember it.  That hasn't happened before, that I am aware.
So it was a good day, following a very bad afternoon and I left feeling good.

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