Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Hairdresser

The day started out taking my mother to the beauty shop at Atria for her 10 a.m. appointment.  The beauty shop is not open on Fridays, but Lucy, the beautician, made an exception and came in especially for my mother, so she would look good when I take her to lunch with her friends in San Rafael tomorrow.

The transformation was striking.  She's been looking like the Wicked Witch of the West for weeks now.  Her old self would be appalled at how she looked going to meals at Atria.  But once she got her hair washed and set and her curls brushed out, I loved how happy she looked.  Sadly, it is obvious that she will never be able to do this by herself again.  The beauty shop has moved upstairs and it involves (a) knowing that it's upstairs, (b) finding the elevator, (c) knowing which button to push, and (d) navigating TWO hallways to get to the place.  It was blatantly obvious that my mother was incapable of doing any of those things, so I guess I'll be taking her for hair appointments from now on.  It takes about an hour from start to finish and I read in the shop for awhile, but the chair was uncomfortable, so I moved to the couch outside and that was better.  Now that I know how long it takes, next time I might get something done while she's in the shop.

She can't retain the fact that we are meeting her friends tomorrow, so each time I mention it to her, it's like a fun new surprise all over again which, other than being tedious for me is kind of fun watching her get excited about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

So Depressed

This is my conversation with my mother about Peach today:

I had some bad news yesterday.


Yeah.  Peach found a lump in her breast and she went for a mammogram and the doctor thinks it's cancer.

When am I going to see them again?

They were just here.

Oh, right.  How is Bob doing?

You just saw him.  He seems to be doing OK.

Oh.  Well, life is change.


If she makes it to hunnert, I'm going to be a blithering idiot by that time.  There was NOTHING that she had any interest in, and no emotional reaction to Peach possibly having cancer.  Everything I said she would answer with "well, life is change" or "Well life goes on."  I really want to engage her in SOMETHING, but it gets harder and harder.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Chat with my mother today.

So where is your next trip?

To France

FRANCE???  (we have discussed this numerous times)  What are you doing in France

I tell her.

How long will you be gone?

When do you leave?

and then in the very next breath she says "I may have asked you this before, but -- where is your next trip?

It is also sadly clear that she will never be able to go the hairdresser alone again.  They have moved the place, which used to be right next to where my mother worked her puzzles, upstairs and it involves takin the elevator, knowing which direction to turn and then going down two different corridors.  There is no way she can remember that, so I will have to take her to all of her hair appointments now.   We made an appointment so she can look presentable when I take her to lunch with her old friends in Marin County and when we left the salon, she turned to me and said "If you were to leave me here right now, I wouldn't know how to find my apartment."  She didn't realize she was on the second floor and when the elevator came, she started to push the button for the third floor.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


91414.JPG (35399 bytes)There wasn't much unusual about my visit with my mother today.   I had gone over to drop off her laundry, which I washed last night.  I settled in as usual and talked about our upcoming trip to Boston.  "You're going to Boston?" she cried, though we have discussed this every day for the last two weeks.

She followed that with her usual question when she knows I will be out of Davis for a few days.  "What should I do if I die when you're gone?"  She's very concerned that she knows what is supposed to happen when she dies and if I'm not here, obviously she can't die because she doesn't know what's supposed to happen and she wants to make sure "things" are taken care of.

It was an hour and a half discussion about her death and its aftermath, but the difference between today and other such discussions (which we have often) is that I guess my head was in the right place today because I was able to make a joke about it just about every time.

"If you feel you're going to die and I'm not here, just run down the hall waving your arms and screaming 'I'm dying! I'm dying!' and somebody will notice you," I told her.  She laughed a lot and told me that was a good one.
I usually tell her she won't have to do anything because the housekeeper will find her on house cleaning day so she wouldn't lie there all that long.

I also tell her that I've made arrangements with the head chef and he will just hang her in the meat locker in the Atria kitchen until I get home.

Then she wants to know what is going to happen with all her stuff when she dies.  I told her today we were going to throw it all in the box with her body and have it cremated with her.

I was surprised when I left Atria to discover I'd been there an hour and a half (a typical visit is an hour).  We really had talked about very little else but her death, living to hunnert, how she'd like to live to hunnert, how her husband is waiting for her, how she's the oldest one left in the family, and what will she do if she dies when I'm in Boston.   But we had gone over those topics many times and I was able to make things sound so ridiculous that we had a really good laugh for a long time.

That felt good.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I wrote this several years ago and wish it were still true today:  " is a woman who, at 88, still volunteers for the Hospice of Marin thrift shop (which she has been doing for some 20 years or so), still drops what she's doing to help a friend or a family member in trouble, is the person that everybody takes their troubles to.

She is slowing down a little now, but she still does more in a week than I do in a month.  She lights up any room she walks into.  She knows how to talk to people, to make them feel special.  She is a gracious hostess who still hosts large dinner parties from time to time, always with beautiful table settings and food perfectly prepared.  Plants positively light up under her care.  More than one dying plant has burst into luxuriant bloom thanks to her.

She is always impeccably dressed, coifed and made-up, but is neither vain nor a spendthrift--she gets all of her clothes and shoes at the thrift shop where she volunteers."

...I'd be happy if only one of those things were still true today.  But at least she is still here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


When I was at Atria earlier in the week, I was going through all of her printed material--they pass out endless lists and notes  and calendars and menus and my mother never looks at them, so periodically I go an discard the outdated ones (this time notes dating back to May).  I found a note from the dining room that they were running low on plates and asking if people could check and see if they had any plates from the dining room in their apartments.

Today I was looking for a glass to get myself some water and I opened one cupboard and there were twelve plates from the dining room.   My mother doesn't know how they got there, but I got them all stacked up and put outside her door, and then called the front desk to let them know they were there.   When we went to lunch, my mother saw the dishes outside and wanted to move them in front of someone else's apartment so nobody would know she had kept them.

I didn't.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A family gathering

I took my mother to a family gathering over the weekend.  At 9 a.m. she remembered we were going, but when I called her at 2:45 to let her know we were about to leave to pick her up, she had forgotten, didn't know anything about it, and had to change her clothes.  She "covered" so well at the party (with me in the background reminding her who each person who greeted her was) that someone told me that he felt she could still beat him at pinochle and that she was "as sharp as she ever was."

I watched a 60 Minutes report on Alzheimers and Dementia last night.  It all looked very familiar.