Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Covering up

She is wonderful at covering up her dementia. My cousin Kathy's daughter Karen had a nice visit with my mother yesterday and wrote this on Facebook:

Such a fun visit! She kept telling me she was 100 years old and I kept telling her we needed to call Willard Scott and get her face on a jelly jar--belly laughs all around. Love Aunt Chubbie!!
I'm delighted that they had a good visit and that Karen came away feeling so good about it, but today my mother has no memory of the visit, does not know who Karen is, doesn't remember who Kathy is, and has never seen The Today Show or Willard Scott in her life, even before the dementia.

(She did, however, when prodded, remember Cousins Day)

But she has all sorts of tricks to cover and to make people think (a) she knows them, and (b) she is following what they are talking to her about.  I know there are people in the family who get angry with me for talking about her dementia because it's perfectly clear to them that she's not nearly as bad as I make her out to be.  I invite them to spend a month with her!  Or even a few days!

I've watched her have a lovely conversation with people on the phone and when she hangs up and I ask her who it was, she has no idea, but she can hold up her end of the conversation and from listening to my end of the chat, I'm sure nobody has a clue she doesn't know who she is talking to.

I made the mistake of trying to make a joke today.  She was saying how frustrating it is not to remember stuff, and not to remember people.  I asked her if she still remembers her family. She is forgetting what her siblings looked like and she says she can't remember a lot about her father but thinks she will always remember her mother (whom she sees in her dreams most nights).

She then asked if I ever forget people like that.  I said that yes, I sometimes forget who my mother is.  She did not get the joke at all, but sadly remembered that my aunt Marge was my mother.  When I  told her I was joking and that she was my mother, she then remembered that she is, but didn't understand that I was joking.

But I am thrilled that Karen visited her and have no doubt that at the time, though my mother had no idea who she was, that she enjoyed the visit.  I won't let Karen know that she doesn't remember her or the visit.  So few people visit her and I hate to harp on it, begging them to come.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

TV Party

We went to Atria tonight to watch CSI with my mother.  She used to be a huge fan of the show but stopped watching when William Peterson (Grissom) left.  However, when I found out he was returning for the finale, I thought she might enjoy it but knew she'd never watch it by herself, so Walt and I went to watch it with her.

Ultimately I think she enjoyed it, though after I turned it on, she asked if I wanted to turn it off so we could visit (NO!!!!!).  When Walt arrived, she asked him if he was Walt.  And at every commercial break, she asked me if the show would be continued next week and I would tell her that no, this was the finale.  It was good to have Walt there because he got a taste of what I go through every time I visit.  But she kinda sorta followed the story once she got into it and even cried, with me, at the emotional ending, so I think it was good that we did that.  I'll have to keep my eyes out for things on TV that I think she might like and have more TV parties.  We get to have quality visits and we don't have to just sit there and stare at each other!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


There are horrific fires burning all over California.  Whole towns have burned.  My mother, sitting with blaring headlines at her elbow, knew nothing about it, but "those things happen, I guess"

There is nothing I can discuss with her because she absorbs nothing.  She has lost the ability to be upset by anything that has nothing to do with her appearance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Old Age

I am SO TIRED of talking about how old she is, how she doesnt want to be old, how she wants to live to 100, how she hates the age changes she sees in her body.  Since she has NO INTERESTS whatsoever, this is ALL we talk about...this and whether it is hot outside.  (and what exciting thing I'm going to be doing)

How I wish she had the feistiness of this woman.  I would welcome her doing something outrageous even if only once.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Sunday was a bittersweet day from start to finish.  We started at Atria, meeting Ned and Marta for brunch, to celebrate my mother's birthday, which is tomorrow.

We've been over this for a week or more, but she didn't remember, of course.  After her surprise that I was there, she was surprised again when Ned and Marta showed up, and especially when they wished her a happy birthday because she never realized it was her birthday.
When we all went to lunch, she asked why and then was surprised to find out it was her birthday and then as we sat down, she was astonished to learn it was her birthday.  One thing about dementia--you get a lot of nice surprises!

For lunch we asked for two servings of brownie with ice cream.  Walt wanted one of his own and Ned, Marta, my mother and I shared the other, which Ned cut into 4 equal pieces.  She laughed when served, then looked away and when she looked back, she asked where that had come from and why were we having dessert and then was surprised to find out it was her birthday.

To my surprise, when we returned to the apartment, a woman, pushing a woman I had never seen before, knocked on the door.  The woman who knocked obviously knew my mother and it was someone I had never seen before, which pleased me because my mother kinda sorta recognized her, which means she has made friends with someone on the staff.  Anyway, the woman was bringing her a card and a piece of cake (which will sit in the fridge until I finally throw it away next month)

All things considered, except for the dementia part, it was a good day, she was in good spirits, we laughed a lot and then Walt and I went home, while Ned and Marta spent another 3 hours or so there until time to go to our second event of the day.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bad News

I learned today that Peach has brain cancer.  Doctors say she has "2 mos to maybe 2 years."  All I wanted was to talk to my mother.  After first being confused ("who is Peach?") and then upset ("oh no") her  reaction was a dismissive "Well, we all have things happen to us."

I still want to talk to my mother, but she isn't there.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Flurry of Excitement

Today was Lunch at Atria day and it had a bit of a different twist to it.  For one thing my mother's back has really been bothering her.  So much so that she let out a shriek when she went to sit down and she can't make it all the way from her apartment to the dining room without sitting down.  But she doesn't need to see a doctor.  Not her.  The doctor told her 10 years ago that when it hurts she should just sit down and that's what she does.  Of course it's not possible that the disintegration in her coccyx has worsened, 'cause the doctor told her all she had to do 10 years ago.  I'll tell ya, for a woman who has always been so intelligent about everything except her health, she can be really stupid sometimes.  That Christian Science upbringing that she discarded decades ago pops up whenever it's convenient.

I'm going to take a different track with her.  I'm going to leave the decision of whether to see the doctor or not up to her BUT remind her that the thing she is most terrified of is being incapacitated and the fact that her pain is getting worse is a sign that the back is getting worse and if she doesn't get it checked out, she may very well end up incapacitated.  OR it may well be that she won't be incapacitated but will have to use a walker to get around, another huge fear (she's above all those poor people who use walkers.  SHE doesn't need a walker!)  Let's see how that goes over.

Someone in the Memory People group on Facebook suggested we try medical marijuana.  That had never occurred to me, and having zero experience with marijuana, I wouldn't have a clue where to find it or how to use it.  But it is something I might explore if the doctor thinks it might be a good idea.

But anyway, we eventually got to the dining room and "her" table was full, so we sat at the empty table next to it.  As she was sitting down, she got this funny look on her face and I looked off to the side and there was Loretta entering (on her walker, I might add).  Loretta, as I have said before, is my mother's best friend at Atria.  Neither of them knows the other one's name, though they have been friends for two years, but they enjoy each other so much, especially when they have wine with their meals.  They like teasing and insulting each other, just like my mother and her friend Paula do and I just love it.  Meals with Loretta are my favorites.

As usual, my mother poured over the menu before deciding on fruit salad and vegetable soup, and then couldn't remember what she was going to order.  When they brought her vegetable soup (which she has every day), they had added extra vegetables on top of the broth and she looked disgusted and tried to decide why she had ordered that.  She obviously was not going to eat it, so I took the veggies floating on the top of the broth off and put them on a separate plate and then she recognized her order and she ate the broth. 

We were enjoying lunch when suddenly there was a shout of "HEY!!!"  It was a woman who is probably the youngest resident of Atria, but I think she is there because she is in a wheelchair and probably this was the best place for her.  She was shouting "Is there someone who knows the Heimlich maneuver?  We have someone choking here!"

At the table next to her, on the other side of the room from where we were sitting, suddenly all the wait staff and some of the Atria facility people surrounded this woman and I guess managed to successfully "heimlich" her but there remained a lot of people around her for awhile until they were sure she was OK. 

As for my mother and Loretta, they kept insulting each other throughout the rest of lunch. At one point I asked Loretta which of her children she had in Davis and she told me it was her son.  I asked her how many children she had and she couldn't remember.  She thinks she has grandchildren. She just remembered that they have taken away any sharp objects in her apartment and are choosing her clothes for her and she now has to wear colors she never wore before.

It's easy to see why she and my mother are such good friends.  And the best thing is that when they are together, I have no qualms about joking about the fact that neither can remember anything.  They just laugh at me and with each other.  I'm sure they never see each other outside of mealtimes, but they do enjoy their meals together.