Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Big Move

The best part of yesterday was when my mother, sitting in her chair, looking out the window of her new apartment, found a tree that was particularly beautiful.  I knew it was going to be OK.

We had  long day and I'm sure my mother is waking up this morning not having a clue where she is, but I hope at least she can find the bathroom.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I told Walt when I got home that it is getting more and more difficult to find something to talk with her about.  She asks endlessly what my plans are either for the rest of the day or for the rest of my life.  I try to find something that I'm doing that she can follow, but she seems to be having difficulty following even simple sentences and often just waves me off with "I can't understand a thing you're saying."  

I used to try to make her laugh and tried that today.  She was commenting on the brown age spots on her arm again and how they made her look old and that they were ugly and she wanted to just chop her arm off.  About then, her nose began to itch, as it seems to do constantly, and she took her napkin and rubbed her nose with it.  I told her that if she chopped her arm off she would not be able to scratch her nose when it itched.  That was entirely too complicated for her to follow.  A couple of months ago we would have had a nice giggle over that.

We did talk a little about politics.  She asked me how the world was doing and I said "terrible" and then gave her a very brief outline of what is going on (she has never heard of Donald Trump, though she read the newspaper every day).  She kept demanding to know what I was going to do to fix things.

But we had a nice lunch and I told Piyush, the server from Nepal, who is my favorite (she always called the women "mama" because she can't remember everyone's name) that she would be moving to memory care next week and she was very sad, because she would probably not see her again.  I was so happy to take a picture of the two of them.  I've printed off a copy and will get it to Piyush when I am at Atria tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mothers Day

It was just 11 a.m. when we finished and I decided that was too early to go to Atria, so we waited until 1 and then went to visit my mother . Each holiday that we share together, I wonder if it's going to be the last one.  Whether she is here next year or not, it really was the last video in this apartment.

Walt came with me this time and he got to see her when she is good, but making no sense in whatever she talks about.  She did spend a lot of time talking about the trees outside and that made her smile.

Since conversation was all but impossible, we didn't stay the full hour, but I did snap pictures of the furniture we want to donate because Habitat for Humanity is interested but wanted to see what we had to share.  I have to go back tomorrow anyway to pick up laundry, so I will visit more then.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Rose is a Rose

Today Ned and I took my mother to the McKinley Park rose garden in Sacramento.  Ned has been wanting to do this for months but had to wait for the roses to bloom...and then when they reached their peak, he was on the road, driving from Houston to Sacramento.  So the roses are slightly past peak, but still an amazing, dazzling display of color.

We almost didn't make it.  When I went to Atria she was asleep and didn't think she could stand up.  I became Ned or Jeri and jollied her to sitting, then gave her coffee, which woke her up a bit.  She got emotional when she asked "where's Mom?" and I had to tell her that her mother had been dead for 60 years.  She was sad that she didn't even know that.

But eventually I got her out into the car, not having a clue where she was or where she was going, but by the time we got to the park near Ned's house, she was a bit more with it.  Ned, bless him, met the car, got us out right across the street from the entrance to the park and then took the car and parked it, so we would not have to walk far.

Ned was such a good guy.  He had packed a lunch for us and thought of everything.  He bought white balloon bread, which he remembered my mother always made her sandwiches on when she made lunch for him as a kid.  He went and found olives because my mother had always said "it's not a party without olives."

He made a delicious fruit salad and he packed beverages -- wine for himself and his grandmother and water for me.

We were at a bench in the shade, just outside of the garden itself and my mother kept exclaiming over and over about how beautiful the flowers (and trees!) were.

I left the two of them sitting there and I went off to wander through the garden and take some photos.
Eventually, my mother was getting cold so they joined me in the garden and we wandered around looking at all the roses.  My mother especially seemed to like the huge bushes of white roses.  In fact, whenever we were talking about anything, she would interrupt to say "aren't those white roses beautiful?"

It was finally time to leave -- I needed to get the car home for Walt, who was going to San Francisco that night.  Ned went and got the car for us and parked it in "movie star parking" (directly opposite the entrance to the garden--Thank you, Gilbert) and we said our goodbyes.

Instead of getting on the freeway, knowing how much my mother loves trees and knowing that Sacramento is officially a "Tree City," I drove through town and, not surprisingly, she just loved looking at all the trees.

I dropped her off at Atria and while she didn't know where she was going, I knew she would be able to find her apartment (I won't be able to do that after she moves next week) and I came home to nap for a couple of hours, since I'd had so little sleep the night before.

While still vague and demented, she was so much better at the end of our adventure than she was when she woke up, that I felt good about the trip and am encouraged to think about the possibility of her having more social interaction with folks in the memory care unit, which can only be good for her.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


...we ran into Margaret, with whom I used to eat whenever I had lunch there (now her table is usually full).  She was happy to hear that my mother was going into the memory unit because she has noticed that she has declined a lot in the last few months.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dog Day Afternoon

Walt and I decided to go to Atria in the afternoon.  I thought I would bring Lizzie with us so she could distract my mother while Walt was in her bedroom measuring furniture.  As it turned out, no sneaking was necessary since she was sitting in the lobby across from the dining room, so I just took Lizzie down to visit her while Walt went off with his tape measure to the apartment.

My mother has always loved dogs and she was happy to see Lizzie, who was just so good, so gentle and so happy to have someone make a fuss over her.

I lost track of how many times my mother asked if Lizzie was our dog or not and how long we'd had her, but it was nice to have her distracted and to have something to talk about.

There are a lot of dogs who live at Atria and I've gotten to know many of them.  There is, for example, a Boston Bull terrier named,  think, Molly, who lives across the hall.  There is a sign on the door of that apartment letting people know that there is a dog inside and what the dog's name is.
Dogs always attract attention and having Lizzie in the lobby was a great magnet for lots of people who wanted to pet her.  One woman told us about her dog, who had lived at Atria for a few years and now lives with her daughter, but the woman keeps a fenced in yard for when the dog comes to visit.

What was strange about the day was that I swear almost every dog who lives in Atria came by while we were sitting there.

Elizabeth is my favorite.  She's a lovely Dalmatian and everybody loves her, including, apparently, Lizzie.

There was little Chita, a long-haired Chihuahua looking dog who was as energetic was Polly but didn't bark.

There was also the dog I have called a mini-Lizzie because she looks exactly like Lizzie if Lizzie had been bleached and shrunk.  The two dogs' tails wags furiously and they really wanted to play with each other.

My favorite King Charles spanial walked by and both dgs wagged at each other from across the hall, but the person on the other end of her leash didn't let her come over to sniff butts.

Walt finally joined us, having finished measuring everything.  My mother didn't recognize him and I'm not 100% sure she ever knew who he was.  She also looked confused when I talked about Ned and didn't have a clue who that was, and when I explained he was her grandson, she waved her hand and let me know she didn't know what I was talking about (Ned is meeting us at a rose garden in Sacramento tomorrow so we can take her to lunch there and let her enjoy being surrounded by roses).

She did, however, enjoy looking at the picture of Brianna carrying the foodball that I posted yesterday.  Usually when I show her pictures like that she says 'who is that?' but today she just talked about the photo as if she knew who I was talking about.  You just never know from minute to minute who she is going to remember and who she is not.

But the best part of the day was just watching my mother interact with Lizzie and Lizzie seeming to enjoy it.

I don't know if dogs can visit in memory care, but if they can, I think I need to bring Lizzie more regularly.  It's not only good for my mother, but for the people around her as well...and Lizzie's a great dog to do it because she's so calm and loving

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


There is one characteristic of my mother's that I hate and that is only getting worse as she gets older.  She is a very vain person.  She always has been.  She is from a family of 10, 7 girls, and to be honest, none of them would compete for Miss America.  But for a long time she was the only one who was "citified," who moved from the country to the city, and who, eventually, was taken under the wing of my grandmother whose friends were rich ladies who dressed well and knew how to set a proper table and all those things that go with a certain level of society.  We weren't in that level of society, but my grandmother spent her life trying to live up to it.

I don't remember ever waking up in the morning and seeing my mother without full makeup.  The first thing she did every day was to get up, go into the bathroom, and put her make up on.  She might be cooking breakfast in her bathrobe, but her makeup was on.  I don't think she learned that on the ranch where she grew up!

For most of her life, she went to the beauty parlor every week so there was rarely a hair out of place.  Surprisingly she didn't have professional manicures that I remember, but she was always doing her own nails.

Now, at 97, she doesn't have the same routine.  She can walk about with bed hair, looking like the Wicked Witch of the West and it doesn't bother her, but she is obsessed with her hands.

When I left Atria today, I realized I had spent one hour talking (or listening) about her hands.  She's mad at them, you see.  She hates how they look, hates the ropy look of her veins and especially the brown spots.  She picks at them and hits her hands and calls them stupid.

Showing her that my hands look similar to that doesn't help.

After she talks to and scolds her hands for looking so old, then she examines her arms and slaps at the brown spots on her arms.  Stupid, stupid, stupid! she tells her arms.  And then it is back to her hands again.  

She will change it up a bit to tell me how ugly her nails are.

My cousin gave her a manicure recently but it looks like she has filed the nails down so they are not the way they looked when she had the manicure.  They aren't chipped or cracked, she just doesn't like the way they look.

Then she goes back to examining her hands and how she hates them.  This is a conversation we have almost every time I visit her, but today it was a conversation that went on for literally an hour.
She finally told me that she just realized her shoes had holes in them and I knew it was time to go home before I went stark raving mad.

The one brief break from the hour-long diatribe about her ugly hands was when she asked me where the little girl was.  "What little girl?" I asked her and she said "You know.  The cute little girl who is always here."  Not sure where THAT came from!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Power of Attorney

There is a lot more "power" in that term than the title that we sometimes throw around would suggest.  I felt very powerful, signing away all my mother's personal rights in preparation for her admission to the memory care unit next month.

She's going to be very upset and I am having nightmares trying to figure out how to make it all go as smoothly as possible for her.  It reminds me of the weeks leading up to her move to Atria four years ago.

It was the longest conference I've had with Richard, the General Manager of Atria.  We have had our moments when I had to confront him about this or that thing, but this was a congenial half hour we spent together.  I kinda sorta liked him, though when he talked about hoping my mother's rent will be reduced once the tax rate goes from 30% to 15%, I figured that politics was not going to be a good topic for us to discuss.

So now all the decisions have to be made, and behind my mother's back.  She was not happy when I mentioned the move to her (I knew she would not be) and said she would "think about it" and "let me know."  By now she has forgotten.  But I wanted it to be said.