Monday, April 18, 2016

When Memory Fades...

It was November of 2011...I was a newby still - it was only the second time that I had officially posted on my blog. I wrote on my experience of my son (then only 18 years old) having accidently hit his head and having a concussion. The fear, anxiety, and frustration were all there in that post.

An excerpt from that post: 
"He can’t remember and keeps asking questions from one minute to the next….my heart aches for him in his frustration to remember. He starts to panic…..I remind him to stay calm. Can we make it home before he loses it? We do, but even then he can’t relax at home…..questions and more questions (yikes! Will he be like this the next 2-3 days?) Please, Lord, bring back his memory! ...later on, I start to feel the release of my emotions from the stressful evening and shed some tears! Oh, the things we endure as parents! We love, yet at such a cost!!!"

As I read the post again, I almost had a feeling of de-ja-vu! Was that experience a foretaste of what was to come....this time with my mother, instead of my son? The only difference is that that was a temporary memory loss and this time it is progressive and permanent. Same emotions, same fears, different generation. 

As a main caretaker, there are good days and not-so-good days with my mom. Don't get me wrong. I love my mom more than anything. But the repetitive questioning, childlike behavior, and inability for her to process any deep thinking or decision-making can wear on my patience. I definitely have realized my own need for the presence and patience that only God can provide. If, like me, you are one of the estimated 15 million Americans caring for someone with dementia, you know that it’s a uniquely devastating disease. Dementia—the most common form is Alzheimer’s—robs you of the person you love. It attacks memory, personality, language, and physical abilities. It can last for years, even decades. And it has no cure.
I know that over time, my mom's dementia will only get progressively worse. That is why I try to appreciate the good times that I have been blessed to have  to spend with her. Several months ago I made the choice to quit my job and be one of the main caretakers of my mom for this very reason. Those days and moments can be cut short at any time. I know that, even on those days when it is more difficult to have patience and endurance, I try to keep reminding myself that the days are short, compared to what time I may still have with her. I pray for strength and am so thankful that I can go to the Lord, Who... my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.(Psalm 28:7)
No matter what kinds of difficulties and trials we may be going through in our lives, we can lean on our Lord to strengthen and help us!! He provides all of our needs!! Praise Him!!

May you all have a blessed week!

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  1. It is so difficult, Ann. I am sorry that you are going through this. When I was the main caregiver for my mom, my emotions were all over the place. Believe me, I understand. As you know, she is now in a memory care facility because we were not capable to handle her on our own (her dementia added an element of agitation and aggression). She needed round the clock supervision and medication. Recently things have been declining with her and she is now on hospice care. But, prior to this, on our last visit, God blessed me with a sweet moment with her. Though she didn't know who I was or even that I had a connection to her, she looked at me and said, "You remind me of some of my favorite people." To me, it felt like a gift from God. I felt as if someplace, deep inside her, she was thinking of me, her youngest daughter, and I felt familiar. Thinking of that now is bitter sweet. Though my mom is alive, she is no longer here. She is not mom anymore, you know? That is what is so sad and difficult to bear. I pray that your mom's dementia does not progress as far as some and that you have many, many more sweet times together. You are right, cherish the good days and thank God. And, on those "not-so-good" days, rely on Him. He'll carry you, and your mom, through.

    Blessings & love, Joan

    1. Yes, Joan, I know you can relate to my experiences with being a parent's caretaker. Thank you for sharing from your heart and with support. I'm sorry to hear she is currently in Hospice care. I will hold her and your family up in prayer, friend. I can only imagine the difficulty of knowing she isn't the mom you've known. I already feel a small taste of that with my mom. I hope I won't have to face seeing her go into Hospice care, but I realize that often is the path dementia takes. I'm glad you got to have a good experience with her the last time you saw her!

    2. Hi again! I wanted to add, that the Hospice care isn't "end of life" care (yet). It is much needed palliative care... The Hospice staff are adding a wonderful level of attention and one-on one care during this challenging time. She has an RN seeing her twice a week, a care giver twice a week and clergy as well! This is all in addition to what she is already receiving where she lives. Plus, she also now has a Hospice doctor, so this will lower her need to go to the emergency room (what has been at least once a week recently). :)

    3. So glad she has the added extra care!! It is definitely a full-time job, and with each professional's visits, that has to be a relief for you - that she has everything she needs for best care! God bless you and your mom, Joan!

  2. Ann, I so understand what you're going through. My father had diabetes, and I believe that is what contributed to his rapid decline into dementia in his later years. It was very hard to watch, and very difficult to deal with, as his dementia manifested itself in anger and suspicion. He came to a point where he didn't remember who we all were, and often accused us of lying about being his children. He thought we were stealing things from their house. He was irrational in his demands. He was threatening physically at times. Thankfully, the Lord gave me a wonderful last week with him in the hospital before he died. He told me he loved me and appreciated what I was doing for him, and I believe he knew who I was when he said it.

    Now, in the past two years, my two siblings and I have taken over the responsibility of caring for my mother. Several months ago, we added a part-time caregiver as she was not able to take care of herself on the days we could not be with her. Every month I travel 2 1/2 hours down to visit her. I usually stay at least a week. My kids are down there, so I get to visit them, too. But I live with my mother when I am in town. She is also declining into dementia. I think we didn't fully realize how much her mind was compromised until my father passed away. The things that you have mentioned experiencing with your mother are so spot on. My mother has no short-term memory, cannot make a decision (even if it's just answering, "Are you hungry?"), and she clings to me when I have to leave her for any reason. I just got home yesterday from two weeks with her, and I am exhausted. I feel so terrible about myself when I get impatient and frustrated with her, but as you know, it wears on you. I just try to look at the things that I am grateful for - she still knows who I am, and we do have some sweet conversations. She is not angry like my dad was, and is quite docile and calm. She loves the Lord, and we have precious talks about Him together. And, like you said, I just don't know how long I'll have her.

    It's a difficult journey, but one that is honorable in many ways. We are actually having a chance to live out the Fifth Commandment. And God notices. He walks with us every step of the way. And when we are too weary to go on, He picks us up and carries us.

    God bless you and your dear mother.

    1. Wow, Sharon!! Your story is SO familiar and I think if we took a poll on Facebook or our blogs, we would be quite surprised at how many people either are or have had to be caretakers of a parent(or both parents). My dad actually was like your mom, had Alzheimers, but was very docile. My mom took care of him for years. He passed away in 2004. Now mom has it and is in total denial. Understandably, she doesn't want to admit she has serious memory issues, plus the other symptoms, because she had seen some of it in my dad. It is very tiring. I have told my husband that we will need to take a mini-vacation soon and have someone care for mom while we are gone. As caretakers, we need to make sure we are taking time off, too. So glad you have had some positive experiences with your mom. May God also walk with you as you continue to care for her! I agree that God does honor us in honoring our parents and caring for them!! Blessings!! An

  3. Ann, This post is so beautifully poignant. The love you have for your mom shines through every word.
    My parents are in good health, but are getting older and I am more conscious to cherish the moments I have with them. I can't even imagine what it must be like to care for someone with dementia as you are, but as you stated. The Lord is your strength.

    May God bless you abundantly as you sacrificially and gladly take care of your mom.

    1. Thanks, Karen, for your kind words and encouragement! I pray you don't have to ever experience it, but God does and will carry you through, if ever you do!! Blessings to you, sister in Christ!

  4. Bless all care givers, those who posted here and those who are reading. The challenges are significant. The experience is greatly eased by faith, God's abiding presence, and the support of others.


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