Alzheimer's disease

Same as it ever was / March 21, 2006

On what seem to be good days, like today, I’ll be talking to my mother and think: Is this a dream? She can still act perfectly normal at times. But it’s not a dream, as I inevitably find out. I don’t really want to know this much about the invisible warp and weft of the mind, although at times I wish I understood what she’s going through. It’s not just misplacing names and dates somewhere in the crevices of the brain–I imagine it must feel like finding yourself on a train in a foreign country, with a vaguely familiar language that’s just beyond your comprehension. And having no money.
In my other life I’m grad student (late enough in life) in Public Humanities, also known as Public History. Nearly all of our discussions and readings have to do with how a society expresses its collective memory–whether in a park, monument, festival, museum or performance. As I watch my mother’s memories ebb, maybe this study is a way of reminding myself that I can remember for her, that I can be a caretaker of what she is losing.

On a practical note, I called a home care agency today and arranged to have someone come to the house a few hours a day to sit with her. She is back-and-forth about the prospect of having someone come into her home everyday. At first she turned up her nose at it. But I’m learning the ways of handling her moods and fears. I gave her a choice: since she cannot be alone ALL day, she can either have someone come in, or we could look at assisted living. I didn’t say it threateningly–I tried to speak as if I was only the messenger, trying to put a positive spin on something neither one of us has any control over. So then she thought about it and admitted that she might actually like having company while I’m at work.

I’m not going to rest on my laurels until we have someone coming in who’s reliable and agreeable. The first couple of weeks are going to be dicey. My mother can cheerfully agree to something, and when the day arrives be an absolute witch about it–sullen, petulant. How nice it would be to have someone we like and can trust.

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