Alzheimer's disease · Behavior · Caregiver · Caregiving · Family

Best judgment / May 16, 2006

I was reading about my Biblical namesake Deborah, a judge and prophetess in Israel during a time when it was under the control of the Canaanites. She was one of those protean Old Testament women who exploit the antithesis between her social status and her gender. But her role as a judge is what interests me now because so much of caring for my mother boils down to my best judgment. Alzheimer’s is willful and mercurial, and I feel like I have to try to outwit it. I’m learning, anyway.

It’s pernicious in that one misapprehension of my mother’s seems to derail whatever power of reason she still commands. On Monday morning she awoke thinking that it was Sunday and panicking that my father (six years gone) and I had left her alone without telling her where we were going. I have an erasable board on the refrigerator where I write the day, date and anything I think she should know for the day, and I had written the day and date, but either she didn’t look at it or her panic blinded her. She was surprised when her home companion arrived for her scheduled visit, several hours later, and it was only at that point my mother realized it was Monday.

So signs and notes don’t do any good unless they can be understood and processed, which my mother couldn’t do that morning. She finally called me at work and I got the impression that she had tried to call me earlier but at the wrong number. Some “nice man” talked to her and tried to connect her to me, she said. The fear seems to have short-circuited her ability to look at a calendar or the list of telephone numbers beside the phone, to think the situation out. Not to mention that she couldn’t remember that the day before had been Mother’s Day, and we’d gone out to eat, which she’d seemed to enjoy quite a bit. All of those clues were diluted by emotion, which set another frantic perception in motion at the expense of everything else.

She was extra “off” for the rest of the day. I usually let her do the dishes after dinner, and the following morning I found a bowl put away that had an inch of dishwater still in it–she must have lifted it out of the dishpan and placed it on the shelf. I also found the backdoor open–with its doorknob locked and deadbolts thrown.

So do I still keep her home? I was so worried about her behavior I took today off just to monitor. She slept most of the day–is this depression or AD? I’ve made a list of assisted living facilities with dementia units in the area (only four) and will probably begin visiting them. I’m still not “there”–not convinced that her well-being is so compromised by being home that she should move. That would be so traumatic, wouldn’t it? I don’t know, I have to use my best judgment.

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