Alzheimer’s Took My Mother –
I truly wish in this diary serialisation of my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s that I could start at the very beginning, unfortunately there is no beginning, no defining moment where I can put my finger on a pivotal action, where I looked at her & quite properly assumed she had lost her mind, when the look that she always had in her eyes when we were children, childlike smile which would fill her whole face when she laughed disappeared and was replaced with a staring into open space, when she had become lost to us.
I had always intended to write/publish some sort of diary/journal that would one day consume me, today that day has arrived, in a week that would see us have medical confirmation & diagnosis that indeed my mother Bridget has Alzheimer’s, even though we had known and assumed for more than 3 years that this was the case.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel, horrible affliction it takes away spirit & emotions required for a person to exist, to properly function, I can only call it a disgusting disease as it spreads unabated, as it destructively dismantles all before it, however Alzheimer’s can also bring along some comedy gold, as much as it has made me cry, it has also made me and my sisters laugh out loud as Bridget has entertained us with such an abandon of social skills, we have begun to revel in some of the joy she has also shared with us through having Alzheimer’s. As much as I totally understand that some may find that crass and inappropriate it is how we feel as a family at times, our feelings are just that OURS.
My mother Bridget was born in Ireland – County Clare in 1930 & she will soon be 84 years young, she has 3 sons & 3 daughters, she herself would have 2 brothers & 1 sister, she lives in a warden aided old peoples complex on her own. I feel that is about enough of a flavour, the rest you can manufacture with your own poetic licence and amongst your own fragile minds.
Our objective is to bring a weekly diary, a few hundred words to share ours & Bridget’s journey, both good and bad, feel free to laugh, cry, applaud or just read & either keep your thoughts to yourself or share them within the blog or amongst social media.
My mother’s family over the years has become somewhat fragmented, in as much they could go for months with no contact, but like all good family/friends having an ability to pick up the baton from where it may have been ceremoniously dropped & run with it like nothing had ever been broken. It would mirror slightly my own relationship with her, as much as she has become distant through her illness in these last few years; I am closer to her today than I can ever remember.
Today has perhaps been the most difficult since Bridget started on her journey alongside her Alzheimer’s and as selfish as this may sound my own toughest of days. Her sister who herself had been ill would pass away in her sleep in the early hours of this morning, leaving me with the unenviable task of telling Bridget. Something that has to be planned with an accuracy & purpose, intent that she does not become further confused. One of the biggest things I have found with Alzheimer’s is that sufferers(Bridget) do not handle even the slightest of routine change very well, a change of curtains, a new TV or bedding, clothing…..The list goes on, my advice don’t bloody change anything.
Where my mother had gone for months and months not mentioning her sister, we were somehow this week conspired against by dark forces at play, when she would out of the blue start mentioning her sister Mary on what seemed like a daily/hourly basis, whilst in the background we were keeping the news away from her that her Mary would be close to death in her battle with cancer, a battle she would lose today.
I would have to choose the moment well, whilst giving us the opportunity to be with my mother after such news was broken – My father (they are separated) who we always take her to for her Sunday dinner would be at his most supportive (cantankerous) “She won’t have a clue anyway, but don’t ruin her dinner” #Laugh or #Cry or kill him, but two deaths in one day would perhaps be breaking the golden rule “Don’t change a bloody thing”.
I would get my mother’s attention, somewhat like an attentive child at school in the process of being read a story, uttering those words, those words that kill another’s spirit – To tell her that Mary had passed away, would make myself more sad than my mother, never forgetful that she is trapped in this cocoon where memories seldom leave & where there is no room for new memories or even moments. Sadness however even with Alzheimer’s cannot be masked, the eyes have it.
Within 5 minutes she was smiling at what I can only assume was the now fresh cream tart my father had given her, whilst momentarily repeating “She had a bad back, but she’s gone now” – At the same time my own heart sank and a little piece of me died.
For the past few days whenever Bridget has had visitors or her carers and they have asked about her week; she has had this notion/memory that on Tuesday (every day is Tuesday) she went out shopping where my sister took her around all the shops “we went in every shop” & knackered her out (her words) & then they had coffee(she only drinks tea) & cake, how she enjoyed it so much & wants to go again, one of the best days of her life – As much as this would sound like the most idyllic of days; the truth is somewhat different.
On Wednesday 14th May 2014 on a visit to the memory clinic my mother Bridget was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s my sister cried, and cried, and cried some more – The truth be known I don’t know if she has actually stopped crying, yes we have known for 3 years but to have that word used, the finality of that diagnosis, that hurts. My mother however remembers it differently – God bless her.
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