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Chronicling Her Presence, Over Time | KFP Articles
Chronicling Her Presence, Over Time PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 22:34

My mother moved from my home state to live with us a little over two years ago.  I'll never forget it.  Helping her through this time in her life is incredibly important to me and her arrival on the Feast of Epiphany was a true blessing.  Its been some years since her mental health allowed us to develop a strong bond but the the relatively recent presentation of a new phase of dementia has changed things dramatically.  With increased dependency comes virtues crucial to building relationships and we have rebuilt our relationship.  The old saying that every cloud has a silver lining definitely fits here. 

I've been wanting to share the many blessings of spending time with adults with dementia for some time now and my experience with my mother not only gives me that opportunity but writing about it helps me cherish it. 

From the outside looking in it seems like a difficult if not unreal encounter with the person who has dementia.  I hear from others, and have thought to myself "She's not really here anymore" and "its not the mother I always knew".  Those thoughts seem true at first but ultimately they are a distraction from the reality.  She is there and I can know her and love her, differently and possibly even better than before but it will take patience.  As I said before, things have improved.  I'm not alone in contrasting this experience to the idea that I've lost my mom years ago.  A few months ago I ran across a very informative post on an Alz Association forum where the post author was discussing the phenomena of being told, after the death of her mother, that she had lost her real mom years ago.

So to all those who mistakenly think Mum 'died' years (ago) - remember, she was STILL my mum. A different one, perhaps, but in the last two years once the aggression had passed, I began to recognise my old mum once again.    

When the aggressive phase passes family often get their loved one back.  Their understanding of what is happening around them may be poor, very poor but they are still there.  Their heart still has its reasons and knows its loves.  This has been my greatest lesson.  I've been taught many times that her world is one of feeling, she wants to know she is safe and can read the emotion of a situation but may not understand the words being said.   She will slowly over time have problems with memory of recent events but memory of times long past will become vivid.  We are already seeing this as she will at times talk of finding her mother.  My mother's knowledge is a knowledge of familiarity, she will struggle with facts, such as my wife's name at times but she has become familiar with our home, the town we live in and most importantly her grandchildren.

mom dancing boxWhen it comes to the grandchildren she cherishes her time with them and falls right into place as grandma.  The movement of her heart towards them tells a story that no cognitive test can tell.  So, that's what we do, spend time playing with the girls, whether it be Connect Four or dancing to traditional music - my girls take Irish dance and we do our best to set dance - we spend time together as a family.  The time playing music and dancing in the living room make for some of the best memories.  The joy on her face when she's around those girls is a sight to behold.  Tonight, I picked mom up after work.  We had her over for dinner and spent some time listening to my oldest practice Kerry Cow on her tin whistle.  Watching the girls dance or play the tin whistle may well be mom's favorite activity.  We ended the night with a rosary for Pope Benedict XVI and the Church.  When I drove mom home she was sooo happy and told me "That was a good night, the dinner, music and the rosary... it was a great night!"  Yes it was.

Times like the drive home tonight when mom's thinking is clear and I encounter the mother 'I always knew' come in small windows but I can trace these memories over time and generate quite a beautiful picture.  I've met her all over again.  So, that's what I intend to do on a monthly basis, trace these memories by sharing stories and reflections on my time with mom.


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