My mom has dementia. She was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment four years ago. She had a 20% chance of remaining somewhat stable, a 20% chance of rapid development, and a 60% chance of the gradual march of increased impairment. My mom was the gradual march. Why do I go see my mom, even when she will not recognize me and immediately forget my visit?
The clock is ticking. When my brother came back to visit her a few months ago, she did not immediately recognize him. This was hard for him. However, the next day there were moments of clarity and connection. My mom can no longer complete sentences. As soon as a though enters her mind, the words to express it flee. I do much of the talking. I tell her about my day, my week, my life. She no longer remembers her grandchildren or great grandchildren. I appreciate my son and his wife who come to visit with the great grandkids, even when mom no longer really knows them. She meets them for the first time with each visit. It is a little like the movie “50 First Dates”. Soon, she will no longer recognize me. I am not sure when that day will come.
The clock is ticking. Other than cognition, my mom is healthy. She is 86. We have her on comfort measures only as per her request. She did not wish to live this way. She witnessed her mother go down the same road. Mom asked my sister, a nurse, to help her commit suicide a couple years ago when she was aware of the dementia. She is a proud woman with a masters degree in special education and years of teaching. When she began repeating herself, she withdrew from all her friends. She did not wish to embarrass herself. Isolation and lack of stimulation did not help her journey. As her personal representative and Power of Attorney, I needed to place mom in an assisted living community over 14 months ago. She continued her decline is now is placed in an Adult Foster Home for greater supervision. I had to go through her things and sell the condo. One of the most loving things you can do for your kids is keeping the “stuff” to a minimum. My mom was not a hoarder by any means. The task was still overwhelming.
The clock is ticking. For her the days are long, sitting in a recliner with the television as her friend. There is some stimulation from the other residents and the caregiver. However, my mom cannot interact well in a conversation. Each day the demential takes a little more of her mind. Even when that day comes that my mom doesn’t recognize me, I will know her. I can speak to her about shared memories. I can still love her, respect her, hold her hand. My sister lives close by. My mom will not be alone, even if she does not know these strangers who keep visiting her, and that is why I still see her even if she does not remember. I think about my future. How will my kids treat me? Will my mind slowly disintegrate? I pray for a swift death to say goodbye to this earth and welcome heaven. We don’t always get our wish. In those moments, I pray my kids will visit me.