Robbing one’s memory- Alzheimer’s is the worst

February 17, 2012

I can’t imagine living my last years with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately that’s what my mother is experiencing.

I would guess she has had it for 7 years. The onset occurred while she was living with my father in Florida.  Amazingly none of her five children knew. My father had become her fulltime caregiver, all the while hiding my mother’s condition from friends and family.

When he died two years ago, my mother’s condition became worse. We had to place her in a memory care facility in Lansing. Since then it has been a long and torturous ride as she has continued to lose more and more of her memory.

If cancer was the focal point of health specialists and scientists in the 1970’s and 80’s, then surely Alzheimer’s is it today. More and more people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and much like cancer, it is a particularly cruel disease- robbing people of what they cherish most- their family, friends and fond memories.

I’m not sure there is a worse way to die. My mother is in her own little world. She only recognizes me, her eldest son, on occasion. Most of the time she thinks I’m her husband or brother. I visit her faithfully every Sunday, but by the time my brother arrives Monday morning, she has long forgotten I was there.

She has no clue she is living in a room in an assisted living home. She thinks she is in a motel and still owns a house in Florida. She often is confused and disoriented. She uses words we don’t understand- a vocabulary that is only hers. We recently had to have her transported to Sparrow Hospital, because it was feared she had caught pneumonia.

It was a false alarm, but in the hospital, I saw a new side of Alzheimer’s. My gentle, sweet mother now had an angry streak. She was lashing out at the nursing staff- sometimes yelling at the top of her lungs. This was very disconcerting and disheartening to me.

I did learn, however, that this is quite normal with Alzheimer’s. It’s another stage so they say. But it’s a stage that literally tears me up inside. Forget the embarrassment one experiences- it’s just horrible to hear my mother screaming at and scolding other people.

My mother should be enjoying her 80’s. She worked long and hard throughout her life. She should be laying poolside on a cruise ship or babysitting her great-grandkids. Instead she’s cruising around the assisted living home in a wheelchair, not even knowing she has children, let alone great-grandchildren.

In her Lansing facility, there are doctors, successful businesspeople and professors that wheel around day after day, like zombies with no sense of purpose. I am amazed and saddened to see some of the most successful and intelligent people around reduced to emotional and mental levels of  pre-schoolers.

I know in laboratories everywhere, health professionals are studying the cause and effects of Alzheimer’s. Eventually there will be effective treatment and a cure. But right now, I have pity for the families that try to make sense out of this mindboggling condition.

I fear my mother is too far advanced for any kind of help. We can only hold her hand, give her a kiss on the cheek, and show her pictures of days gone by. She has been robbed of her memory and I know of nothing worse.

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