Thursday, March 26, 2009


My mother's friendship is one of the relationships I have missed most since Alzheimer's intrusion. So many "bridges" have blown up in her little brain so I never know when or if she will make sense. Actually, much of the time she does well following short conversations; other times, I get a "who - what- when - I don't know what you're talking about?" That loss, our friendship as it once was continues to sadden me. For me, an overwhelming sense of responsibility in being a caregiver left little emotional space for our friendship; there's always something to do or something needed to make sure things are right and safe. Right or wrong, that's just the way it's mostly been. It has taken a couple years for me to truly internalized the fact that caring for my mother is not my total responsibility. She has other children and we have found someone who works as a companion three hours three to four days a week.

Well, I'm ready to rethink this "caregiver and parental" mode! Personally, those words alone have negative connotations - demanding, rushed, sacrifice, limited free time, and such. I do realize this is a bit negative and selfish, so those of you who email please be kind or just skip the comment on this one!

Yes, I'm thinking a different mindset - one of honor and support, one who is at her side as she ages and assisting her as she journeys this last stage of life, one who is calm. And, one that okay with donuts for breakfast, cake for lunch, and ice cream for dinner. I kid you not, Chrissy loves loves loves sweets. She is eight-three with moderate cognitive impairment, why not have chocolate three meals a day? Okay maybe the chocolate is an exaggeration, often it is lemon or cream cheese filling. And baths wear her out, so it's not going to be that important she have one so frequently. Yes, I'm already thinking of B12 deficiency, UTI's and increased cognitive impairment. So we will see how it goes.

A recent post by Dale Russakoff,, talks about receiving the advice of "just don't hurry" and how those words helped him identify with his mother's pace and view of life. I would really like to get there. So, in one effort to pursue a new frame of thought I began researching and found The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care Interestingly, I already possessed some of their perspectives and exercise many listed suggestions. Who knew!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Circle of Life

Photo by

This morning I walked into the living room and Chrissy was on the sofa reading her Bible. Growing up, more times than not, I recall her sitting on the end of the sofa with the end table lamp on, holding her Bible up close and reading. What a beautiful memory! I have been thinking lately about end of life struggles and the stage of life she is in due to this insidious disease, Alzheimers. It seems I often find myself parenting her, things like remembering to be nurturing with touch and voice tone, wondering if something is safe or not, making sure there is daily food prepared, and taking her out weekly for a ride and such. Now, let me be clear, there are times I drop the ball or fail miserably; however, it's my heart's desire to help care for her lovingly and without resentment.

I listen to my mother's childhood stories and she talks about her mother being too sick to care for the younger children. Responsibility landed on my mother at around eight or nine years old. Her education ended with the third grade in order to help take care of the family. My Aunt Maxine remembers mother cooking for the family when she was nine years old. She thinks of my mother as her mother. My aunt recalls a barn on the property with a tire swing; at nap time my mother would take her sister out to the barn and swing her to sleep and then carry her inside to bed. At eight or nine they recall mother washing the family laundry in a tub using a washboard. I never hear Chrissy complain about her childhood - and she tells some of the funniest stories. As I think of my mother's difficult childhood, I wonder who nurtured and encouraged her? At times she is much like a child these days. As exhausting and frustrating as caregiving can be, it truly is an honor to now parent my mother.