June 2019 Post – CHANGES
‘Don’t do that!’, ‘Don’t change that!’ ‘Leave that alone!’, ‘Stop trying to change my life!’, ‘You want me gone so you can take everything!’.
What is this?
The transition time between late-early stage to middle stage Alzheimer’s. It’s demanding. It’s the time when most families begin to realize there’s a problem. Clues in the early stage were missed.
There’s confusion with time, an inability to focus, problems with medications, can’t or won’t fix a meal or snack. They become argumentative and opinionated. Mom (patient) is not herself.
That’s what we experience. What must it be like for mom (patient)? Consider entering her mind for a while.
Throughout the early stage, if no one else noticed, she did. She’s felt herself slipping. She feels fear and anger. The life she’s always known is changing, she’s trying to hold on as it fades away. No one tries to understand or help her. They know what’s best without asking her.
A recent conversation between Mary and a friend during a visit at Mary’s apartment:
In a soft British accent Mary begins. Her eyebrows pop up over circular silver wire spectacles. “I have something to show you, let me get it.” She gets up to go to her bedroom.
“It’s a picture of John when he got his award.” With a steady shuffle Mary leaves the room using the door casing for support. After a short time, her petite frame shyly peeks around the doorway. Wisps of silver hair lose from a bun fall around her face. “I’m not sure where it is. It was on the dressing table. Maybe it’s out here.”
Her friend stands up, “Let’s look for it together.” In her bedroom on the dressing table is the framed picture of John. “Is this it?”
Mary, “Oh yes, where did you find it?”
Friend, “Here on the dressing table.”
“Oh dear.”, Mary gently clutches her chest as she slowly sinks to the dressing table bench. “Was it here all the time? My mind is getting worse. It’s so frustrating, I’m not sure what to do. I knew the picture was there, why couldn’t I see it? Oh dear.”
Friend, “It’s OK, we found it.”
Mary, “Yes, but it’s not good. My daughter gets so upset with me. She thinks I don’t know anything anymore.”
Friend, “Don’t feel bad about it.”
Mary, “Well I do. I try to remember but I can’t. I remember only parts of things. I don’t know why. I know the picture is there, but I can’t find it!”
Friend, “We have it now, tell me about John.”
Mary talks about John, it’s not the first time her friend has heard it all. Mary hesitates at places; her friend helps her complete her thoughts.
Friend, ‘Mary, I love that story.”
Mary, “Thank you, I’m forgetting parts of it though. My last memories of John. You know my daughter gets so mad at me. I know I upset her. I don’t mean to.”
Friend, “She’s not mad at you, she’s frustrated too.”
Mary, “I know it’s the Alzheimer’s, but it won’t go away. My daughter and I were such good friends. We traveled together, but now all I seem to do is upset her. I don’t mean to.”
Friend, “Where did you travel?”
Mary’s pale blue eyes brighten, “Well, one beautiful trip was for our 50th anniversary. She took John and I on an Alaskan cruise.”
Friend, “Alaskan cruise, really? How fun, did you take pictures?”
Mary, “Yes they’re in that album right over there under the nightstand. Can you reach it?”
Friend, “Yes.” She opens the thick album to the first page. “What a beautiful picture.”
Mary, “I took that.”
Friend, “No way! You took this picture? It looks like a professional shot. You took this?”
With a young, girly giggle Mary said, “Yes, it was my hobby. Anywhere we went, John had to wait while ‘I took time to line up the best shot.”
Friend, “You took all these? They are beautiful.”
Mary, “Yes, and that large country cottage picture on the wall, my daughter had it enlarged and framed.” She said with pride, more for her daughter than herself.
Mary’s friend happily listens to the anniversary stories again and watches Mary’s eyes become moist as she captures John’s story one more time. The thoughts may not last long but with encouragement, Mary’s still able to find them.
BE AWARE DON’T BE SHY
In the last 20 years the general public has become more aware of Alzheimer’s, but there’s still more to KNOW about Alzheimer’s.
A few weeks ago, gift store traffic had slowed enough so the receptionist could help a lady on the phone with directions. In her car she was obviously confused and very apologetic for being a problem.
“No, no, not a problem,” the receptionist said, “You’re close. Take a right at the light. Then, on your right will be a big parking lot. At the second opening make another right and you are here. See you soon!”
The receptionist easily picked her out as she entered the store. An elderly lady with short, thick white hair, red sweater and gray slacks. A small black handbag hung from her left forearm.
At the desk she thanked the receptionist and said, “I don’t usually do that. I know my way around. I just don’t like big busy streets. Thank you for your help.”
She disappeared among the displays to browse through the store. After a while, back at the front, she hadn’t found what she wanted and asked the receptionist for directions to another store.
It was obvious she was confused. The receptionist asked light heartedly,
“Can we call someone to help you?”
“No, I live in a senior community on Park Street. I drove here myself.” Her voice became low and nervous.
“That’s nice, is there someone at the community we can call for you? What’s the name of the community?” the receptionist asked.
“No” she said backing away. “I drove myself, I’ll get home just fine.”
There was a rush of activity in the store, the elderly lady in the red sweater slipped away unnoticed…and drove away.
Later in the breakroom it became clear the elderly lady in the red sweater had met others during her store visit.
One sales person commented,
“What was wrong with her? She asked directions to the lady’s room then walked into John’s office!”
“Yeah, I tried to talk to her, but she couldn’t tell me what she wanted.”
The first sales associate added,
“She asked how to get to the store across the highway but when I told her she said that wasn’t the way she’d go. Something’s wrong with her.”
John had walked into the room and added,
“Yeah, she’s slippin’, or somethin’, for sure not all there.”
What can be learned from this situation? How did store associates help the lady?
If the elderly lady in the red sweater was your mother what would you want to happen?
If the elderly lady in the red sweater was your mother is it time to talk about driving?
With knowledge people become more accepting…aware of a situation they become willing to help.
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