I’ve been robbed! Anyone who has experienced the trauma of being burglarized knows how unsettling it can be. A profound sense of vulnerability envelops the victim. Outrage, anger, helplessness, and pain commingle with the tendency to blame one’s self for the occurrence. What did I do to bring this on? The tragedy is exacerbated by the ignominy of knowing the identity of the perp. Why, I wonder? Why me? Sadly there are no ready answers. My situation can’t be worked out neatly and cleanly. I’ve been robbed! The thief is a cruel, uncaring omnivore who doesn’t give a damn about its victims. The guilty party in my assault is Alzheimer’s disease and its latest conquest is my mother.
My brothers and I have no idea when this awful disease invaded her body. We noticed the repetitions in her conversations and told each other it didn’t mean anything because we, too, are guilty of repeating ourselves. I believe we’re all victims of information overload. Data masquerading as news is delivered in an in your face format which is neither appealing nor necessarily productive. Ultimately some of it sticks. Consequently it’s not unusual to hear the same stuff recurring ad nauseam. My Facebook page is a perfect example of the latter and the former.
Eventually we realized the recycled discourses signaled something more pervasive than the ubiquitous, TMI, too much information. There were other indications: confusion clouded her memory causing difficulty distinguishing between the present and the past. We began to hear about people whose names we didn’t recognize and situations we knew nothing about. There were also physical symptoms – the most alarming one was incontinence.
For at least seven years the diagnosis was dementia, the precursor to Alzheimer’s. Loving friends who’d been through the agony of caring for ageing parents afflicted with the disease took us aside, offered advice, and counsel on steps we should take before her health began to rapidly deteriorate. We took every suggestion seriously and acted on them. We got her will updated while she was still more lucid, more frequently. We secured a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, a health care directive, and a living will. Taking care of this business early on gives us peace of mind.
The week of mother’s day Mama’s neurologist changed her diagnosis from dementia to Alzheimer’s. She failed all the cognition tests. His recommendation: put her into an assisted living facility. Stop that thief, somebody, please! This is my mother we’re talking about!!! We’re currently looking for a new home for her. We don’t know how she will fare because she has emphatically stated she doesn’t want to move. Although she has a caregiver, she requires around the clock attention. We are as prepared as we know how to be for the transition we know is coming.
Mama is 90 years old. She’s been a widow for thirteen years. My parents were married for fifty-four. She was seventy-eight when she began living on her own, and for a while she did well. These days she doesn’t talk much. She was a brilliant and engaging conversationalist. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from college and earned a master’s degree. She taught school for thirty-five years, reared three children and was a lifeline for so many more. She was a champion Scrabble player and wasn’t too shabby at Monopoly or dominos.
She moves slowly these days. You can see the confusion in her eyes, the setting doesn’t matter…she simply forgets where she is or what’s she doing. She knows the names of her children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. She knows her godchildren’s names, but can’t always tell you what day of the week it is. She loses everything – even when she’s in your presence. Personal hygiene no longer means anything to her and she can’t assemble an outfit. She doesn’t hear well but she pulls her hearing aids out and promptly misplaces them. We’ve spent enough money replacing them. The woman who knew how to get things done – and made it look easy – doesn’t process requests anymore. They don’t compute.
This world traveler can’t go far any longer and she definitely cannot travel alone. I’ve been robbed! I can’t file a police report and no amount of insurance will cover my losses. The mother I knew is gone – forever – the ravages of an insidious and pernicious illness have stripped her of almost every characteristic which defined her as a unique creation. It doesn’t care about her dignity or worth. She still has her wonderful laugh and when she does speak, her voice is still the reassuring glove a child, no matter the age, feels instinctively. Help! I’ve been robbed!!! Somebody, PLEASE, stop that thief!!!
Epilogue: Mama died April 24, 2015.
Originally published on www.afterwriterdreams.com.