I’ve known for a while even though I seldom have contact with my mother and that side of the family, but from our phone conversations, especially over the last six months, it’s been obvious. At least to me. To be fair, I do have a wife who works in geriatric care, and I am exposed more than others. And her stories, ah her stories. Every one is as sad as the one before, some even sadder. Finally, in a late Sunday night conversation, it was confirmed.
My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. She’s always been forgetful, but lately it has been more than that. At her age, it can’t be called early onset. It just is what it is.
When I mentioned my suspicions to other members of my family, they were downplayed, attributed to mild strokes she has endured over the last few years. But memory loss following strokes does not decline. It stays steady, and sometimes even gets better over time. It’s not always accompanied by confusion and a clear lapse of extreme short term memory.
How do I know? My wife deals with it every day as a nurse, and has seen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in dozens of patients, if not hundreds. We know what to look for in a care facility, and to an extent when a patient can no longer be cared for at home. Of members of the immediate family, we’re probably the most qualified to help manage her care, ask the doctor appropriate questions, and assist in the selection of facilities when the time comes. We know what needs to be done now, and what can wait.
So are we going to move to Arizona to care for her? Not likely. Why not? Because as you know if you read my writing, I’m the black sheep of the family, and my opinion is less than welcome most of the time. My mom has never spent the night at my house, not even once time since I moved out at eighteen. Not that it matters all that much, I’m simply used to not being close to my family.
So what’s going to happen? I have no idea. There are decisions that should be made sooner rather than later, actions that should be taken, but when I mention them, they’re dismissed. The most logical solution? She should move close to one of her sons, likely my brother who she is closer to emotionally, sooner rather than later, so she can adjust before she is no longer able to adjust. Or one of us should move closer to her.
From what my brother tells me, he has no desire, plans, or ability to move. We have the ability, but not the desire, and wonder if our help would even be welcome. Moving her closer to us is an option, but also involves moving her husband, also not in the best of health, although little about his condition has been shared with me either. So what is the estranged son to do?
I’ve strived, over the last few years, to practice kindness, regardless of how the person has treated me. So what is the kind thing to do here? Is mom capable, even at this early stage, of making good decisions and expressing her wishes coherently? I have no idea, but I plan to find out, and at least offer our assistance, our love, and our support whatever decisions are made.
Logic would dictate I just forget about it. I’ve been dismissed for years, but that golden rule/karma stuff kicks in, and I know, just know deep down that I have to be better than all of this, and rise above the situation, even lend assistance where I can, with hope it will be accepted.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. My mom may never be the same, and there are many daily things she will no longer remember how to do, things that happened moments ago she will not recall. But for those of us who surround her, and watch with infinite sympathy and pain as things progress, whether slowly or quickly, however the disease plays out in her life, we will remember.
We can’t simply forget about it.