Tuesday, June 21, 2011


She didn’t recognize me. The party was in a stranger’s house mostly filled with people that we didn’t know. I arrived late and sat across the room. She smiled but did not make conversation. I had just cut my hair. She asked, “Who are you?” when I sat next to her. Those three words sliced into my heart. My own mother didn’t know her child. I told her that I was her daughter Ima. No light of understanding came into her eyes. She wasn’t able to make the connection.

My throat burned, it felt like someone hit me in the chest, and my eyes got moist. The party ended. I managed to make it to the car before I began sobbing. I couldn’t drive away for almost fifteen minutes. Feeling profound pity that her personality was fading away and anger at the damn disease of Alzheimer’s. Most of her great-grandchildren reside in different states and they will never know her benign troublemaking humor, wonderful desserts, and compassion. Unfortunately, my siblings are rather mean to her; they have always discounted her since my dad is dominant (which is probably why I despise misogynists).

Alzheimer’s is an insidious illness; it steals away the personality before the body dies. It heartbreaking to watch my mother get more confused and repeat herself. She has lot many items, including her wedding ring. I don’t live in the same community so every time that I visit she is a bit worse. We got the diagnosis two years ago from an expert (don’t rely on general practitioner but see a specialist, aka memory care medical doctor).

Mom can still hold a conversation and be home alone. However, the day is approaching when she will have to be moved into a nursing home. I’ve urged my dad to take her around to visit the various memory-care facilities. She can choose the one she wants and we can get her placed there. I wish that they would move into an assisted living facility now so that more people could help watch her. However, would the new environment speed her decline? Expense is an issue since they did not save for retirement. My dad is horrible with money. They are near 80 years old but could easily live for another fifteen years or so.

I fear for myself, too. My mom and her sister suffer from Alzheimer’s. What will be my fate? Will other members of the family come down with this disease? When will medical research be able to stop or vaccinate against the illness? Since I don’t have a spouse, who will watch out for me? My family can’t be relied upon and I don’t want to become a ward of the state. I have a Last Will but will my friend follow my wishes, will she even be alive when I reach the age of 75? I don’t have much saved for retirement due to unemployment and bad paying jobs. So many unknowns, it is overwhelming and frightening.

I need to attend some Alzheimer’s Association meetings. Perhaps that will reduce my anxiety. I want to be involved but family interactions are so painful that I avoid them. I have to give myself some time before calling because I know that will cry. I’ve accepted it but the pain is too recent. I feel too vulnerable.

It’s time to halt the Alz!
© 2011

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