Monday "Memories" With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Here we go again, and I've decided to add this little subtitle to my Monday posts so that someone who may stumble upon my blog, on a Monday, will understand that I am posting about my mom and this disease.
     One thing that has become more and more clear in hindsight is that you do not just wake up one day and have Alzheimer's Disease.  There are signs.  There are subtleties.  There are quirky things that happen.  There is frustration.  There is confusion.  There is nonsense.  There is eye rolling.  Some of this is by the person afflicted and some is also felt by their loved ones.
     In retrospect, these signs likely began to take root back in 1986 when my mom suffered a stroke which led to a cranial bypass.  (Someday I will elaborate on all of that.)  Once home, my mom's worst physical problem appeared to be the hair they had to shave from her head.  Little did we realize at the time that it would be the beginning of many cognitive issues.  The only thing I recall was that her reading and writing seemed to be slower and of lesser quality.  That seemed understandable considering the circumstances.
     I was no longer living with my mom and neither was my brother.  The day to day subtle changes that may have been noticed if we were around more were missed.  My parents are divorced so my mom was living alone.
   Fast forward (a couple decades) to now and I can honestly say that I am beginning to understand one of the more upsetting behaviors that can occur with dementia.  It is referred to as "hoarding" (although my mom likes to say she's a "pack rat').  No, her sink wasn't dirty.  She did not have dead animals in her house.  Items were not stacked to the ceiling.   However, the kitchen table was always loaded.  Kitchen counters were stacked with stuff.  Newspapers and magazines were stacked on the floors and furniture.  Things were not "normal".  I am not talking about normal "messes", I am talking long term never really throwing anything away and constantly buying unnecessary things and bringing them into the house. 
     It is difficult to understand, but I do have some compassion for those extreme hoarders you see on tv.  In my unprofessional opinion, they are sick.  There is usually some kind of huge "loss" that has occurred in their lives.  They need help.  They do not wake up one day and decide to save everything they've ever seen.  Also, cleaning the house is not always the answer.  We cleaned up at my mom's condo numerous times.  It was always short lived. 
     Thankfully, with my mom now in her senior living facility, we have eliminated virtually all of her "stuff" except the bare necessities.  She no longer drives, so there are no more shopping sprees.  Even so, with a kitchen that is barely used, a stove that we have shut off, and lots of empty cupboard space we still see signs of this disease.  When my mom went to retrieve some papers, we found that she was storing them in her unused dishwasher (see picture below).  When she brings fruit and yogurt back from the facility's dining room at breakfast every day.  Her mind is not working properly for sure. 
    So, in some ways, the "writing was on the wall" for a long time...or on the floors, or the tabletops, or the couch!?  Although I will never like it, I am learning to understand it. 

My mom's current refrigerator which we clean out every week or two

A Dishwasher...for storing, papers, snacks, towels?

My mom's previous condo...guess where she used to sit? 
(Don't worry, it's not like that anymore)
     I think when you can't remember where things are...you leave everything on the counter (so you can find it!?...or not!)


Kerri said...

At least your mom's fridge has some healthy stuff in there! :) I think these posts of yours about your mom could be a great support for others who are going through this same thing. Hmmm? I wonder how you can put yourself out there?

Arlene - Caregiver ordinaire said...

Hi Cindy,
My Mom had a more severe problem. Because I live in TX and she was in WI while at home, I was commuting in once in a while to help out with the house. I was depending on neighbors and friends, but there is only so much 'invasive' stuff they can do. So I realized that my Mom was cooking for 'the men coming in from the fields'... leaving things on the stove overnight, 'in case they come in for a meal'.... and then refrigerating it. As you can imagine as the food she cooked was left out too long, she was beginning to eat spoiled food. She couldn't tell the difference between something cooked today and forgot what she cooked yesterday or the day before that. Oh, I can SO relate to papers and after a while, Mom didn't know where the bills were or which ones had been paid. It became stressful for her when I attempted to clean up. All we could do was try to honor her wish to stay at home for one more summer, but it was very stressful for us! You handled this all very gracefully! :)