Monday Memories With My Mom

The Adventures of Caring for a Mom With Alzheimer's Disease
     Intentions.  My intentions are soooo good!!  My mom's 69th birthday was this past Wednesday!!  My intention was to take her to lunch and spend much of the day with her.  My intentions were to arrive with armfuls of all of her favorite things.  My intentions were that we would have a nice day together.
     Reality.  My reality wasn't as good.  I arrived with all kinds of goodies for my mom.  She was in her bedroom and bathroom when I got there.  She said she could not find her rings.  I waited a few minutes.  She never came out.  I helped her search for her rings.  We could not find them.  The last of her "valuable" jewelry she wore were her rings.  A mother's ring which I gave to her more than 20 years ago.  Originally it had the birthstones of her mother, my brother, and me.  Later, we added all five grandchildren, too.  She loves that ring, and I didn't have the courage to take it from her.  The other, a gold ring with many small diamonds on it.  Not positive if she bought that one for herself or it may have given to her by my grandma's best friend.  Normally, I can "find" her misplaced things relatively easily.  This
time I could not. 
     She takes those rings off every time she washes her hands.  I wish she wouldn't, but she does.  I am still hoping they turn up.  They could be literally anywhere.  Like from a drawer to the refrigerator.  I have not turned her apartment upside down yet.  It was her birthday.  I wanted to do birthday things.  After almost a half hour of looking, I shared with her all the goodies I brought.  Even Diet Coke and Diet Vernors pop.  A couple new pairs of pants.  Some ice cream (Stroh's).  Lots of her favorite toiletry type items, etc...  She was kind of excited.  She did not know it was her birthday.  When I finally convinced her it was, we headed to Olive Garden for lunch.  Sometimes I give her a choice of where she wants to go, but she is not good at making decisions.  I knew I couldn't go wrong with Olive Garden.
     Before we left, I told the front desk we were missing two rings.  They told me to come in later to file an official report.  Again, not my intention...just my reality. 
     Also, after looking at my mom I realized she had not only used eyebrow pencil....but brown eyeshadow on her eyebrows.  This might work if you are Bobby Brown, but it was not working for my mom.  I had to get some makeup remover and start over.  I confiscated the brown eyeshadow.  I am confiscating more and more things.  Perhaps I should have confiscated her rings much sooner, too.

Decided Not to Include a Close Up of the Makeup Application...
trust me -- Her Eyes were extra brown
     She has been soooo perseverative lately.  As I have said before, she is not just repetitive.  She asks questions and wants answers and answers.  Where are we going?  Where are we going?  When I switch gears, she knows the answer.  Truth is, it is hard to play that game like we did on Christmas Eve, especially when I am alone with my mom.  Olive Garden, mom......  Then she says, "Ok, I'll shut up.  Ok, I'll shut up".........  (She doesn't...and I did not ask her to shut up...even if I wanted to.)  It was a ten minute drive.  Between the ring search, the presentation of her gifts, and the makeup removal and reapplication...I was reaching my limit as we entered the restaurant.  (Repeat to self:  Cindy, it's her birthday...whatever makes her happy....)
     "Can I have Diet Coke.  Is this Diet Coke?  Is this Diet Coke?  Is this zero calories?  Is this Diet Coke?.....  Ok, I'll shut up.  Ok, I'll shut up....."   Mom, it's your birthday, let's try to relax and enjoy it, ok?  "Ok, I'll shut up........"  Yes, I tried to change the subject.  Yes, I answered her questions.  Yes, I tried to ignore when she had 3 breadsticks before the food came.  Yes, I even texted an SOS to my husband...which brought on one of her favorite questions for the past few years.  "Why can't I have a cell phone?"  (Yes, she used to have one.)  "Why can't I have a cell phone?"  Another common "trigger" conversation.
     She also again shared the story of how she butters her friend's roll at the American House (because the lady has tremors).  She told me this many many times.  Perhaps she felt bad that she was not going to be at lunch to help her friend.  She was agitated.  She was also in a pissy (for lack of a better word) mood.  She was looking for things to take home, too.  I hid the sugar packets...  She wanted the coasters and straws.  On the way out, she tried to take several things.  Kids menus, business cards, whatever wasn't tied down.  She got mad when I told her to leave them there.  She didn't believe me when I told her they were for kids.
     A few years ago she was like that all the time.  Always questioning me, accusatory, mistrusting, confrontational, etc...  I was the enemy.  She would tell my kids I was "mean" to her.  Afterall, I was the bad guy.  I took over her finances, got a Power of Attorney, told her I thought she was having memory issues, took the cell phone, told her I didn't think she was taking her medication properly, took away the car keys, etc...  All of that and more, gradually over a long period of time... years.  She was definitely not happy with me!  It was not fun for me either, not fun at all.  Thankfully, she is not like this as much these days.  However, this day, her birthday, was not going too smoothly.  Perhaps the missing rings had triggered this.  Perhaps it's just our new normal...  I took a lot of deep breaths during our meal.  I am sure she did enjoy her food....a lot!  After an hour, I was no longer interested in getting her a birthday dessert.  I bought her ice cream for later.  My "intentions" of a fun trip to the dollar store were not to be.  (She loves the dollar store.)  She did thank me.  She did say she loves me.  She does tell me I am good to her.  She tried.  I tried.
     I am not trying to be a downer about all this, but I am trying to keep it real.  This is really how she was behaving and this is really how I felt.  I figure sugar coating will not bring awareness to those who have not experienced this.  No worries, I am over it.  I am also used to it.
     I got her back to her apartment safe and sound.  I went to the office to discuss the missing rings.  We also realized they could even be in "The Don's" apartment.  I am still hoping they turn up.  Truth is, her mother's ring is one of few sentimental things she has.  I will be sad if we don't find it.  I am still learning...I am definitely not able to always predict or be in control of this.  It is too much.  My intentions were for her to have a Happy Birthday...my reality is not sure.  Happy Birthday Mom -- we will keep trying with good intentions!!!!

My brother and my niece took my mom to McDonalds on her "Birthday Eve"...
I received a text message with this picture saying "Live Photo from Mom's Birthday Party"
The Sometimes Painfully Long Wait for Food
She Asked if She Should Smile....I said YES!!!!!!



yaya said...

So hard for you and I would imagine for her also..but really hard for you. I do hope you find her rings. Happy Birthday to your Mom...what struck me is she's only 9yrs older than me. This disease is truly not fair to anyone.

Kim said...

This entire episode is so familiar to me. Right down to the rings! I even started calling Mom a crow, because every time I set down a piece of my jewelry, she was wearing it within minutes!
I was also scared of her losing her "good" rings so gradually I "replaced" the good ones with inexpensive fakes. She was happy and the real ones are in a safety deposit box.
I still go through all the rituals for special days but they usually end in disaster. But we do the best we can right? No regrets!

Jennifer said...

Ohh, I bet those rings are in her room! Has she mentioned "The Don" lately?

Ramblings of a Suburban Mom

Kerri said...

I didn't realize your mom is only 69- wow. You write so well Cindy, describing what your afternoon with your mom is really like. I really hope that more people going through this with a parent will find your blog.
I hope her rings turn up...don't give up!

Heather (GurleeGirrl) said...

Happy Birthday to your mom! I'm glad she had a good birthday out with you. I know you must get so frustrated, but you are doing a fantastic job Cindy. Oh my - losing her rings is horrible! I hope they turn up soon!

Arlene - Caregiver ordinaire said...

Hi, Ohhhh, how I can relate!! I've learned over time that it's not the actual day that matters to my Momma. I will wait until she's in a 'better' day to do something extra. Your mom sounds like she was in what I call 'alzheimer mode'. More active than usual. More verbal than usual. More everything.... less restful. Somewhere inside her, your Mom knows that your birthday intentions were out of love and she appreciates it. The rings...I'm with your friend, replace them with something inexpensive now and when you do find them, it'll be easier to take them home for 'cleaning or repair'. Since she takes them off to wash, is it possible they slipped down the drain? Maybe someone could check the PTrap under the sinks?

I have a hard time sometimes with being asked the same questions over and over. And if I don't give the right answer, I get into more trouble. Sometimes (not all the time) I will hold Mom's hand and this is calming for her. For some reason, asking a lot of questions is like asking for security. I point things out, like how pretty her nails are and how much my hands look like hers. She might ask more questions, but she's calmer. I might not explain well.

I'm thinking of you and hoping for sure that the rings pop up for you - don't forget to look in really weird places, like the trash or under her mattress. She might have taken them off when getting ready for bed?

You are doing really well! Lots of patience! ....Not as much planning at our house. Have to see what the day holds to get things done sometimes.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Ten years ago it became painfully aware that my grandfather could no longer care for himself. As you may know I am an only child whose parents passed on by the time I was 5. My grandparents did not step up to care for me. I was raised in foster care. I questioned "Why should I care for him when he didn't care for me?" Yes I did. Black ugly truth. But I did decided to take care of him, his finances, etc. It was 5 agonizing long years. In the end he became violent. It was horrific.
But I did it.
Then the day came that the home called. His battle was over and I was oh so very thankful that I had did it. Cared for him. I promise you will be too.

Keep on my friend. Keep on.

Your children are watching as mine did too.

Someday it may be the both of us. Although I often pray "please no".

Donna said...

You need another girl's night! :/
You also need to pray to St. Anthony..."Dear St. Anthony, please look around...for something that's missing and must be found!" Works like a charm...try it! Love you!