“My mother suffered from dementia, and along with that, acute hearing loss. As her full time caregiver, I received a great deal of help in the form of the Home Health Care workers who visited twice a week. We were scheduled to meet with a new member of the health care team who would do a routine evaluation, asking questions to determine my mom’s overall wellness.
I knew from experience that I needed to be with her during the interview. Dementia and hearing loss do not lend themselves easily to answering questions. Mother hated those interview sessions because for one thing, she couldn’t hear well, and for another, she got impatient waiting for the workers to get her answer, write it on their pads (which took some time), and then straighten paperwork before asking another question, just to start the process all over again.
My mom had always been an impatient, do it “now” kind of person when I was a child. But as her dementia worsened, her impatience did, too. She grew more and more impatient with everyday tasks, and most especially, with the visiting health care workers.
On this day, my mother and I sat on a little sofa in the den and listened as the new worker asked several questions. My mother did not respond to any of them. Instead, she sat and fidgeted with the buttons on her blouse. Finally, the health care worker asked, “Mrs. Frawley, do you have any trouble with incontinence?”
Suddenly, my mother glanced at me, then smiled and straightened in her seat. She said in her loudest, most articulate voice, “North America!”
I couldn’t help but laugh, and I nodded to my mom and did a little golf clap. She smiled for a long time afterwards, feeling that, at last, she’d done something right.
That day was a rare treasure for both of us!”
As November approached this year, 2014, I have been rewarded by some encouraging and inspiring reviews for “Mother, Can You Hear Me?” a collection of true scenarios experienced by my mother, my brother and me as we moved through the days of destructive dementia in Mother’s life.
The stories were first, and I won’t deny it, for my own release. But as readers began meeting me in shops, at meetings or church and telling me how much the stories fit their personal experiences as family, friends or caregivers, I realized that my blessing came from writing of how my family got through the maze of dementia, emerging together at the end.
If you know anyone who is suffering from dementia or other Alzheimer’s symptoms, you know that the month of November is just ONE little speck in the time lapse of life…the disease takes over every moment of every day and night. I’m so blessed that I was led to write the stories to release my stress and spirit because the good time, the times when we could laugh and love as strangers one moment and family the next are the emphasis that I want to recall during the days ahead without having my mother close by. These moments override the exhaustion, confusion, mess and toxic times that are also part of the experience….I have not been permitted to burden my heart with these moments as the defining experience. The spiritual joy has, instead, come to the surface and my memories are cleared of dross that just wasn’t important — I was privileged to spend days with my mother and without the disease wouldn’t have had that.
Let the light into your days as friend or caregiver…value everyone who is part of the maze of days. I am available to speak to your book clubs, women’s groups in person or via speaker phone. Please contact me about the possibility of getting together to share our joy.
Thank you, Helping Hands Press for focusing blog emphasis on November — we are indeed thankful.