It’s not uncommon for me to tell people, “If you didn’t know Mom had dementia, you wouldn’t know Mom has dementia.”
That’s because all of her social skills are in tact, and she’s smart. I’ve watched her carry on conversations with total strangers who have no inkling that what she is telling them is complete nonsense. Like, for example, when she told a new acquaintance that the last time she visited our Upstate New York hometown was a year ago during winter, when it was in fact a decade ago in May. Things like that are harmless, and I just let her spin her tales. But when it is not harmless, like yesterday when I had to take her to the ER, I only remain silent for so long.
Ensuring Her Sense of Self
But I do sort of sit back a bit to see how she answers when we are meeting with health care professionals or others where the truth matters. I never want to just push her to the side, and treat her like a non-verbal infant. Her dignity, as well as her social skills, is certainly in tact.
Outside Looking In
If you don’t spend day in and day out with Mom, you would think she is just forgetful. You might see a woman who forgets what day it is. Or has difficulty choosing off a menu, and then forgets not only what she ordered, but that she ordered at all, within minutes. And this is certainly true about Mom.
But what you might not see without spending a great deal of time with her is everything collateral with short-term memory loss and cognitive impairment. You might not see how mad she gets at me because I, “…don’t tell her anything.” when it comes to appointments or any time we have to be somewhere at a certain time. If I had a dollar for every time we were walking out the door late with her fuming, “You don’t tell me until five minutes before that we have someplace to be!!”
Try getting her out the door to go to the ER because her blood pressure was so high I thought she might stroke out. She wanted to shower first and was pissed beyond all get up that I wouldn’t let her. I didn’t let her put makeup on, and she fussed that she looked like, “…death warmed over.”
Uh…that’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid now get into the goddamn car.
If anyone was going to stroke out yesterday, I wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t be me. Next time, I’m just calling 911 because a stretcher certainly makes an impression of urgency. Fuck clean underwear.
Day In And Day Out
But it’s not just about appointments. I recently realized that for all the times she says she wants something “different” for dinner, and for all the times I have bent over backwards to find something different to make, it wasn’t that she was bored with my cooking. It’s that she can’t remember anything she’s eaten. And that there is some small unconscious part of her brain that realized that she can’t remember anything she’s eaten. And that small unconscious part of her brain realizes that it’s not normal to not remember anything she’s eaten. So it rationalizes it by telling her consciousness that nothing she’s eaten has been good enough or different enough to be worthy of remembering.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
For everything that Mom can’t remember or suss out to make sense, it comes down to the only other person who might be the source. Me. I misplace her bobby pins. I put her purse somewhere she would never put it. I’ve lost all the belts to her dresses. I ate the last of the ice cream. I don’t show her her bank statements, and I never, ever tell her about appointments. I give her her meds more often than prescribed.
Making Sense of Nonsense
I don’t take it personally. I know it is the disease, and Mom’s coping mechanism. I know she loves me. I know she’s proud of me. I know she appreciates me. But sometimes, I have to admit, I just get tired.