My Mom:

Well, today, I’m taking my mom to the dentist. She’s had a major piece of asphalt fall out of a tooth. Normally, she’s incredibly compliant with doctors. She’s always liked this dentist, but who knows how things will play out today? She doesn’t always know the difference between ‘open your mouth’ and ‘close your mouth!’ One of the behaviors that dementia has given her, and therefore her worldm, to deal with, is teeth grinding. Such force of will. The nurses are wondering if Betty would deal with a tooth guard. I’m not thinking so. But the squeaking of tooth grinding against tooth is pretty awful, and the drugs don’t seem to lesson the behavior, although they’ve lessened whatever terror was originally associated with it.

It’s quite a saga this living with dementia. And yet, there’s so much pleasure. Sunday at Lunch, Mom was stricken with the giggles. The slightest little misstep would lead to hilarity. We both had tears running down our cheeks by the end of the meal.

If you show up only intermittently, you often only get the teeth-grinding, teeth-ruining worry. And that’s hard to deal with, because, sometimes, you don’t know what to DO. But if you are there more frequently, you get the giggles. You get to take an occasional hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream. You can make up for the fact that you didn’t get in to help her with a meal, and therefore she didn’t eat so much. And you know at the end of life, they figure calories are calories. One of my favorite comments from nurses in the dining room is “well, will you at least eat your ice cream?

Take a friend now and again, because maybe your parent will reconnect to his or her social graces… or just have a good time.

It’s important to remember that your mom or dad wasn’t always this person. Daily visits help that. Because you don’t know when they’ll have complete access to themselves… But keep things around that keep you remembering.

The other day my web guru checked in. He had resurrected something that hadn’t been on my site since we made the changes: mom’s art gallery. It’s still not public, but it’s there and will be public. (let me know if you can’t wait to see the rest of this.) My mom is still a real person, funny and sweet. But here’s her picture of who she was before the Alzheimer’s closed off important pieces of her brain and macular degeneration stole her vision.

Self Portrait<br /> - 1976 -

go have a great day with your aging parent!

Ladies Who Lunch: My Mom

My mom Betty lives in a nursing home. She has dementia and at the age of 87 doesn’t have lots of conversation left – most of the time! Sometimes there are incredible breakthroughs and they usually arrive from left field. Her husband of almost 65 years died at the end of March. He had a great death but she misses him. She doesn’t talk about it a lot, but often she’s sad. As she said to me last week: “This is a horribly solitary life.” …Pause… “but I can bear it.”

It’s hard losing your mom like this. But if she can bear the loneliness, I can bear the loss. In the meantime we have a sweet and wonderful relationship. I sometimes feel it’s like having a child – in reverse. She certainly cuddles into my arms and takes love and nourishment confidently from me. But she’s disappearing not individuating. Thankfully the love isn’t going away. I don’t think it ever will. Before Daddy died, it was what he was most concerned about… that I would love and care for her. So, I do. For him and for me. Because I’m lucky enough to have been a well loved child. Loving back is my sweet reward!

Betty was a wonderful artist. From time to time you’ll see some of her artwork in the blog. She raised three children 2 daughters and a son in small town Pennsylvania. She was and she remains very social. She adored her Sammy, my dignified thoughtful daddy, Sam.

I am with Mommy almost every day, usually at a meal. She eats much better if I am there. As she eats, I am coming to know the other ladies (and the few men) who eat on the early shift. I want to tell you a bit about these wonderful women and the men, their quirks and personalities, the food and their families, and the caretakers who love and tend them.

I want you to get to know her compatriots and find out that life isn’t without its richness, even in places like this. Forget the horror stories, although there are certainly places that aren’t perfect. This is where your parents are being cared for. The more you know, the more you expect, the better care they’ll get.