Instructions for Mom
So glad you are visiting Mom this weekend. But you haven't seen her in a year. Has anything changed? Well a year in the life of an Alzheimer's patient can mean a lot. I can't remember what was true last year. But here's what is true now.
- She doesn't know the date anymore. I don't know if they just don't make sense or they got too confusing but she doesn't know what day of the month it is. Or maybe the month either.
- She can only use the green credit card. The others are deactivated. It's a long story.
- She can't suggest restaurants, or even types of food. Just decide and make a plan.
- If you go out to eat, just order something for everyone. She gets really confused with the menu and ordering. Say you will all share something.
- Pay for dinner. Save yourself the embarrassment of trying to help your friend figure out money. It's not going to work.
- She doesn't know the way home anymore. Call a cab or drive there and back. Use your own GPS.
- She might not know your name.
- It's not true that people are stealing from her.
- She hasn't been sick. But she does go to the doctor a lot. So she might tell you she has been sick.
- She can't do math, read long paragraphs, identify people in pictures, ask you detailed questions or remember names, dates or places.
- Her outfits might be weird, or the same thing two days in a row. She has a ton of clothes but doesn't wear them. I might burn this light blue sweater that I keep seeing on her.
- Her hair is grey now. She says it's "always been like that" but as you know, it was brown last time you saw her.
There are a few other things you should know.
- She still loves to paint and do pastels. She just erases what she did the day before and does it again and again. Sometimes she paints the same picture over and over. But they are still well done and beautiful.
- She still likes food and red wine with ice cubes.
- She loves her kids, even when she can't remember what they do for a living, which one had a baby, what her grandkids' names are or where we live. The love is there.
- She is happy you are with her. Even if she forgot to do "host" things like leave out towels or completely clean the room you are staying in, or buy wine or clean the fridge or wash the dishes out with soap.
How you can help
- Don't pander to us "kids" and tell us that Mom is "doing well" after your visit. We know it's not true and it doesn't help us and actually denies our reality of what we are dealing with every day.
- Offer to help with something concrete- taking her to get groceries, to get clothes for an upcoming event, to help her straighten out one section of the endless mounds of papers everywhere.
- Call us later and talk it through.
- Remember that we are without guidance from parents right now. Offer some. If you see something that you think we haven't, it's okay to ask or even give ideas about it.
- Visit again. Mom loves you too. Even if she can't remember details about your relationship, she can know that you love her and that you are committed to being her friend.