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Caring For A Mom With Alzheimer’s

Not long ago, I was helping a friend behind-the-scenes at an event, and one of the featured guests had Alzheimer’s. We were expecting her to show up at a certain time for hair and makeup when we received a call from her husband. She had jumped out of the car they were in, and he couldn’t find her. It was unsettling, to say the least. When he called back a few hours later to say that he’d found her and everything was okay, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And Alzheimer’s. It’s such a mysterious disease. I start googling and discover that it’s on the rise. Right now, over 5 million people have it and by the year 2050 that number is expected to reach 16 million. That’s a lot of Alzheimer’s.

My mind shifts over to my friend Jonyse whose mother has it. Maybe she can give me some insight. Jonyse says that she never saw it coming. “I went to my mother’s place one day and it was unusually messy, and another time she had no food, even though she said she had just gone food shopping. When the bank teller called to say that she was coming in every week to get new cards because she couldn’t remember her PIN, I knew something was out of whack.”

She took her mother to the emergency room and they diagnosed her with dementia. Eleven years later, she has full-blown Alzheimer’s. When I ask Jonyse if her mother knows who she is she says,

“It feels like it. They’re still who they are, but on a different plane; in another dimension. She still speaks to me, but differently. I have to raise my level of consciousness when I’m around her because I have to be open to the fact that she’s still my mother; my greatest teacher. There are things that I can still learn from her.”

That’s refreshing.

 

I find myself reaching out to my cousin Marty who took care of my Aunt Babe, after she got Alzheimer’s. She says she enjoyed having Aunt Babe come live with her post-diagnosis because she was welcome company after her husband and son died. She kept her mother with her for seven years until a full-time nursing home was unavoidable.

“She began walking around in the middle of the night, and I was afraid she might fall down the stairs,” remembers Marty, “And she was also becoming more irritable.”

Naturally, it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was at the nursing facility that something incredible happened.

“Ma used to be a nurse. So being at the nursing home brought back her nursing instinct. She became very caring towards the other patients and you’d see her rolling her wheelchair around, making sure they had water, and asking them if they were okay.”

Aunt Babe. Next Marty tells me how she passed, and it only gets better.

“I was right there with her,” she says. “I saw her reaching to a light that was in the room, and I knew she was seeing someone. She kept reaching up, and I was telling her, ‘I know you see someone.’

She looked at me and smiled. And when her hand came down she looked at me again and closed her eyes.”

(Featured Photo of Uncle Bill Palmer & Aunt Babe)

9 Comments
  • Susan M.
    May 12, 2016

    Erickka, thank you so much for this post. I am 66 and I think about Alzheimer’s often. There are a lot of excellent resources available now — and I think it’s so important for younger people to educate themselves and their peers.

    I especially appreciate the part about your Aunt Babe. When I was a kid, back in the stone age, older people were often terrified of “being put in a home”. It can be bad but it doesn’t have to be. Your cousin Marty’s experience with Aunt Babe shows that so clearly! What a blessing to both of them, and to you!

  • Erickka Sy Savané
    May 12, 2016

    Thanks for your comment Susan. And I think we all have a ‘fear’ of being put in a home when we get older. I was also happy to hear of my Aunt’s experience too because it’s a contrast to what we commonly associate with that situation. Wishing all of us great health as we continue on this path of growing and getting better with age!

  • Sandy
    May 13, 2016

    I had to read it twice.

  • jR*
    May 16, 2016

    Thank you so much for sharing and including us in your story, we all need the info & awareness…

    • Erickka Sy Savané
      May 19, 2016

      It was my pleasure Jonyse! Thank you for sharing your experience with your mom. Your outlook is so inspiring!

  • Angelo Keyes
    May 19, 2016

    Thank You for this wonderful article. My maternal grandmother passed from Alzheimer’s. I Pray for her every day, as well as for a cure+

    • Erickka Sy Savané
      May 19, 2016

      You’re most welcome. I pray for a cure as well. I’ve also been hearing about a lot of strides being made when it comes to Alzheimer’s so I plan to share more in the future. Writing this story has definitely opened my eyes.

  • Marthena Mays
    May 20, 2016

    Marthena Palmer Mays,,,, Erickka, I was really pleased to talk to you about such a
    sensitive subject for some people, but for me, I wanted to find out as much as I
    could. I was now faced with the same situation as others. There are programs, ;agencies, adults day care and support groups that are willing to help you. Check
    with the Area Office on Aging

    • Erickka Sy Savané
      May 21, 2016

      Thanks Marty for sharing your experience with me/us! It definitely opened my eyes to how the situation could be handled. Love you cousin:-)

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