Is there anything sadder than watching your mother disappear?
|Because of COVID, I hadn’t been able to visit my mother since November of 2019. At my last visit, she seemed aloof and I blamed it on the fact that she’d just had lunch and was tired. Two days later, this snowbird was on her way to Florida for the winter, thinking there would probably be less fun to visit mom in the spring; she was going downhill fairly fast. At each of my summer and fall visits, I could see she was slowly slipping away mentally and we expect that with Alzheimer’s.
She had been diagnosed in 1994 yet its progress had been slow and manageable for many years. She had been able to live at home much longer than expected, but the dreaded day came that we needed to find a safe place for her to be. After the initial, and I’m sure terrifying, days, she settled in an announced it was the nicest place she had ever lived, and she was right. It was a very nice Dementia unit and the staff fawned all over her. She joked with her favorite caretakers, and they with her. My brothers and I were relieved that she was happy and very healthy.
She always seemed to recognize me, her only daughter, and Bernie, her oldest son. Ken and Rudy were just visitors. In the last two years, she has lost all of us; we’re all just visitors now. The only time her face really lights up on a visit is if I bring my dog, Cooper. Cooper is amazing at the nursing home and all the patients love him because he’s so gentle and sweet with them.
Today’s visit was the hardest one yet. They set up a visitor outside and bring the patient out to you. You have to be masked and sanitize your hands and get your temperature taken before you are approved for a visit. They brought mom out and I wanted to cry. Her eyes were absolutely vacant, and she didn’t even try to take off her mask...definitely not my mother! She had to have eye surgery last year and she would not leave the IV alone, despite their best efforts to distract her.
I said “Hi Mom! It’s your favorite daughter, Linda! Of course, I’m your only daughter…” I said, laughing.
She just looked through me, not saying a word. I asked the CNA if she would bring mom a jacket since the morning air was cool. When she brought it back it was painfully obvious that I was going to have to be witty and carry the conversation since mom offered naught, so I asked her to come back in fifteen minutes.
I talked about everything I could think of, but the only response I got was when I talked
about my dog (she loves all animals), and telling her a funny story about brother Ken’s skinny white legs. I’d ask her if she was eating okay and the blank eyes didn’t change and the mouth stayed silent. “Are you sleeping okay, mom?” got not even a nod. Just that sad, blank expression.
Sad to say I was quite relieved when the CNA came back to get her. I told her I loved her and I’d come to see her again, but got no response.
I realized that going to visit her is for my sake, not hers. Sure, she gets to go outside for a few minutes but I didn’t get the impression she was enjoying it all that much. I need to see her when I can because they tell me that it’s only time before her brain stops sending out the message to her lungs to breathe or for her heart to beat.
Sad as that is, I’m ready for her to go. What kind of life does she have? I wouldn’t want to live like that.
I’m beyond sad for her.