By Bob DeMarco
I believe many Alzheimer's caregivers are like me on this one.
I try to buy my mother the things she liked before she started suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Granted she doesn't show the same enthusiasm for the gifts like she did in days gone by. This can be disconcerting.
I like to buy her flowers and I do so every week. Wonder why I didn't do that for my x-wife? Hmm, file that away for future reference.
Sometimes when I give the flowers to my mother she says thank you, some times she doesn't. Sometimes she looks very happy, sometimes she doesn't.
And now the story begins.
Often she will take long stem flowers and start hacking away at them until they are a few inches long. Bye bye beautiful long stem flower.
For example. Last week I bought these beautiful long stem flowers that looked like little bells. If you tore one bell off and turned it upside it looked like it would ring.
The core stem on the flowers is very strong. The stem on the bells is kinda weak. In other words, if you are not careful you can break its neck.
The bells start at the top of the stem and go all the way down the stem. You have quite a few bells on each stem. Gotta say, really beautiful. Also gotta say, I don't know the name of these flowers so I'll go with white bells until someone educates me or I find them on the Internet.
At the outset, I trim the ends of the stems and put them in a vase with some flower food. If my mother doesn't touch, or drown them, they are good to go for ten days. Side note, when we go ten days without my mother hacking on the flowers this is what disconcerts me now.
The more typical process now. By the middle or end of the first day, my mother starts hacking away at the stems. Shortening them. She uses a steak knife to do the job.
Four years ago this sent me up the wall. Don't ruin those beautiful flowers.
By the second or third day, these beautiful flowers go from being 18 inches long to about 6 inches. They just get smaller and smaller. Soon we have all these glasses filled with flowers.
I often wonder. What came first, the glass or the hack job. I think my mother just hacks away and then looks for something the right size to put them in.
This process continues until the flowers end up about three inches long. It takes about 3-5 days.
If you like long stem flowers -- and you gave them to someone -- and they started to hack away at them -- my guess is you wouldn't be very happy. You might even be angry. My guess is you might even say -- I am not going to buy that person flowers ever again. Never.
Well I had all of these thoughts before my brain told me -- stop driving yourself nuts. Once I stopped driving myself nuts, I tried to figure out what to do. This is when I decided to try to get to the intersection of west street, east street, and North avenue. The intersection is South street, also known on this blog as Alzheimer's world.
Let the anatomy begin.
The first thing I did was to accept that the flowers were a gift to my mother. This meant once they were officially gifted, they were hers to do with as she wished. It took me a year or so, but eventually I accepted that when it came to flowers this is the way it was going to be. Once I made it to this level of acceptance I found that I was no longer pissed off when the hacking started.
When I reached the point where I was accepting what was going to be, I started paying attention to what was going on with the flowers and my mother.
For example, right now we have some bells flowers that are about a foot long. We have some bells flowers that are about six inches long. And, we have some bell flowers that are about three inches long.
Here is the first interesting part. Some are in a tall vase, some are in a tiny juice glass, and some are in a tiny cream pitcher like you use for coffee. This might get your attention.
They are all beautifully arranged. They look nice. So far we are on day four of the bell flowers.
Over the last four days my mother has slowly but surely cut the flowers into various sizes and rearranged them.
During this process my mother is using her brain. Cutting the flowers and then doing the design work. Believe it or not I joined in the process, instead of fighting city hall, the cream pitcher was my idea. Tiny bell flowers look beautiful in the tiny cream pitcher if you ask me.
Now instead of being all bent out of shape, I am more interested in the process. I like to watch how it unfolds.
I certainly like the idea that my mother is using her brain and using her hands to do the job. This is much more pleasing than watching her stare out into space. Much better than hearing her say, I wish I was dead.
The moral of this story?
First, sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my mother is hacking away at the flowers?
Second, sometimes you have to go into Alzheimer's world and try to figure out what is going on. You might decide to play in Alzheimer's world for a while. Or, you might decide to let Alzheimer's bend you out of shape. The point here. It isn't the person suffering from Alzheimer's that is bending you out of shape, it is the Alzheimer's that is bending you out of shape. Did you realize that yet?
Third, you have to try and accept the way things are now, and stop wishing that things were the way they use to be. If you accept, you can start moving and grooving to the tune of the music. In other words, you can get off the hamster wheel to no where, and start dancing.
Sooner or later, you gotta say, it doesn't matter whether you win or lose -- as long as you win. Take that Alzheimer's.
Meet me on South Street? Words below the video. Sing along, or stand up and dance. Turn the volume up -- Loud.
PS....Mom was born a few blocks from South Street
South Street (Sing Along)
Where do all the hippist meet? (South Street, South Street)
Where the dancin is elite (South Street, South Street)
Side by side we're loose and neat
When we're stompin down the street
Hurry down, baby she's the hippist street in town!
Meet me, on South Street, oh yeah, hurry on down
Come on now, meet me on South Street
The hippist street in town
Well you take West Street, East Street, North Avenue
(Cause I know) South Street's the best street
To have a ball with you
Do you hear that groovy beat? (South Street, South Street)
Don't it make you move your feet? (South Street, South Street)
Everybody gathers round
Cause they dig that crazy sound
Now hurry down, baby she's the hippist street in town
(Oh baby) Meet me on South Street, (come on) oh yeah, hurry on down
Come on now, meet me on South Street, the hippist street in town
(Well you take) West Street, East Street, North Avenue
(Cause I know) South Street's the best street
To have a ball with you
- Advice and Insight -- Alzheimer's Reading Room
- Communicating in Alzheimer's World
- The Metamorphosis of This Alzheimer's Caregiver
- Alzheimer's World -- Two Circles Trying to Intersect
- Alzheimer's Caregiver Love
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room