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Monday, August 9, 2010

Many Faces of Lily


By Kerry Runyeon
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Smiling, talking, cheerful as she visits with the ladies at her table.

Silly, glib, touchy feely as she passes staff in the halls.

Singing, laughing, focused while participating in various activities.

Confused, agitated, questioning where I am.

Scared, sad, depressed wondering where she is.

Searching, seeking, wanting to go home.


The many faces of Lily the last couple of months in her new home at a nearby retirement center in the Memory Support Center.

When I was asked, "How is Lily?" back when she lived with us I never quite knew how to answer that. I find myself in the same position now.

Lily is at any given moment in a different place.

Because of her cheerful and easygoing nature I would say she is for the most part happy. As long as she is occupied and kept busy, life is good. Unfortunately in a facility that is not always the case.

Between activities and meals there is down time which finds most of the residents in front of the TV. Lily may wonder back to her room where she sorts through her clothes sets them out because, of course, she is leaving in the morning. Yes, that behavior continues just as she did at our house. Always-- wanting to go home.

I usually visit every day. Often in the mornings or afternoon I will find her either watching with the others or in the activity center singing old songs. The few times I have come in the evening she is either sitting with one of the aides or already in her bed asleep which can be as early as 7:00pm. No wonder they tell me she is often up by 5:30am.

Lily comes back to our house frequently for hours or the day. She settles in like she has never left doing all the same things she did before--dishes, folding clothes, dishes, sweeping, reading the newspapers, dishes, taking walks with me, and more dishes. Did I tell you she loves washing dishes?)

When I take her back she will ask why I am turning in there to which I responds, "Oh I have an errand to do."  By the time we get inside she only wants to know when I will be back to which my standard reply is "later."  Less is more in the Alzheimer world of communication. 

In some ways I feel Lily has more stimulation there because of  the activities and conversation with other ladies and staff.  She also has made many friends among the staff and has quickly become a "favorite".  But at the same time I know nothing replaces the security and love of home among her family.  I know she does not get the same level of attention I give her at home.  I might find her (and have) in 4 shirts and 2 pair of pants.  Her pockets are always stuffed with all her make up and toothbrush so "nobody takes them."  Her make up, hair, and dress are rarely done to my satisfaction.  But overall I know she is looked after and in a safe place and taken care of by people that care for her and are looking out for her.  I realize too that the level of control I had with my mother is less but that is probably a good thing for me and maybe for her too.

I do know most of the time she likes her room and am hoping through time as she becomes more familiar with the place she will relax and feel that she is home.  While living with us for 3 years she never called our home her home but she did eventually become very comfortable there and felt secure.  If she finds that where she is now I will be happy and I suspect so will she.

Even though it is quite obvious to any of us who enter the facility that it is a nursing home, if you asked Lily, she would never admit to that. I find that very perplexing as many of the other residents seem to accept that and understand that is where they are at. Not Lily.

Is it denial or simply the disease. Or a little of both. Mom was always very good at blowing things off. "Who cares if I can't remember that (like my father's name). When I can't remember a chair is a chair or a tree is a tree then I will worry." And you know she is probably right. As long as she is in no pain, feels good, and is happy, that is what it is all about.



Kerry Runyeon, RN, BSN is the primary caregiver for her mother Lily. Kerry chooses to focus on the humorous aspects of her journey with Alzheimer's disease. Her blog Living in the Moment with Lilybird is a reflection of her experience. Kerry resides in Dayton, Ohio

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Original content Kerry Runyeon, the Alzheimer's Reading Room