Feb 19, 2015

As Long As She Needs Me ...

By Marilyn Raichle
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My father’s last years were difficult. Wheelchair-bound with an advanced case of Parkinson’s and his Alzheimer’s gaining in strength.

As Long As She Needs Me | Alzheimer's TReading Room

There were angry outbursts, confusion, depression, withdrawal, hallucinations and fear.

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I was not always the best caregiver.

I didn't always understand how — and if I am being completely honest, wasn’t always willing — to extend the compassion he needed and deserved.

 All too often I let the sadness of the disease or worse— old conflicts —get in the way.

But that was before my long apprenticeship with Mom. She opened my eyes and heart — allowing me to let go of my fear and embrace the person who is with me instead of yearning for the person who used to be.

A few weeks ago, I thought it might be Mom’s turn. She was changing — increasingly disinterested, withdrawn and incoherent with flashes of belligerence.

And then a reprieve. At a recent care conference, perhaps lulled into complacency by mother’s consistently cheerful demeanor, we had decided to forego the anti-depressant she had been taking for so long.

Not a great idea as it turned out.

We reversed course and within days she was back to her sunny self.

But thanks to Mom, I know now what I needed to know then.

I am ready — emotionally and strategically —to offer her what I had failed to give to Dad:

 acceptance, patience, a calming presence, touch and a willing resolve to be there as long as she needs me.

*Marilyn Raichle writes at The Art of Alzheimer’s – How Mother Forgot Nearly Everything and Began to Paint  — a blog about her mother Jean whose glorious art illuminates a simple truth —  those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are still here — living lives of dignity, creativity and joy. Marilyn is currently developing an art exhibit: Changing the Way We Think about Alzheimer’s — One Painting at a Time.

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The Deeply Forgetful - They Still Have Gifts to Bestow

They may be fading but if you are patient and present, you will find that they still have gifts to bestow.

By Marilyn Raichle
Alzheimer's Reading Room

As Mom nears 96, it’s undeniable that she is fading — less spring in her step, less awareness of the world around her — moving a little further away every time I visit.

Yet so much is still intact. Her sense of humor, competitive spirit and infectious smile.

I am fond of saying that she is being distilled to her essence: happy, considerate, generous and kind. And while she may not know why she knows me, she does know me and is happy to see me.

And thanks to Mom, I have learned that this is more than enough.

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As Mom moves further away, I find that I draw closer to her companions in Assisted Living.

Visiting after Christmas, I encountered Phyllis in the hallway and I gave her a big hug. To my delight she put her arm around me and hugged me back, and wouldn’t let go.

Walking further, I met Flora. “Ciao, Bellissima!” I sang and gave her a hug and a kiss.

“I would like to kiss you too,” she said. “I would be honored,” I replied. And I was.

What charming women. All of them sweet and loving.

They may be fading but if you are patient and present, you will find that they still have gifts to bestow.

From Mom and me.

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