Apr 8, 2016

Alzheimer's Caregiver Life A Shop for Mom

I confess to having been what I will call a “dream squelcher” but I’m also patting myself on the back for finally recognizing the error of my ways.

When I first brought mom home to live with us nine months ago I was determined to help preserve her memory.

When I first brought mom home to live with us nine months ago I was determined to help preserve her memory and perfectly confident that I could do so.

My intentions were good but over time it became painfully clear that I would not only be unsuccessful but was also stifling her desire to communicate.

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By Karen Matthews

Mom was a lifelong shopping addict but shopping trips aren’t possible now since she can’t last long and has bad vision. Her clothing collection was already ridiculously large. I could not convince her that she no longer needed all these items so reluctantly agreed to move them all to my home.

Her bedroom closet was too small so I put the excess in an extra bedroom across the hall on rolling clothes racks and bookshelves converted to shoe/purse shelves. Mom forgot about them at first which I expected but still found annoying.

In time and as mom became more comfortable with her new surroundings, she ventured out of her bedroom where she discovered “the little shop down the hall”. She was excited as she described to me all of the cute outfits, shoes, and purses she found.

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In my quest to be honest and correct plus preserve her memory, I repeatedly let her know that this was not a shop and all of the items already belonged to her. Of course, this was most confusing for mom since she didn’t recognize the clothes and wanted to buy them. She also described other people who came in and out of the room carrying loads of clothes in their arms….she believed they were stealing.

Again, I would explain that it was just me hanging up the clean laundry. We went around and around for several months until I thought she was losing interest in “the little shop”.

My husband was frustrated listening to this scenario over and over; however, his frustration was with me. “Karen, what’s the harm in her believing it’s a shop? Why are you continually correcting her?” he asked.

I had to admit it…he was right. I was the one who needed a new attitude as well as a fresh approach.

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I reorganized the room to make it more “shopper-friendly”.

My office chair is great for sitting down to try on shoes. Mom now literally spends hours “shopping” and is truly happy that the items are so cute and the store is so close. In addition, they all seem to fit!

She is happy to shop alone or bring me along. She can’t wait to show me all of her latest finds and she frequently expresses her gratitude to the “people here” who care enough to provide a shop “in the building”.

It’s amazing how something so simple made such a big difference - and even more amazing how long it took me realize it.

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Karen Matthews and her husband, Randy, are full time caregivers for Karen’s 89 year old mother, Louise. Karen works in residential real estate and has an MBA.

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