Dementia is a cruel disease!
KJ and I went to visit mom at her facility, only to be greeted at the door with a ‘bad’ report! The field trip bus returned early after mom tried to escape from the bus (she kept telling M,the bus driver, she wanted outside). When mom was told ‘no’ she began hitting and kicking! Mom was put into a seatbelt which she was able to pull her legs through and escape! The bus had to stop on the road to restrain mom and buckle her again. Mom was given her milkshake because M knew she was hungry since she did not eat much lunch. (Hunger is a trigger for mom!) Mom proceeded to throw her milkshake causing an ice cream explosion!!! Mom had just returned to AG and was sitting on the couch when KJ and I arrived. She was sitting in a deep trance. It took about 2 minutes for her to ‘snap’ out of it and make eye contact with me. She immediately began crying telling me she was sorry and she doesn’t want to be sick (It is horrific to be trapped in your mind while having moments of lucidity understanding you are trapped)! We walked down the hallway and sat. She proceeded to tell me (her language has greatly diminished yet there is clarity in her broken words and sentences) that she was hitting people on the bus because she wanted off (Mom loves the outdoors. She also is a wanderer, especially when agitated). She knew she had thrown her milkshake. She kept apologizing.
M came to talk to me. She was kind. She felt there were triggers:
-mom needed bathroom
-when told NO mom felt confined and threatened
-mom was hungry
-mom kept saying something was burning her???(maybe sun streaming through window)
After talking to M and mom, I asked mom if she were hungry. She said YES. I told her I would take her to the restaurant but she had to let me change her clothes. She cooperated!!! Soon she was at the restaurant and very happy! She loved walking outside and starring at the water. She recognized the grandkids and she ate and ate!!! (Her favorite last night were the Bobby fries and salad😂🤣). I drove her back to AG. She quietly got into her pajamas and let me put her to bed. It was a peaceful ending to a challenging day! John 14:27 (Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.) I continue to battle fear as I watch my mom live with this disease. I get scared every time I forget something, am I doomed to the same fate? The fear can be terrifying! I choose not to allow the ‘What ifs’ to paralyze me. Instead, I hold on to Faith, Hope and Love! (1 Corinthians 13:13) His Love will never abandon mom while the same Love will give me the strength to move forward when all I want to do is hide!
When mom joined Ashley Gardens, the staff was excited to hear that she was a renowned quilter. There were several other residents that used to sew and quilt and the staff had planned a field trip to a quilting show. I was excited to be asked to accompany them as a chaperone!
Several months later, the day of the show arrived. I was way more excited than mom. When I got to AG, she was agitated as she ate her bacon, eggs, grits and cinnamon roll. I asked what was wrong? She looked at her plate and said that everything was awful! I chuckled while agreeing. Poor mom! After eating Richard’s homemade grits and cinnamon rolls, her breakfast was very bland! When she ate all that she could (cinnamon roll and bacon) I got her to walk to her room so I could shower her and dress her in something cute. I got her to her room. That was the only part of my plan that I succeeded in. She refused to shower (I really wanted to wash her hair). I was able to convince her to put pants on, but not the ones I wanted her to wear. Oh well, just like when my kids were little, there are some battles not worth fighting. This was a special day and I did not want mom upset!
We got the residents loaded on the bus and started driving. Mariah was our driver and made the drive entertaining with her fun conversations with the ladies. I laughed when one of them acted like the typical ‘back-seat’ driver! Have mercy! I have to admit, I am glad I do not have to worry about running into her on the roads! Upon arriving at the coliseum, Janet and I unloaded the bus, took ladies inside and waited for Mariah, who was parking the bus. Inside, mom became distracted and very quiet. She moved around a lot, but would not focus. Mariah would ask her something about a pattern or color. Mom had very few responses, but the ones she had were profound! The three I recall were when she looked at one quilt and clearly said, ‘That took a lot of work!’ Another quilt, she commented on how the colors worked well together. One area, she chose her favorite quilt because she liked the design! I loved that she was making connections. The connections were real, which I soon realized were too real! About an hour into the exhibit, mom began crying. The somber mood lasted the rest of the trip. We rejoined the group and mom was given some anxiety medicine to calm her down. Mariah comforted me explaining that mom’s behavior was normal and expected when experiencing something that was once such a major part of her life The quilting show triggered memories. This was an art she excelled in, whether it was in her quilting masterpieces or the exhibits she would help coordinate. The realization of these memories became overwhelming. The memories of her accomplishments were also her living nightmare of what she can longer do!
It was time to leave. The ladies were hungry and getting tired. We did Chick Filet ‘to go’ so we could go picnic at a park close to AG. Everyone got to sit in the shade at picnic tables. It was pleasant. At this point, mom hardly spoke. I did not force a conversation. I gave her a hug, then left her to her thoughts as I walked around to taking pictures. I needed a few minutes to let my emotions run through my head. I had a tiny pity party as I realized mom’s quilting talent (which she inherited from her mom) was ending with her. Even if Michelle and I had the time to learn to quilt, the experience would never be taught through our mom! Seeing the quilts made me appreciate the talent and time mom shared making quilts for her two daughters and her 9 grandchildren! I now comprehend the love mom poured into the quilts as her way of wrapping us in her love even with the Atlantic Ocean separating us!
Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest is Love! (1 Corinthians 13:13) I encountered the power of this verse again today doing nothing more than looking through the layer of dementia and seeing/experiencing the beauty of these people with my heart!