I wish I could go back to the life I had before, the life where Mother wasn't sick, in need of constant care, constant supervision.
Mother used to be able to do things for herself: pay the bills, cook, take care of her family, enjoy going out--now she sits in the livingroom, wondering who she is, where she is, what she's doing.
She has Alzheimer's disease.
At first, we didn't really see any changes; however, as the disease progressed, we noted that Mother started having memory lapses; as time went on, these "lapses" became more frequent, more noticeable.
For instance, Mother would ask us how to make macaroni and cheese when she used to make it with little or no difficulty. We found that odd; odder still was when Mother would attempt to balance the checkbook, only to forget where the numbers went, messing up what we had worked so hard to do correctly.
Another thing Mother would do was ask who we were or where she lived. It was like she was turning into a little child, and it terrified us.
We immediately took Mother to the doctor's office. He had her go to the hospital, where she could be seen by a neurologist, to see what was going on with her. She had CAT-scans, MRI's, and other testing; it took a few days.
We waited, fretted, wondering what on earth was going on; when the neurologist gave us the devastating news, we all cried. Mother had the beginning stages of Alzheimers related dementia. Alzheimer's disease was an insidious disease affecting memory; as time would pass, the memory loss would get so bad it would render its sufferers helpless.
In other words, Mother (and people like her) would require constant supervision, would become like wizened little children in senior citizen's bodies.
It was the worst thing that could have ever happened to us.
Now two years later, the disease has progressed rapidly. Mother cannot be by herself because she could risk injuring herself (or others), and she can't remember anything, even if you've only asked her five minutes ago.
She can remember anything prior to 1970; however, anything current, she has no clue. She doesn't even know who the president is anymore, or what is going on in our world. To her, the War in Iraq is science fiction; and forget about September 11, 2001.
To her, people like Barack Obama, the Clintons, President George Walker Bush, or Osama bin Laden are only fictional characters; she has no clue who they are or what they've done.
Mother talks about Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Kennedy, or Richard Nixon as though they are her close friends; she talks about her childhood or the Korean War, and she can talk about the first man on the moon.
As for current events, however, it is entirely foreign to her, even though she watches the news, reads the paper; five minutes later, it's as though she's gotten a sudden case of amnesia because she can't remember what she's just seen or read.
When people come to visit, she asks who they are, what they are doing in her house. Mother gets all defensive; she is terrified someone is robbing her. I can't tell you how many times she's threatened to call the police because "bad people were breaking into her house". We've had some huge fights about this, and it's tearing our family apart.
My husband often goes to the bar at night for a few hours because he can't stand my mother's emotional outbursts; and the kids are fearful, scared. They miss the grandma they used to know only a few years back; they can't deal with her sudden changes in her mental/physical state.
My family (my sisters and Mother's remaining relatives) can't deal with the changes in Mother either. They ask all the time what is going on, and when they try to talk to her, it only induces tears, because they see the terrible toll that the Alzheimer's has taken on her body/mind.
Besides Mother's mental/physical problems, she has a bad habit of wandering around the house, muttering to herself, or throwing things, in the middle of the night. Several times we've found the house in shambles, and Mother weeping as she lies on the kitchen floor or by the front door. At other times, we've been awakened by her cursing like a drunken sailor as she battles the demons inside of her mind.
We have no clue who she's talking to or what she's talking about during these times of mental/emotional turmoil, and nor do we want to. We try to ask Mother to tell us what's going on; she then starts talking about the first man on the moon or about what a good boy Eisenhower is and what marvelous things he's doing for our country.
It's like dealing with a small child.
Mother no longer drives, as you can imagine. We took away her driving privileges; however, she is still determined to take the keys, try to get to the car.
That's scary because you'll never know what may happen if she were to get to the car or drive. She could kill someone (or herself), or end up injuring herself (or others) very badly.
Since being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Mother has turned into a shell of her former self. It's as though she's shrinking, turning smaller and smaller, until one day she completely disappears. She's gotten terribly cachexic, doesn't care about her appearance, and is always depressed.
We've been trying to get the doctors to help us, but all they do is give us the run around, tell us to put her in a home or assisted-living center. Maybe that's all in good, but we can't imagine Mother being in one of those places: all too many times you hear of bad things oing on, and we don't want to subject my mother to that kind of environment.
We gamely try to deal with her on our own, as we see fit; however we are quickly realizing that maybe a nursing home or assisted-living facility may be the only option we have for Mother.
~End of part one.~