Defenseless against Alzheimers Disease
Like many other chronic illnesses, Alzheimers has a mysterious rhythm of good days and bad, but gradually what you used to consider a very bad day becomes the norm. The good days are now a pleasant surprise, but Mom's not able to string many of them together anymore.
I've read a few books--memoirs, mostly--about Alzheimers, and I've had a few friends who have gone through it with family members, but I've never known of anyone who was affected in the same way Mom has been. I think, to a large degree, the disease has just magnified my mom's worst personality traits. As I've matured I better understand how some of those traits came into being -- long before Alzheimers wrote them so large in our lives -- but that hasn't really made this part of our lives together any easier to bear.
The hardest thing for me is that there are so many times now when I cannot muster compassion for her. I can only imagine how awful it must be for her to live with the belief that her family members have stolen money, jewelry, coin collections, sheets, towels, clothes and address books from her. She believes it when she tells one of her children that another has said horrible things to her, things like, I wish you were dead, You've never done anything for me, or, I don't want to see you anymore because I'm afraid you'll kill my child.
My heart goes out to her husband whom she accuses of adultery, thievery, cruelty, alcoholism and impossible sexual acts. (Bless his heart, he's 87, has at least two kinds of cancer and a history of strokes, yet he dotes on my mother and cares for her with patience and tenderness.) I can imagine how awful it must be for her, but I can't do anything about it.
There's no sense trying to talk her out of these beliefs. We have all tried desperately to relieve her of the pain her paranoia causes. The thing is, if I try to assure her that Carl's not having an affair, and not stealing her money, she accuses me of siding with him and betraying her. The arguments could go on forever; each point raised in defense of the accused seeds another evil imagining in the mind of the accuser. Anything said to convince her these things can't possibly be true becomes ammunition that her sick brain uses against us both.
With that realization I've quit answering the phone. I cleared most of the 42 messages from my machine this morning. And then at lunch time, when I meant to be checking in with a friend who had left two of those messages, my own brain conspired with my dialing finger and called Mom instead. I told her I was just calling to tell her that I loved her.
I know there will probably come a time when she doesn't remember her children, but already she's forgotten who we are.