This title is almost horrible and may seem insensitive but hear me out. I almost wrote about the pain but today I want to write about the beauty.
Mom moved to live with my family and I about a year ago at the suggestion of her doctor in Birmingham. He believed living with family would be best for her. It was great while it lasted but a little over 4 months later and a hospital stay of almost a month, the same doctor suggested she try assisted living. When someone has dementia or alzheimer’s structure is best. My household is so busy with so many people coming and going (we had 6 teen boys spend the night last weekend) and Bible studies, etc. that it was too much stress for mom. She needed quiet. We do appreciate the time we had. Most of it was beautiful. She often said moving to Fairhope was the best decision she ever made.
After a fall in the hospital last June that resulted in a concussion and 2 falls at her assisted living facility hitting her head the dementia seemed to advance at a rapid pace. I thought the moves were the cause of the increased dementia but the doctor said it was primarily the concussions. When her dementia increased she got kicked out of assisted living because she needed 24/7 care at that point. We moved her home again. She fell again which may have been the result of a UTI which she was admitted for. After the hospital visit the first week of November she was released to a rehab hospital. She is still there but has lost her ability to walk.
Being a caregiver is a lonely road. Todd and I are the only family my mom has here. We feel a huge responsibility to love and care for her as Jesus would. Sometimes it’s stressful but it is also the greatest privilege in the world. At first I visited her daily but I average 4 times a week now with a visit lasting anywhere from 1-3 hours. Todd goes with me at least on Sunday. More when he can. My boys still ask to visit her. This means so much to me and is a testimony of their character. I know many grandkids don’t visit their grandparents even when they live close by. I’m so proud of my boys. They also buy her gifts with their own money. This is beautiful to me.
Today I visited my mom for about 3 hours. I am so blessed that with a flexible career (Mary Kay Director) my time can be determined by my priorities. I’m also a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom and Director of a legal home school cover. There have been times in my life when I allowed ministry to overwhelm me but now I know that every need does not have my name on it. Todd and I have also learned that ministry can come before you and God or you and your family. That’s also another blog.
The beauty of Alzheimer’s at this phase is that though my heart breaks for mom she is happy and content. She no longer is plagued with the anxiety, depression: the mental illness she has struggled with her whole life. She takes less medication and yet for the first time in her life she seems free of the symptoms. She smiles, laughs and tells me she is happy. This is indeed beautiful to see.
Mom still knows who I am by sight. She knows my husband. She didn’t know my 20 year old son when he came home from college the first time he visited last month. But the remainder of the visits (about 12) she knew him. She usually knows my 17 year old son. Mom does not remember where she is or why. She does not know her other family members. i.e. children, grandkids, sisters, etc. I show her photos almost every day to help her memory. She loves looking at photos but has no idea who they are. Most of the time. Sometimes the old photos of my older brother and sister as children she will recognize. Sometimes she forgets my father has died. Sometimes she remembers. Today she asked me what he died of. She has no recollection of a 2nd husband even though I show his photo too. The photos seem to confuse her but she loves looking at them so I keep showing them to her.
If I tell my mom where I am going she will request to go with me. This is hard for me. She will still ask if she can go home with Todd and I. She remembers being happy at our home. However when I reply she can’t leave the hospital today she is okay with it.
When I visit every day or every other day I hold her hand and tell her I love her. She smiles and says “I love you too DuAnne.” When I tell her she has been a great mom her smile is even brighter. My husband and sons hold her hand and I think this loving physical connection gives her peace. She feels loved and cared for. This is beautiful.
My mercy and compassion has grown so much during this process with my mom. All I want to do is love her. And I am drawn to visit her as often as I can. It is not a chore. It is a privilege.
I moved away when I was 17 and have spent most of my life living on the West Coast. Except for a few short years in Birmingham I have always lived away from family. God was always calling me to leave people I loved to love people I had not met yet. God has called me all over the place. Full time ministry is sometimes a sacrifice but God is faithful. It’s beautiful that I have the opportunity to serve my mom in a way her other children cannot due to their busy lives.