Monday, October 5, 2009

ALZHEIMER'S Can be Jabberwocky

Lewis Carroll created memorable stories and poems around nonsensical, strange beings. Silly words and situations were his forte. I love the way the make-believe words roll off my tongue. " Twas brillig..."

Alzheimer's patients find themselves in strange situations, making nonsensical statements not of their choosing. Their words do not come easy, if at all. It pains me.
My mom has Alzheimer's.

She still gets around, considering she broke her left hip in January which necessitated surgery and rehabilitation. She walks with a walker now. Due to macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts she is blind: no sight in her right eye and almost none in her left. All those eye surgeries in the past can only do so much. She used to be five foot nine, with dark brown hair. She took pride in the fact that she always had a slim figure--thin almost. Now at about five foot four, with her thinning grey hair, she barely weighs one hundred pounds. She just turned eighty-nine.

Now in a very nice Assisted Living Center, we've not bothered to mention the Alzheimer's to her: it would serve no purpose. Everyday she's up and about as best she can be. Always dresses for the trip to the dining room: slacks, blouse, sweater, earrings, necklace, lipstick. No nightgowns or robes there, folks. She loves bright colors, especially red. Even though I try to organize her clothes closet, the outfits she chooses are of her making. She can't see, remember?

Alzheimer's alone can be a cross heavy enough for someone to bear, but the blindness to her is devastating. To not remember where your matching earring is can be annoying, but not see it to retrieve it is maddening. When she can't remember what she had for breakfast (or even if she had any), she can't readily see the snacks and fruit we keep stocked for her in her small refrigerator or shelf. Alzheimer's is cruel, but blindness is torture. She tries to go play bingo..... She has to listen to shows on television that have some sort of narration......She tries to recall her grandchildren's names by the sound of their voices. I have to tell her who I am.

And so it goes. Alzheimer's has it's own little path through a person's life. Right now everything is OK, not great but OK. Things are worse than several months ago, but we'll appreciate that for as long as we can. She downsized from a two room apartment to a large studio. Things are easier for her now. As easy as they can be. Alzheimer's can be an unruly roommate over the long run.

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