We started noticing my mother’s memories had slipped in her early 70′s. It was a huge surprise since she was always a sharp, vibrate person. In fact she was the “memory keeper” for our entire family and her 8 brothers and sisters.
During the 2003 Christmas holiday, we went to a hotel for their famous brunch. As usual, we all got up to visit the buffet and indulge until we could no more. I noticed my Mom walking around aimlessly. As I went over to her, she seemed startled at my approach. “What do you want to eat?” I asked her gently. “Oh, you know; the usual,” was her noncommittal answer.
In spite of this warning sign, she and my dad continued their independent life for several more years, refusing to give up their independence in spite of our begging. As her memory grew worse, she mastered the technique of the elusive “throw-away” answer. My dad supported her deception either by design or by necessity.
Sitting across the table from her during breakfast, we chatted intently about Dad being in the hospital. I had to keep reminding her that he was not well and it was serious. In the midst of this serious talk, she looked at me with clarity in her eyes and simply asked, “Now, who are you again?”
She soon needed 24 hour care and we were very fortunate to find a quality facility who provided that care.
As her primary caregiver and responsible person, I helplessly went through the next few years with her as she declined. The maze of treatments only addressed symptoms, some made her more comfortable; others did not. The financial toll was huge – the equivalent of two new cars each year.
In 2009 my mom continued to decline. She had trouble feeding herself and doing other daily activities. She no longer recognized or remembered anyone, and she had significant trouble forming words or creating sentences. Her mind continued to be devastated by this disease. Not only was her memory gone but almost all of her identity.
That said, I could still get her to laugh a little with a small joke and even over the phone, I could feel her smile. So she was always in there somewhere.
On August 16, 2009, she passed away.