Losing My Mom to Alzheimer's
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Last Sunday was the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. To help me get through this day, I needed to write about what I experienced watching her die from Alzheimer’s.
We had always expected my mother to live a long life and die of old age. That was normal in her family. Her father lived to 90; her mother to 92 and her cousins to 95. So, we weren’t paying attention to any signs. My mother was focused on my dad who was diagnosed with dementia more than 10 years ago. He also had a heart aneurysm, and there were a lot of complications with his surgery. Typical of my mother, she wouldn’t leave his side which angered and hurt me as I felt she had done that so many times in her life and never to her benefit.
In 2012, my mother fell and broke her hip. To repair it required surgery. The doctor told me that often women go downhill after this type of incident, which I had never heard before. I got everything in order, and mom did great with her rehab. I stayed in touch via phone and had a big trip planned for the Christmas of 2013. My daughter and I were going to visit her, and I had set up appointments with doctors and her lawyer to get my parent’s estate in order (I wanted a trust set up so no one could take advantage of my mother as she grew older). During one call, she became mean and angry, which was totally out of character. I reacted with hurt and pain and chose not to go see her. Immediately after that, my illness got worse, and I saw no benefit from having my family involved or even aware of what I was going through.
My father got sick again in the summer of 2014 and had to go to a rehabilitation home. My middle brother was checking on them. and my mother wouldn’t let him go home. She became childlike in her need to have someone near her. And she began talking about the other people living in the house. My brother realized something was wrong and took her to a doctor. That’s when the dreaded diagnosis was made.
For three short years I watched h my mother’s decline – first mentally and then physically. While she always knew who I was (ironically it was my father she forgot first). the ability to have any type of conversation became rarer. When I was with her she might come back and be mom for about 30 minutes but then she was gone again. The last time I saw her, which ended up being three weeks before her death, there was no communication. She would eat and then sleep the rest of the time. One evening I laid down with her and told her that she didn’t need to stay here anymore, that this wasn’t the life she wanted or deserved, and that it was perfectly alright for her to go on and be with her parents whom she dearly loved. She then said one word loudly and firmly, “Done!” Yes Mom, I thought. You are done with this life.
Of my father’s four siblings, three had dementia and one had Alzheimer’s. Now that my own mother has died of Alzheimer’s, it’s clear my own stats are not good. I can have the test, but my neurologist recommended that I don’t. There is no need to live with that type of knowledge. Instead, I focus on planning how I can be taken care of, so I am not a burden on my husband or daughter.
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and I want to do my part to raise awareness about this dreadful disease. I hope the progress moves quickly to develop drugs to reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s. I don’t want others to have a parent look at them with childlike eyes trying to say something with no ability to do so. Nor do I want anyone to miss those last years with a parent, where joy can come from doing something simple together or sharing a precious remembrance. I thought my mother and I had more time. Sadly, that was not to be.