caregivers · Personality


My sister and I received calls in a very early morning hour last week from a CNA and then the head nurse at my mom’s place letting us know that she had to be sent to the hospital for what was later termed a “manic episode” with “aggressive behaviors”. After speaking with the CNA on duty, I got a pretty clear picture of what had happened and it was not pretty.

By the time my sister got to the hospital, my mom was calm, all the tests that they ran for a possible physical problem were negative, and my mom was ready to go. When she returned to her place, she ate breakfast, had no memory of anything that occurred, and ended up going on the bus for an outing!

My sister and I went out to get something to eat, some coffee to calm our nerves, and then some doughnuts – two dozen in fact. On our way back to the facility with our peace offering (the doughnuts), the humor made its way into our still somewhat-disbelieving minds. We imagined the conversations with the staff going something like this.

“So, you were woken up with a phone call from your staff at 4 a.m. because our mom was screaming and waking up the residents? We are so sorry. Have a doughnut.”

“You were hit over the head by our mom with a clipboard, of all things, as you tried to calm her down? Here, have a doughnut.”

”You were hit, bit, yelled at with really bad language, and almost had a plate thrown at you by our mom? Well, we got you a doughnut!”

Though we have seen our mom get angry and panicky, it is still very hard to imagine her in the state she was in and exhibiting these violent behaviors. There is a thought that she might not have slept and was scared by the night staff who she doesn’t really know. She could have also been hallucinating. We will probably never know.

Mom dramatically singing an ode to the trees as we took a walk on the day after the “incident”.

What was amazing was how the staff there took it in stride and did not seem too worried about it. As difficult as it is for us to understand, it is a common reality for them. We are so thankful for the night staff for doing their best to help our mom, enduring her wrath up to the point that they could.

After moving her three times, my sister and I still harbor the fear that she will need another move – although we don’t know where she would even go from here. None of us, including our mom, could take that. The staff was very reassuring that she is still fine there. Even so, several large pizzas may be showing up soon!


The Radiant Heart

Butterflies and moths surrounding this beautiful bush on our recent walk in the gardens outside her place. Her love of nature has been a constant.

I have heard from many people that the personality of their loved ones changed with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, some for the good and some for the bad. I remember a friend telling me that as dementia set in, her mom became nice for the first time!

The nature of our mom has always been kind, helpful, and encouraging. She did have to persevere through a difficult childhood, so beneath the sweet exterior is also a fighter. We have witnessed some of that fighter over the course of the last year as confusion about her situation set in. There was the, “hotel in the nice downtown area where I could walk to shops,” where we were for some reason not letting her live. There was the house in Miami (her childhood home that her mother sold 40 years ago) that we “sold” without her consent. The car that we sold, the money that we control, her books, her laundry – all of the usual subjects that come up with this disease.

However, through it all, underneath even the most trying situations, her heart has led her through. We see this every visit in the way that she smiles at us and how her eyes light up as she gives us a greeting of surprise. “I didn’t know you were coming!”, “What a wonderful surprise!”, or “How did you ever find me?”.

When I go to visit, I emotionally prepare myself. I hide away my sadness and bring out my carefree, silly side. I go to be with her and support her and yet, her heart ends up reaching out to support me. As we walked outside recently, I noted the nice breeze that was blowing making the late July afternoon not so unbearably hot. “That is because of you,” she said. “Really,” I said, “I brought the wind? I didn’t realize I was so powerful.” “But you are,” she said, “you are multi-wonderful!” Even in her uncertain and scary situation, she still is able to care so deeply for us and provide emotional support to us.

I don’t know if or how she will be able to continue expressing from her heart as she progresses, but somehow I am certain that radiance will continue to shine through.

“I cherish that beautiful space that you have in my heart.”

Her latest expression – I mean really!!!