Alzheimer’s Funnies

Along with the sadness of Alzheimer’s comes a lot of humor.  My mom says and does some funny things, often taking a new look at language.  Many times, she laughs at herself after she says something that she knows doesn’t sound quite right.  She can be very playful herself and knows that she is being silly.  It is great to experience these moments and nice to reflect upon then when the sad times come.

I am going to share a few of the ones that have stuck with me over the past year.  I know that there have been so many more!

A year ago, in May, we were at a hotel for a family function.  The family was all out at the pool behind the hotel.  My mom needed to go to the bathroom.  A cousin walked her inside.  We figured she would walk my mom back out, but suddenly my mom’s head popped through the bushes surrounding the outside gate of the pool.  She was all smiles and was waving at us.  We started laughing at the sight of her popping through the bushes. Then, we were relieved that she made her way, somehow, back to the pool on her own, even if she did go outside the hotel to do so!

One evening, I was sitting with my mom in her room and for some reason she started listing all the people that care about me.  “I care about you, your sister cares about you, your father cares about you, your other father cares about you…”  Wait, what?!

Back when she was collecting sticks and making arrangements using them, she started calling them her grumblings.  She would often talk to her grumblings and then say something like, “If anyone heard me right now, they would think I am crazy!”

A “grumbling”

She is always very effusive when we go to visit her.  She is complimentary of us and always has very nice things to say.  One time she said, “You take good care of me…You show up!” Yes, she has very high standards.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but it was very funny when she was trying to look at her pants and she kept pulling her shirt up higher and higher and she said, “This shirt just goes on forever!”  Yes that was when she was wearing her nightgown.

Clothes shopping with her is always very interesting.  I remember the first time I took her to get some pants.  She was in the dressing room with a few pairs and as she tried them on, I had her hand them to me through the curtain so that she would not get confused.  She tried on a few and they mostly fit.  She then threw open the curtain half-naked and handed me the last pair.  “What about these? I am not sure they fit so well.”  I said, “Mom, those are the pants you wore into the store.  You need to put those back on.”

She was eating a cookie I brought her last week and then she stopped eating it. I asked if she wanted any more of it and she said, “I can’t because my tongue is thirsty.”

Savoring frozen yogurt. We take her for either frozen yogurt or ice cream most weekends.

My sister took her for ice cream this past weekend and she said to her, “Ice cream is like happy hour for my stomach!”  Does it get any better than that!

Remembering People

Being Okay with the Moment

In Creating Moments of Joy, a book by Jolene Brackey, the author encourages those who are working with or family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease to embrace each individual moment. I am beginning to understand the reason for this. My mom has begun to shift decades and emotions from moment to moment. Some moments are good, some are sad, and some are outright difficult.

Though I completely understand the philosophy of appreciating the moment, in practice it is not always so easy. I go visit her, we spend hours together. Sometimes, we go out to a movie or to get ice cream or shopping. She is so appreciative of me being there and taking her out and doing things for her. Then, I leave and she has no memory that I was there. In fact, this last visit, as I am walking with her to the door, the memory of me, her daughter, being there was already gone. As we walked, she said to me, “My daughters do not even visit. You would think that they would visit their mother, but they don’t.”

A wonderful moment last year when we were on a pontoon boat.

So, we get calls from her and the staff never fails to mention how much she asks for us. She wants to see us, she misses us, and we never visit. Each visit is not only a lot of time, but also emotionally very draining. We are always trying to decide what we can talk about or how to answer her questions in a way that will not upset her. We try to do things that make her happy, that bring her joy. In that moment, it can be very good. But it really is only for that moment.

I know so many people who waited to take their kids to Disney World or on big trips, like to Europe, until they were old enough to remember it. My mom’s philosophy was that every experience creates something in a child that becomes a part of who they are even if they don’t exactly remember it. I wonder if it is the same now and that even if she doesn’t cognitively remember our visits and her experiences each day, it is somehow a part of her.