My mother is losing her mind.
I can’t count the number of times, as a teenager, I must have claimed that while living under her roof – in typical teenage hyperbole. Now, the statement is real – it’s adult. My mother has mid-stage Alzheimer’s.
While flipping channels today, I came across a program on PBS called “The Forgetting” (2004) about the disease and its effects on the stricken as well as their loved ones. I curled up on the couch and cried as I watched it. It could have been based on our family.
I’ve seen the progression of the disease first hand. First, they forget simple things and chalk it up to old age. Then, they lie about the things they forget – telling stories to convince themselves and their family that their mind is fine. Now, my mother realizes something is wrong with her thinking. “Why do I feel so weird”, she asks, “Why doesn’t my brain work”. We explain to her, repeatedly, that it’s part of the disease of Alzheimer’s, but she doesn’t remember our explanations – the irony of the disease.
One of the comments that hit close to home was a woman who has difficulty responding to the inevitable question, “How is your sister?” She responds, “What am I going to tell you? She’s losing her mind”. I understand exactly how she feels. I know they mean well, but what am I suppose to say? Her mind is slowing disintegrating. We are losing her – there’s no cure and no miracle is going to happen.
We have tough decisions to make in the years ahead. I have fear that the disease could be my fate as well. I try not to think about it. When we are together, we try to make our get-togethers as pleasant as possible for her, but she forgets within minutes. Sometimes I wonder if it’s better that she can’t remember or comprehend what’s happening.