There, I said it.
I have watched for seven years as the disease slowly progressed and day-by-day, cell-by-cell, darkened the little neurons in her brain. In seven years she went from being forgetful and otherwise completely functional to being unable to read or write and often trying to put her underwear on over her head.
Your brain is like a giant power grid. Alzheimer’s just shuts off the power very slowly, one switch at a time, until most of the lights are off. Sadly, it does this without shutting off the power to your heart. That would be a lot kinder and gentler way to die in my opinion.
The problem is that mom was my best friend. We were very close. I still talk to her several times a week, sometimes for over an hour a day, but the conversation consists of me telling her the same things over and over again, because she asks me the same questions over and over again. She has no short-term memory left to speak of.
She can still shower and use the toilet and feed herself, but it’s a matter of time before those lights go out, too. She falls more and more often, and that may ultimately lead to a broken hip, which will render her immobile and totally unable to care for herself. This is not going to end peacefully. It’s going to be a slow agonizing death for her, and for us as we watch her go through it. The only “good” news in this is she doesn’t really seem to know what’s happening. At least she is not aware of how bad the situation really is.
I was told years ago by a friend that I should find an Alzheimer’s support group and start attending. She said my life was going to get a lot worse before it got better given Mom’s disease. I didn’t do that, I just thought I could handle it on my own. Now I’m fighting with someone I love very much, and was even thinking of cutting them out of my life (which I’m definitely not going to do, I’ve calmed down since then). Why? Because my world without a healthy mom is spinning out of control so much that I don’t know whether to shit or go blind (a favorite expression of southerners everywhere). Mom was definitely the glue that held our family together, and Alzheimer’s is now making it difficult for all of us. It’s a cruel cruel disease that takes prisoners and kills them very very very slowly, while the family and friends suffer the torture that the disease inflicts.
We have a charitable giving campaign at work every year. I didn’t participate for years, until last year. I started directing a small donation to an Alzheimer’s research institution. I upped the donation this year when it was time to sign up again. It’s too late for mom, but I have to hope they will have a cure by the time I am her age. I dread the thought of putting my son through the agony of watching me slowly fade away the way we’ve all watched Mom disappear.
I have started online therapy, as I mentioned. I started out being angry at someone and what we’ve come to conclude is that everyone is off balance because of the tragedy that has befallen Mom. I am trying to make peace with it but I’m angry and I miss my mother, dammit! She has a heart condition, and I keep hoping that her heart will just give out one day, and that she can die quietly in her sleep. I guess we all hope that will happen for those we love, because the suffering that they go through, and that we go through watching them, feels too great to bear.
My mom has Alzheimer’s.