Mondays with Mom: Transitions


I am so grateful for the people in my life who ask about Mom. Many of them know Mom personally, but some know her only through these articles. I’m always at a loss of what to say when they ask. My standard answer is “about the same.” That is both true and false. She has gone through so many transitions, but many of them were subtle changes that only her caregivers could see.

Mom is chair bound. She can only stand and walk with great assistance from her caregivers. She does very little of her own personal hygiene or care. Occasionally she will eat by herself, but she much prefers to be fed. She does still brush her teeth by herself, but hair brushing is done for her. These transitions happened over the last year. She’s ever so gradually losing ground.

Reflecting on our journey to this point of care, I can see that there have been dozens, maybe hundreds, of transitions. I started a Mondays with Mom article at the beginning of May that I didn’t finish, but now she is beyond the conversations in that story. I couldn’t imagine then that she would transition out of that level of communicating so quickly. I have pulled it out each week hoping to add to the article and use it, but in vain.

The complete answer to queries about Mom is complicated. Yes, she is “about the same,” but we’re also subtly, almost imperceptivity slipping further down the steep slope of dementia.

Mom’s sweet spirit is still intact. She only gets grumpy when she is confused or being made to do something she doesn’t want to do (like bathing). I know what a huge blessing that is from previous caregiving experiences. Mom loves to meet new friends. Now all people are new friends. Occasionally she’ll say that she recognizes someone from long ago. Beverly, a friend from choir, came to visit this week and Mom said that Beverly reminded her of “bygone days.”

Last July, Mom was restless. She reminded me of a toddler who had been sitting too long. Some days it was hard to keep her entertained. This July, she sleeps a lot. In fact, she sleeps most of the time (see last week’s article here). Perhaps I say it too often, but she is truly moving backward through time – a toddler last year, but more like an infant now. She’s transitioning through childhood in reverse.

As with an infant, I wonder if she understands what I’m saying sometimes. She’s become quite hard of hearing so I have to repeat myself often. I’ll speak louder and enunciate more, and she still doesn’t quite get much of what I say. She’ll repeat what she hears back to me and it’s garbled. I find myself giving up on the verbal communication and just trying to make it clear with a sort of sign language. This has been a difficult transition.

I know change is inevitable for all of us in every situation. I knew these days would come and they wouldn’t be easy. I just wish we could hold on a bit longer before the next transition – keep things truly the same – before she slips away any more.

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