THE SOUNDS OF ALZHEIMER’S
I sit in the darkness of the early morning enjoying the peacefulness of “me” time. It’s blessedly quiet because it’s 4:30 am. I just sent hubby out the door to work and I have about 4 hours of time left that I can hear ticking off of the old clock by my desk. I have my desk in the living room because it is the center of the house and I can keep my ears if not eyes on everything going on.
At 8:30 I hear the creak of the door and the shuffle, shuffle, shuffle of mom going to the bathroom. The toilet flushes, the door opens then that same shuffle back to her room. I hear drawers open and shut, open and shut and this never ceases to amaze me because I know that by now there are no clothes in those drawers. They are filled with all of the little things that she picks up throughout the house and then hides like a squirrel stashes his nuts. She finds the closet where all of her clothes are now hung, stuffed to the brim with anything and everything that will no longer fit in the drawers.
I hear her moving around making her bed, brushing her hair and I automatically know when she will come out. When I hear the spray of the aerosol hairspray can that is always the last step in the process. Then the shuffle comes out again and down the hall. She notices me sitting at my desk and asks me if “I’ve been up all night” every single morning. “Nope, I got up at 4” I say and get the same “Whew! That’s early”.
She heads on into the kitchen. The morning is when mom is at her best. You can almost pretend that she is well and fine…almost. She bangs pots and pans while trying to figure out if it will be Poptarts (blueberry with no icing only), blueberry bagels or oatmeal. One of those three every day. She has her own cabinet. It’s the only one she will open so I started keeping all the foods that I know she likes in there. I hear the chewing of her breakfast, the beeping of the coffee maker and then the splash of water in a cup for her medicine.
She will head back to her room again and fiddle with straightening or looking for something and then everyday at around 10:30 I will hear the sound of change spilling out of a jar as it hits her bed. She counts this same change every single day. I have no idea how much is in there or if she adds to it or subtracts from it, but she counts it every single day. I often wonder if this is her “I’m going to run away from home fund” in her mind or if it’s just a long held habit.
She’ll then shuffle back to her sewing room and start on her projects. Quilting is her saving grace. She has always been extremely talented in creating beautiful works of art through quilting. Things have changed though. She can no longer figure out how to piece those intricate designs and she can no longer remember how to work the sewing machine. So we search through thrift stores, junk stores and Goodwill for quilts pieced together but with the ideas and hopes of quilting them long given up. This is what mom can still do. She will gather the top piece, whatever we can find and she will add the batting (the middle that makes it warm and snugly) and finally the backing and she will quilt all three pieces together.
She will sew like this for hours taking Poptart and coffee breaks off and on all day. I will fix her lunch because she cannot live on Poptarts alone although she would if I let her. I have a hard time keeping her out of them. I know in my head she should eat healthier, but in my opinion she is eating the sweets because the Alzheimer’s has reached her tastebuds. I don’t know if this is true or even possible but everything tastes bitter to her now and it never did before. She complains about it often enough that it has gotten my attention. It makes sense though because it has taken everything else from her.
I am of the mind that she is almost 79 years old and should eat whatever the hell she wants. A box of blueberry Poptarts a day seems extreme for me so I try to draw her focus away from them from time to time. Her new thing has been to take my shoes. Yes, you read that right. No matter where I put them in the house she will take them. I hide them in my bedroom now because it’s dark and she won’t go in there. I have searched this house over and over only to find them on her feet time and time again. This is funny to me because I have one pair of sneakers and she has 4 and her feet are bigger than mine. Yet, she takes my one pair.
I plan and cook the meals, she peels the potatoes. It’s usually fried potatoes every night, but every once in a while I can coax her into cutting them for mashed potatoes. That is her contribution and it is a very important time. This is when “sundowning” is happening so I try to keep her here with me as long as possible, keep her engaged and talking. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
It’s a life that never seems to change until you realize that it is changing every single moment of every single day.
Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy, and deal with the rest.
I love you momma!