Unexpected pain of Alzheimer’s Disease

This post is one writer's experience with her family. Alzheimer's may affect your loved one differently. This is not intended as medical advice or an exhaustive list of symptoms.

Alzheimer’s Disease is an ugly condition. One that I am all too familiar with. I am watching my sweet Mamma go through it. And she is the fifth family member I have personally seen endure it in my lifetime. 

So I am familiar with the retelling of stories, the derailed train of thought, and the losing track of the coffee cup. Countless times I can recall my still very healthy and able-bodied Granny walking through the house looking for where she had put down her coffee cup. Or the digging in her purse. Looking for what, she wasn’t sure. I just thought these are things that you do when you get older. You become a little forgetful, and you lose track of things. 

But what I wasn’t expecting was the frustration. Or the agitation. Or the inability to complete simple tasks without complete overwhelm. Maybe the hardest part of it all this time around is the loss of connection. The primary relationship in my life has shifted immensely. My Mamma was my person. She was my biggest supporter and helper and encourager growing up and through my college years and into adulthood. I got married and became a mother myself and she was there, soaking in each milestone and enjoying her new promotion as a grandma. We talked every day. About all the things.

And then the phone calls became more frequent. More urgent, desperate. There was an insecurity in her voice that was out of place in my confident, capable mom. I know now that she recognized she was losing some of her abilities and was clinging to security. In time, all the conversations became about helping her figure out what was wrong with her phone, or why something wasn’t working the way it should. I sit here now, unable to recall the last real conversation we had. About life or a challenge or a goal or an adventure or a milestone. Like mothers and daughters do. I didn’t know the last meaningful conversation would be the last one.

And now, the phone calls are less frequent. More time passes without us crossing her mind at all. She maybe forgets for a bit who we are and how we are related. Now the conversations are more her talking than listening, which is okay. I can see that she is trying to cover any deficiencies in memory or word recall and so she just keeps it light and keeps the surface level conversation moving. We both know that a pause for too long to think of a word can quickly slip into frustration and agitation.

So we stay on the surface. It’s shallow here, and strange. But below the surface is a foundation of a lifetime bond. Who she was and who I was able to be because of her. It holds us up in this new painful season. 


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