Since Mom’s diagnosis of dementia, I have no free time. No Sunday golf outings with the fellas. No Friday night dominos games with my crew. No movie time. No nothing!
My Mom and my aunt need me for everything. My little brother lives out of town, which means I’m on call 24/7. My heart skips a half a beat every time my cell phone shows Momma’s number.
Instead of watching my favorite movie, The Godfather, I’m cooking Momma a meal, hoping she’ll eat. If I don’t remind her, she’ll forget to eat when I’m not around.
Instead of a weekend fishing at Catalina Island, I’m off to the pharmacy for a handful of ‘scripts. I grab an extra pack of Depends, no make that two, while I’m there.
Saturdays are spent keeping a watchful eye on her day-to-day activities. She likes to walk up and down the streets, or even ride an old bicycle to the store. I need to keep her safe.
I’m also doing her soiled laundry and giving her a bath…helping her step in and out of her Depends, scrubbing and dressing her. I felt awkward and uncomfortable at first. Heck, I still feel awkward.
It isn’t pretty. I’m not complaining. I grabbed my big boy pants. This is my mother. This is love.
Dementia is general term used to describe the decline in one’s mental ability. It encompasses many diseases and conditions including Alzheimer’s, Lewy Bodies and Huntington’s Disease. Approximately 50 known causes for dementia exist. Alzheimer’s ranks as the most common form of dementia.
Dementia robs things from you like your short-term memory. Sometimes your momma may greet you at her front door with a cooking utensil and threatening words because she’s forgotten who you are. Other times she can’t remember how to boil water or where she put her purse or keys.
Patients with dementia can also experience bouts of confusion with time or place, difficulty communicating—both written and oral, difficulty reasoning, increased poor judgment and issues with focus. Caregivers note changes in personality and mood.
I was floored by how fast #MyMomma fell. Yesterday she was organizing “the women of color” booth for the Revlon Walk, attending a luncheon with Judges Wives, and driving my aunt around shopping for her grandsons and grandnephews. Today, she is stable, safe and talking about the past-50 years back, but has trouble buttoning up her favorite purple blouse.
I was also unprepared how all-consuming my care for her would become. Every second of my free time is centered on her. Is she eating? Taking her meds? Has she tried to cook without supervision? What can I do to make her more comfortable? By the end of each day I’m mentally and physically drained.
If you think you’re alone, or immune, think again. According to The Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and every 67 seconds, someone in the U. S. develops Alzheimer’s. And in 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion. (Alz.org 2015).
A year ago, if you asked me what I do, I’d tell you, “I’m in real estate and a talk show host. I’ve written a few books.”
Today my answer would be, “I take care of #mymomma. A loving mother of years”.