Taking care of a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease is a brutal job. I’m not exactly sure how they bathe my mother, but I do know that she has mutiny in her eye when they finish. Dressing her requires patience, stamina and the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. Mom’s mood changes are unpredictable. She once removed a cushion from the sofa she was sitting on and swung it at another woman. (The other woman retaliated by grabbing another cushion and the whole affair escalated into a pillow fight involving multiple residents)
I want her to drink plenty of water to prevent her from getting a urinary tract infection, a condition similar to demonic possession. She prefers to tip her water glass and drizzle the contents over her dinner plate—like she’s adding a fine Béarnaise sauce to her meatloaf. I’d like to see her eat a vegetable. “Just take one bite, Mom.” But she’s grown suspicious of anything green, and once the dessert is on the table, the game is over. I reassure myself that chocolate cake does have a lot of the major food groups.
June 20th was this year’s summer solstice, the day with the most sunlight of the year. Advocates for Alzheimer’s come together on that day to fight the darkness that is Alzheimer’s by doing fundraising to support recognition and research.
To me, The Longest Day has another meaning too. It’s a reminder to recognize all the family members, aides and helpers that take care of these Alzheimer’s patients. Their work never ends.
The last time I spoke to my mom by video chat, she grew weepy. Her aide spontaneously threw her arms around my mother’s shoulders. “Do you feel that Judith? Susan is giving you a big hug.” My mom nodded and smiled weakly. I could’ve kissed that woman.
Our world is tumultuous lately and it’s hard to remember there is good stuff happening too. Mister Roger’s used to say: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you for all the Alzheimer’s helpers out there.