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Thankful for So Much...

Thankful for so much

Mom's dementia Well you may think why would I be thankful for mom's dementia! Nobody should every be thankful for that. You are right. Having had dad with Alzheimer's and mom now with mean dementia that isn't anything to be thankful for. However having dealt with mom's dementia the past few years has been extremely stressful and has taken a toll on my wellness as I'm sure it has on my brother Vince as well and the rest of the family to some extent. When dad's Alzheimer's progressed to a point mom needed help, we moved them eight houses away from my house. Dad had the violent Alzheimer’s and that was very hard on me because anyone that knew dad there wasn’t a violent bone in him. I can honestly say he never laid a hand on me but mom broke many wooden spoons on me. Dad was known for his forever smile and “jeux de vivre” (love of life). As dad’s Alzheimer’s progressed I saw mom do things and heard her say things to dad that were gut wrenching. I’d say mom why are you doing that or why are you saying that and all she would say is “he is doing it to me”. In those years I grew to resent mom to a point that it was destroying my insides. My heart ached for dad as mom was really mean to dad. I remember when I was putting together dad’s eulogy thinking I could never do one for mom because there isn’t anything I like about her. How could I go up in front of people and lie. After dad’s passing mom’s meanness got worse. But on top of that she was forgetting a lot of things and repeating herself. Having seen the same forgetful signs as dad we got mom tested and she was diagnosed with the onset of dementia about three years ago. We were told she has the mean dementia, meaning she has lost her filter. During the past three years she has gotten a lot worse and I can’t even mention all the crazy things I’ve had to deal with. In December she started to forget how to cook so I made her meals and sat with her at dinner to make sure she ate. In February she took seven days of blister packed pills in three days and therefore had to get the pharmacy to deliver her medication on a daily basis. She would be calling me in the middle of the night telling me she had gone to church or not knowing how to turn on the alarm. More signs that things were progressively getting worse therefore we then put in cameras at her door and inside the living and family room to ensure she was safe. Then COVID hit and that put us into a turmoil. Mom had lost the connection of everyone around her and was left with only me and Gianni visiting her. Her walls were caving in on her. Her reality was talking to the actors on TV and then yelling and pounding her fist at the TV because they were not responding to her. It got way worse and I finally got the psychiatrist engaged for a zoom call to have her tested. Ironically the morning of the zoom call mom called me at 7am asking where was I as she needed to pack and get out as the house was moving. By the time I got there at 9am she had called me three times with the same question. I kept telling her to go to bed as it was early and I was dealing up a chronic issue at work. Once I got there, I was distraught right away. Mom’s house looked like a tornado hit it. She had moved things and put things on the ground almost in every room. She was yelling and hitting herself that she needed to leave because she didn’t know where she was and her head was going to explode. I told her to sit and calm down and that we would be on a call with the doctor. The doctor had the call and mom was a mess. She couldn’t answer any of the questions and her confusion was real. The doctor told her to go to bed and we would figure out next steps. Next steps was that even with risk of COVID she would have to go to the hospital to get tested because she had only answered 10% of the questions right. She had gone from 60% in October to 10% in March. Doctor felt there may be something else going on such as a stroke. Good thing about COVID is that there was no one at the hospital. Within two hours mom had every test done and we quickly found out that it was the dementia that has progressed and need to work on right medications to calm her down. OK so here is where I’m thankful for the dementia, at this time the doctor told me her CT scan showed mom has had dementia for eight years. This means mom had the mean dementia while dad was alive. All the things I saw and heard were because her mind was not hers. I put that into perspective and I finally released my resentment towards her. That was a huge burden off of my shoulders and I remember coming home that night crying myself to sleep in a way that rocked my world. To love my mother again was the best thing in the world. But dementia is a very hard disease and the mean one is even harder. I’m the one she destroys with her words even when I’m agreeing with her. I don’t know which mom I’m going to get when I talk to her on the phone or see her at the window. But during the times she is horrible or says she wants to kill herself those are the times I’m most thankful for having placed her in a home that can do what they need to do to keep her safe. There is no longer any guilt that I took her away from her home and put her into a home because the first and only thing is to keep her safe. This weekend is Thanksgiving and mom’s birthday. We have always celebrated both with a turkey feast at my home. But this year with COVID we are at the cabin with the kids, my brother is with his family and mom is in the home. A lot different but Thanksgiving is still one thing, remember what you are grateful for and pay it forward whenever you can. This year I’m grateful mom is safe in the home, that she is still here to be mean to me, my ability to know the disease is what makes her who she is, and the love I have for her. I’m also grateful for the family and friends who bring joy to my life, the team I support and support me at TELUS, the ability to hike even though the pain is never ending, and to be alive to enjoy and feel it all. Live life like my dad with “Jeux de vivre”. Doing that will bring you nothing but joy. Be well everyone and be thankful for everything you have, find ways to pay it forward and just be.

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