alt=a woman turns a framed photo face-down onto a table. In the background, a woman carrying a box watches, concerned.

As the Caregiver Moves On

Dad passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2018. Saying it was a horrible time is an understatement. Time has healed some of dad's passing. As his children, we have moved forward in our lives. Mom has been alone in the house she and dad lived in through their whole 65 years of marriage.

Before Alzheimer's

Prior to Alzheimer's, mom was a vibrant social woman. Dad's illness took much of that from her as she spent all her time caregiving for him. We supported mom when she decided she could no longer look after dad in their home. Dad did well in a lovely memory care home.

The impact of COVID on caregivers

As COVID hit in 2019, we were all forced to focus on other things. During COVID, we worried about mom who was left behind. It's not that we left her behind, COVID did that for us. We all live hours from where mom is. COVID stopped us from being with her due to lockdowns, lack of vaccines, and fear we would give her COVID but we all called her weekly at different times to ensure she was safe. To see how she was coping alone, without dad. Mom has never been able to grasp social media, so calling her was all we could do.

Deciding to go on a new adventure

Mom turned 90 in June. Recently with our encouragement, mom made the decision to give up the house. She told us she was ready to move to a retirement community, one closer to most of us. My husband and I, fully vaccinated, traveled to see mom and help sort through some of the decisions that will need to be made. There is a lot to be done moving mom to her new home. But there were a few surprises for me that I did not expect. I am still trying to process some of it.

Moving on from the caregiver role

Very shortly after dad passed, mom no longer wore her wedding ring. She didn't have them on at the visitation or funeral. I noticed it but said nothing. "Till death do us part" I guess.

On our recent visit, mom was talking about what she would take to her new home. She seemed uneasy when she came out from the den with dad's photo in hand and said, "I don't know if I want to take this with me."

My response was, "Ok, you don't have to take anything you don't want to." Mainly because I didn't know what else to say. She asked what she would do with it if she didn’t take it? I told her I would be happy to take it. She seemed at peace with that.

Later, as we were rummaging through other things in the house, we came across their wedding album. She again told me she didn’t want to take it. What would she do with it? Again, I said I would keep it. Again, she seemed relieved and at peace with that.

Evolution of the Alzheimer's caregivers role

So while I'm unsure of what I'm seeing. I'm trying to keep in mind that even after a couple of years, grief reactions can still occur. I know if I say anything that she may interpret as judgment. Then mom will change her mind and take the painful momentos with her. That wouldn't be fair, she has dealt with so much already.

Is it truly till death do us part that I am seeing? Is it just too painful to take dad with her? Maybe it's being locked down in the house during COVID for 2 years with all those memories in the house that she couldn't escape.

I don't know. I'm a bit baffled by all of this since it caught me off guard. But no matter what, I will respect what mom wants to do as she moves forward in her new life. And I will preserve and cherish those memories that she cannot.

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