Missing My Mom

My mom is gone. The smart, vibrant, strong woman who raised five kids and did some of the toughest nursing a person can ever do has left her brain, and in her place is this woman we are trying to get to know.

It's not easy. Sometimes it's like Groundhog Day. We have the exact same conversation over and over again, for days on end.

Do you tell your loved one their friends and family have passed away?

One major area of confusion is the death of almost everyone she has ever known. Her parents, her sister, close friends, other family members.

My dad died four and a half years ago. Sometimes we can lie and say he's doing fine when she asks about him. Other times we must remind her he died, and she cries like she never knew. In her mind she didn't. She thinks we kept it from her. Even though she was there every day, made the decision for him to go to our local Hospice House, and planned and attended his funeral, she remembers none of that.

Redirecting the conversation

Of course, as despondent as she gets, I can say something like "Hey Mom, did I tell you I am selling my house?" and she says "No!" and moves on to that conversation, asking questions like where I am going to live. I told her this many, many times, but each time is like the first. I've actually moved now, so that is one of my default conversations. "Hey mom, did I tell you I moved?"

My sister laughs at me, because I do have the same three or four conversations with her each time I see her, with the same level of enthusiasm. Each one is new to her. If her mind takes her on a depressing track, I start one of these more pleasant conversations.

Putting mom in a memory care unit

In mid-June we put her in a memory care unit. She had always begged us to never put her in a nursing home or any sort of related place. For the past year I told my siblings I would only agree to it if she didn't know my name. She still knows my name.

But when a couple of my siblings forced the issue, I had to agree. I was worried she was in danger. Even though one of the five of us stayed with her each night, and others came by at various times during the day, I knew she was still at risk. Even looking at caregivers for 24 hours, it was too much for one person. We needed additional sets of eyes.

I knew I wasn't the best caregiver. For example, I sleep like the dead. The bedroom I slept in was across from the kitchen and she got up and made herself coffee and toast without me even stirring. Not a good thing at all as she began to be prone to wander, usually looking for my dad.

I'm learning so much through this process. Currently I am learning how not to feel guilty when she wants me to take her with me after visits. I haven't mastered that yet, but in my heart of hearts I know this is the right thing for her.

We haven't taken her on any outings yet, waiting until she felt a bit more at home. We're about ready to give that a try, though. We figured we'll try lunch, and see how it goes.

The memory care unit took her out for lunch last month, and she did fine. Though she never told us about it. She forgot.

She's still in there

This isn't the mom I knew. But still I know somewhere she is in there. This is the woman that delivered us, fed us, bathed us, dressed us, taught us, loved us and was committed to us above all else. We'll do the same for her. This new mom needs us to mother her. We can do that - we had an amazing teacher.

This is our story.

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