Moms and Learning

On this Mother’s Day I am finding myself thinking of my mother. She passed away just about one year ago after a lengthy struggle with alzheimer’s. I had the opportunity to care for her during her last four years, two in my home, and the last two in a memory care home. The changes that occurred in my mother caused me many different emotions, some pain, some joy, some anxiety. There is a lot of emotion tied up in a relationship with a mother, and caring for them as they decline can cause many lines to be crossed, and a struggle ensues over having to step up and “mother” your mother.

I really struggled with this at first. Having to become a parent to the one who raised me, loved me, encouraged me, disciplined me, and generally was the strongest force in my life was very difficult. Making decisions for her, having to tell her what she needed to do, when she needed to go to the doctor, what she needed to eat, caused a terrible struggle within me. It felt so wrong to be making these decisions for her and to be the one taking charge in her physical care. I finally came to grips with this mainly due to the help and support of the alzheimer’s association. They are a wonderful, caring group of counselors, and people like me, who have experienced the devastating effects of this disease in their own homes and lives. Watching someone who was a very vital part of life become so childlike and dependent is extremely difficult.

I was reading Audrey’s blog this morning about her mother. I found myself identifying with this completely. My mother also loved books and when we had to move her to the memory care facility, I felt the most important thing to make sure she had with her was her books. Due to spacial considerations we decided only one bookcase could go. It was difficult to decide which books to place on this case, it was important that we chose every item sent with her with extreme care. The things around her needed to give her a sense of peace and home, things that gave her the good memories and safe feelings. Some things can create such anxiety in someone with alzheimer’s and it is important to avoid these things as much as possible. One thing we did make sure to keep with her was a doll given to her by a friend. This doll gave her someone to care for and often was the one thing that would calm her in times of extreme anxiety and stress.

I miss my mother. She was a amazing person. She raised my sister and I, worked her way up in the hospital from a medical records technician to an administrative position, encouraged my sister and I to go to school and become successful people, volunteered in many enterprises in the community through her sorority and personal interests, was an energetic and active grandmother to four grandchildren, painter, singer, and dancer.

The dancing kept her joyous at the end. She could often be seen dancing around the halls and the dayroom in the memory care facility, and often the care workers would dance with her. Even in her confusion, she brought smiles to the faces of many.

I miss my mom.