By: Brenda Samonds
Being my mom’s caregiver was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.
I noticed her personality changes early on, as well as the forgetfulness and confusion. I worried that it was possibly Alzheimer’s disease, but it would be another five years before she was actually diagnosed. At the time, she lived on the east coast and I lived in central Illinois. Being a long distance caregiver was very stressful and hard for me. The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline was my saving grace during this time. They answered my questions and guided me on what to do every step of the way. After several trips to see her it was obvious that her husband was in denial and unable to care for her, so we moved them both to Illinois.
Mom’s decline was rapid, and due to my own health issues, I had to make the choice to put her in a memory care center. They had apartments next door and where her husband resided. I spent most of my time taking care of her everyday needs. She did not always cooperate with the staff, so they were glad I was there because she would go along with whatever I said. As she progressed, I sat in on meetings on how to properly care for her and what needed to be done for her – i.e. physical therapy, occupational therapy, eating, bathing, etc. I took her to pray the rosary every Monday, out to eat, to music and party events, and on frequent long car rides.
We eventually built her a ramp at my house so I that could bring her back home. We would bake cookies, talk, nap, watch TV, and go out for car rides. When she could no longer feed herself, I fed her. When she couldn’t walk, I took her for walks in her wheelchair. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for my mom. We were just taking things day by day, making memories and living in the moment. After about a year, her husband of 20 years realized she wasn’t going to get better and decided to move away. He handed over sole guardianship of my mother to me and asked for a divorce. The blessing of this disease was that she didn’t even notice he was gone or know what was happening. Mom eventually became bedridden, but I still tried to spend as much time with her as I possibly could. I bought her a CD player and headphones, and we would lay in bed together and listen to the music and sing. The music would liven her up when all she really wanted to do was sleep.
I kept a daily journal during our time together. I wrote all about the good and the bad times that we had. My mom, unfortunately, passed away in only two short years, but I will always have the memories of our journey together.