Caring For My Mother: Living with Alzheimers by Lisa Peacock

It’s okay, let me give you a hug. Everything turned out… don’t be scared.

As a parent I have always wanted my kids to tackle life head on. Life is scary. I want them know that I’m there for them, and that everything turns out. I don’t want them to bury their heads in the sand, scared.

There’s a scary witch! Come here, let me give you a hug. It’s not real! See, everything is okay… don’t be scared.

I don’t want to sleep in the dark! Come here, let me give you a hug. Now what’s different about the room when the light is off? See, everything is okay… don’t be scared.

When my first child was 8 months old, after a few years of wondering “what was wrong” and some initial misdiagnoses, my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, at age 61. She’s still living on her own, we’ve got her on medication, we have a safety plan, and lots of support. See, everything is okay… don’t be scared.

Mom volunteers driving seniors to run errands, she gets lost, once, twice, who knows how often? Take her for the driver’s safety test – she passes, with a condition that she only drives only in town. See, everything is okay. People are safe, and she won’t get lost or in an accident… don’t be scared.

Two years later, I’m about to have my second baby. After the first, Mom cooked, cleaned, grocery shopped, and held the baby in the wee hours of the morning when she stayed over. Now I’m scared that she’ll drop the baby. Make a plan, give her life some meaning, and let her contribute. She likes to run errands – smile at the mistakes, a bunch of flowers instead of cauliflower is a lovely error! She can hold the baby sitting down, just stay right with her. See how much she loves her grandchildren and wants to help. See, it all turned out… don’t be scared.

Charlotte is 4 months old. It’s February and it’s -20C Mom calls telling me she thanks God she’s okay, she locked herself in her garage all afternoon, but she managed to break into her house using a shovel. Thank goodness she was strong enough to do that. We need to move her. It’s okay – I have power of attorney enacted. I can get her on the waitlist for long-term care now. Just need to book some appointments, find her a retirement home, sell her house, get some support… thank goodness I’m on maternity leave and I’ve got an easy baby! Old friends come out of the woodwork and go above and beyond. See, everything is okay. There is a plan and Mom will be close to us now… don’t be scared.

Thursday before Thanksgiving weekend last year Mom went missing. She went on a walk and became disoriented. She walked for 20 hours, from 9am to 4am the following morning. The police found her in her community. Nothing bad happened to her – she was okay. They found her, thank you always to Toronto Police Service for their immediate response and compassion, to our amazing friends who came out and drove in teams through the city searching for her, who dropped off healthy meals, who called to ask how things were (for real), who looked up legislation to help me fight the battle to get her into the only long-term care facility that was the best for her. Everything’s okay, Mom is in a beautiful room in a locked ward in long-term care getting the help she needed and she is safe. I found people to take her on walks, we pick her up and bring her over for visits. And we take her with us on outings with the kids, to

the zoo, the park, a hike or two. She’s getting the care she needs and she’s safe. It all worked out… don’t be scared.

In the past year, Mom no longer recognizes most people, even those she remembers (there are very few). We have cried as she didn’t recognize my sister who lives across the country. My husband took her on a two hour walk and she didn’t know who he was. I showed up unexpectedly at her care home and she didn’t know it was me for a while. She forgot both mine and my sister’s birthdays. While she forgets things, she also knows she forgets. The first time she made mistakes playing her favourite piano song, she just hung her head and cried. Just give her a hug, hold her hand, love each other, and tell her that everything will be okay, that she’s doing well, that we love her, and that we will always be here for her. Don’t be scared, Mom.

Every night at 8:30pm, my Mom calls and asks why she can’t go out for a walk by herself and when she can move back to her retirement home. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things to take care of you, Mom! I know what is coming – and I’m scared….

And then I remember the strength my Mom showed me when she learned of her diagnosis, and we sat at her kitchen table in my childhood home and I cried. Come here, let me give you a hug, and hold your hand. Take care of yourself, take care of your kids, take care of me, but please put me in a home. You need to let your kids be kids and be there for them – just come and see me. See, everything will be okay. I love you… don’t be scared.

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