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Monday, April 7, 2014

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Unfamiliar Faces

As I walk into the nursing center every day to visit mom ... (and it has been about 10 days now) ... I can never predict how the visit will go.  The face of my mother seems little different each day since the hospitalization.

Sometimes it is her contented face I see - happy to see me and other residents.  She gives a brilliant smile to everyone who addresses her.  At other times it is her sleepy face - asleep in her wheel chair for most of the visit.  She expresses no interest in her surroundings, no desire to eat, and only wants to nap.

Today another face greeted me.  She had rolled herself up to the nursing station and appeared to be looking around.  She recognized me as I approached, but the look was that of inquiry.  "Where were you?"  "I am ready to go home now."  "I think we need to go back home today."  "It is time go to see Walter."  (Walter is her brother who lives in New York.  She hasn't seen him for longer than I can remember.)

The focus today was "home."  It entered most of our conversations.  "Home" sometimes means her room - but not today.  "Home" might have been her assisted living bedroom or it might even have been my "home."  Regardless - the only home she has now is her nursing home room - and that definitely was not where she wanted to go today.

She was restless and irritable as the visit progressed.  At one point she stopped and looked around asking for me or my sister.  She wanted to know if we were still here.  I was sitting right in front of her.  She asked about home again.  She understood that she could not stand now without assistance from 2 people - but she couldn't make the logical leap to understand that her limitations made this environment the only choice for now.

It was a hard day.

And so I suspect I am seeing the many one-dimensional faces of advancing dementia -  unfamiliar faces that are rising to the surface as we discover what mom's new normal is.  And it is very apparent that she has both a new lower norm physically and mentally.

I miss the familiar face of the woman who raised me.  She was interested in her surroundings and the activities of her friends and family.  She was consistently friendly even when she was having a bad day.  She'd occasionally ask if she could go home - but she followed the logic that my house had too many steps - that her wheel chair would not work there - and she was safer in Assisted Living.    She had a multi-dimensional personality - even as she continued to decline.

I miss that woman more than I can express.

I fear that familiar face will not show itself again.

Another loss.

The losses never seem to end.

But I am thankful she is still in this life with me - no matter what face she is showing.  I know our days together grow few.  I will love all those unfamiliar faces that rise to the surface now - even the difficult ones ...

... because someday I might not even have those.


  1. It must be so painful to lose your mother little by little, feeling the loss of that beloved, familiar person and yet still having her present, with a variety of faces, in your life. I lost my mother suddenly -- of her first and only heart attack -- when she was 66 and I was 35. I wish so much that she could have lived longer, lived to see her grandchildren. And yet, I can't help but think that yours is the greater sadness and challenge: to have your mother there and yet not there. My prayers and thoughts are with you.

  2. We had a dear family member with Alzheimers, and for many years it seemed like she, the lady we knew, was not there any more. Sad times for you. I hope on your next visit you see her happy face again.

  3. Having worked in a nursing home this is very normal behavior as she adjusts to her new environment. It will get better. Here is a big hug for you though. Dementia is always harder on the ones who don't have it!!!!

  4. You and your Mom have had a long journey together. She is so blessed to have you stand by her every step of the way.

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could find you (thanks Paula too!). I know this all too well. My daughter and I just got back from visiting my mom in the hospital. She was quiet and contented today. A nice visit. Here's hoping for more of those for you and your mom.

  6. So sorry this is such a sad and hard time for you and your mom. Wish there was something to say to help. I only thing I know to do, is to keep you all in my prayers.

  7. This is heartbreaking to read, b/c I'm experiencing the same thing with my mom, although not to the same degree. The losses ARE undending, aren't they? I keep thinking it can't be more sad, and then there's another decline, and well, yes, here's another layer of sadness. I am thinking of you and praying God will sustain you, as He does me.


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