Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
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Friday, August 30, 2013

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Memories

This is the latest entry in a continuing series called 
Through My Caregiver Eyes.  
The full story can be found under the label "Through My Caregiver Eyes."
 (Label Section to the right of my blog posts.)  

My mom is 87 years old and is in Assisted Living. 
The rocky path from independence to living with me and finally to Assisted Living
 is documented in this series.  
While our journey together is peppered with joy-filled moments,
 it is mostly losses for her and sadness for me. 
For those of you who are caregivers of elderly loved ones, 
you may see yourself in my story.

Memories are intangible things that can make life worth living, and at other times, sad to recall. Memories can fade and be lost, and in the elderly, sometimes the loss is permanent.  I believe it is the loss of memories that is the cruelest loss of all in aging.

I got the idea to recover some of mom's happy memories by bringing one of her travel albums with me on a recent visit.  The album I selected was from May 1990 when she traveled in Europe.  It was filled her typed and handwritten notes of scenes and the people pictured.  I thought she had done an excellent job of documenting the trip and it might be fun for her to see it again.

She was initially happy to see the book - recognized the cover right away.  She seemed surprised to see her own handwriting - recognized it as hers - she said it looked like my handwriting.  I guess it does.

It made me happy to watch her page slowly through the book.  She was quiet, however, and did not make many comments.  I asked if she recognized any of the places and people.  She said, "some" ... and that was all.  It was the first sign that maybe some memories of this happy time were lost.  I felt a little saddness at that thought.

At times a small smile graced her lips - I assumed she recognized a scene or a person - maybe one of the pictures prompted another memory.  She did mention the name of the man who led the tours - so she did seem to connect with the images.

Then she suddenly turned to me and said, "This is your book, right?  There are some nice pictures of you in here."  No ... no pictures of me. The book was entirely of her travels.  Later it occurred to me that she was seeing pictures of a much younger self.  We are always told how much we look alike.  I guess she got confused. Another little red flag on memory lane.

She reached the end and closed the book, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes.  After a bit she mentioned that she did travel a lot at one time. But 1990 was a very long time ago. The comment seemed like simple confirmation of what the book represented.  She sat quitely some time.

It was hard to tell how these pictures impacted her.  Did they make her sad at the passage of so much time?   Did it confirm that some of her memories were lost because she couldn't recognize some of the images from her book?  Was she just reflective?  I will never know because mom finds it hard to put her thoughts and feelings into words at this point.

I hoped she would keep the book with her for a few days to enjoy and remember.  But she clearly wanted me to take the book back home that day.  She said she was glad that I brought it, but she would not keep it with her.

My heart hoped she had a few moments of happiness paging through the photo album.  But the small voice of my mind wonders if these pictures had another unpredictable outcome.

Memories are fragile things.

Handle with care.

Retired Knitter
Daughter and Caregiver


Hindustanka said...

Yes, it is sad.. and also sad because we can't help it. Your Mum is very sweet, she must have had some memories flashing through her mind, at least for few moments. I have an aunt who is 80 years old, and she is half paralized, so my Mum has to take care of her as much as she can. I wish I could help her more.. I wish I was there. But I live far..and it is sad too.
It is great that your Mum has you to see after her, to love her so much, and have these blog entries dedicate to her. Thanks for sharing! Blessings to you!

Cindy said...

Makes my heart ache. I remember my grandmother at this phase, going through albums with her. Enjoy every moment you have, you are fortunate to be able to be with her. Blessings to you

Anonymous said...

I read recently where music can help to unlock the mind. Maybe some tunes from 'the day' playing in the background would help her to remember? Your Mom is lucky to have you on her side.

J said...

I suppose that the only thing you can be assured of after this visit is that mom knows YOU were there, keeping her company and making sure she has what she needs.
A sweet, sad story, but also one of love, faithfulness, and respect for the "Honor your father and mother" commandment.

Lynne said...

Beautiful post . . . reminding of times with my mom . . . So very sad though . . . the mind and spirit is so fragile. I ache for you . . . yet celebrate your love and caring.

Anonymous said...

She's so lucky to have you. It's hard when they stop remembering those things. I wish I would have written more during that time with my mom. And especially that I'd have written more of the stories that she told.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

This is such a beautiful post, so loving, so sad. I can't help but think your Mom's feelings were mixed -- a mix of pleasure, snippets of good memories, sadness about the loss of so many things at this time of life. We're all on a continuum of losing bits of our lives and ourselves. I'm seeing this in the husband of my closest female friend. His body and mind are ravaged by disease, but at times, he seems to wake up from today's reality, and starts planning to travel as he did for so many years. I see his excitement in the planning -- and quietly hope he forgets his plans before realizing they're no longer possible. It's such a loving thing to share highlights of your mother's past with her and also reassuring for you to remember that she has had a long and eventful life, even as you feel her slipping away.

Laurie said...

You were so thoughtful to bring some of your mom's memories to her. I'm sure she appreciated everyone of them. Take care.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing such nice thoughts! While reading this, i remember my mom who has been in a dementia care home for two years. In her final years, she could not remember me. It was really hurting, but she loved me so much. I am really proud of her.

Unknown said...

This post tugged at my heartstrings. My heart goes out to you and your mom. I have tremendous respect at how you're so vigilant in taking care of her and thinking of ways to put a smile on her face. Stay strong! -Vonda @ Amber Care

Unknown said...

Memories are fleeting and fragile, and can be difficult to maintain. You sure may have all these imprints scrawled in all these parchments or surface around, but one would need to draw the lines across them to find their truth. A single aging mind wouldn't be enough to do that. We would need people, selfless people like caregivers and relatives to share in that burden and pick up the slack. So kudos to you!

Clyde @ Home Helpers

Unknown said...

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