FYI - This is a long post about my mom's journey through Alzheimer's Disease. It has been 3 years since she passed away. Here is some of what I can remember. Thank you for taking the time to read some, if not all of it.
I am Thankful for my Mom. She was an amazing woman who loved the Lord with all her heart. She stood up for what she believed and taught her children well. She taught us to love nature and animals. She passed on her love of birds, gardening, reading and craftiness among many other things. We all used to love to go camping as a family (well, except my brother, he was too old by then, already in college). I even recently discovered that she was kind of a FlyBaby (FlyLady.net) as she used an index card, daily, weekly, monthly cleaning schedule like in the book Sidetracked Home Executives (which I found in my bookcase a couple months ago!). She is the sole reason I wanted to be a stay at home mom, she was the best example of one I have ever seen! =)
She even went so far as to protest the teaching of sex-ed to mixed classes (boys & girls) when I was in 4th & 5th grade. Yep, that's when they started teaching us, but I was actually sick that whole week in 4th grade, she didn't even know about it until afterward! She managed to get separated classes, at least for a while. I remember in 5th grade having only girls in my class. Though once we got to middle school (6, 7 & 8th grade) they were mixed classes again so she pulled me out of them. By the time I got to 8th grade, I was homeschooled and we were moving to the "country."
Mom homeschooled my sister and I when I was in 8th & 9th grade (sis was in 5th & 6th). Then right before my sister & I were to start school in our new rural school district, the fall of 1997, my mom had a grand-mal seizure. The doctors wrote it off as epilepsy, but she was never the same after that. She went downhill. She started forgetting things and losing weight. She was no longer fit to drive.
By the time I graduated HS in 2000, mom was needing help getting dressed and I helped her color her hair.
A sidenote: I didn't get my driver's license until the fall/winter after I graduated HS. Since my mom couldn't drive and my dad worked 2 jobs, I didn't have anyone to teach me. Enter Jim (now hubby) my senior year of HS. He taught me to drive the summer after we graduated. I had to get rides to college for the first semester, but I was driving our big old conversion van to school in January! Thanks hubby for teaching me =).
When I was in my second year of college my sister went to Peru as an exchange student and mom kept forgetting where she was. Then my sister came back for her senior year in 2002-2003 and had to come home at lunch to check on my mom because she had started wandering out of the house and was forgetting to eat. I was still living at home but was working as I had just graduated from a 2 year college.
At some point my dad realized just how bad mom was when my neighbors mentioned seeing her down the street looking confused. I remember coming home from work one day after I had gotten Duke, when he was just about 8-10 weeks old, and my neighbor came over and warned me that my mom had said my dog was dead. He wasn't trying to scare me, just prepare me in case. I was scared to look, but went inside and Duke was fine. We came to the conclusion that my mom had been talking about her dog KC, a cute little West Highland White Terrier. He had passed away a couple months before I got Duke so she must have been flashing back or something. I also remember one day walking into the living room & she was holding Duke UPSIDE DOWN! I got so upset, I thought she would drop him on his head! So Dad decided that she needed constant supervision. My grandparents started helping out. On my way to work I took mom to her parents' house a day or 2 a week, my dad's parent's came over to watch her 2 days a week and then dad had his home office day on Fridays. We did this for a while. At some point we started taking her to an adult day care once of twice a week when it got to be too much for my grandparents. My poor Opa (mom's dad) had a very hard time watching his little girl deteriorate before his eyes. He passed away Thanksgiving morning of 2005 from a heart attack. We all think it was in part because he couldn't take seeing my mom the way she was.
Mom went to live in a nursing home right before Christmas that year, where she deteriorated faster than ever. I hated it. I wanted to be able to quit working and stay home with her but dad wouldn't have it. I had even started being a Mary Kay consultant the year before to try to be able to earn enough money to quit my job and stay home. But that didn't pan out.... I am just not a people person, I tried really hard for a while but just gave up. I tried to get over to visit my mom at least once a week. It was hard because at that time I was working a TON of overtime, sometimes until 7 at night. I really wish I could have visited her more. I felt so bad for her being there, she was just so confused and out of it. Everytime I left I wished I could just bring her home. She was in the Dementia/Alzheimer's ward at that point. The doctors had decided a while prior that what she had was some sort of global Dementia, but definitely NOT Alzheimer's. Well, mom had a rough time in the dementia ward, she got weaker and weaker and stopped eating well so they ended up moving her out to the "regular" part of the nursing home. She had a bad fall at one point and hit her head pretty good. She had horrible bruises on her face and I still think it had to do with neglect. But we never looked into that. I became friends with one of the nurses assistants and she started keeping an eye on mom. Because mom wasn't eating so well, Mom was put on an IV and no solids at one point. Her mouth was very dry and you could tell she really wanted something to eat. With my RNA's help, we snuck her some sherbet. Mom gobbled it up! I forget what all happened, but after that Mom was put back on "regular" food. She did well for a while, but then something happened, I think another fall, this time really bad (no breaks or anything, but hit her head). The details are so blurry! I think that was when she was put in hospice for some therapy and one-on-one help. With the intention that she would go back to the nursing home when she was better.
Well, she never got better from that last incident. I don't know all the right terminology (my sis would, she is a nurse!) but mom fell into an unresponsive state. Not really a coma because she would make noises and move her eyes. But she could not move. We had discussed a feeding tube and decided against it after much research and seeing others with them. No, we did not want to drag it out. Mom was clearly not going to get better and at the end we were just praying that God would take her home! And that He did.
Mom was 55 years young and passed away after a 9 year battle with early onset Alzheimer's. Like I mentioned before, the doctors had told us it was a form of dementia but was definitely NOT Alzheimer's. Well, after mom passed they determined that she had 3 times the "normal" level of plaque build up, which determines it IS Alzheimer's, in her brain. For more information about Alzheimer's Disease, please visit the Alzheimer's Association website. One other little tidbit that I find very interesting about all this is that when I was in third grade, we had to do reports on diseases. I think we randomly chose them. I had to do mine on, you guessed it, Alzheimer's. Kind of ironic, you think??
I was 24 when Mom passed away. It was a rough time, but I am so very Thankful for my faith in God. It is probably the only thing that got me through. I have heard of so many people losing loved ones and really changing for the worse. But I never felt that. I always had comfort knowing that my mom was going to go home to Heaven and God was going to take care of everything. I know some of you reading this, if you made it this far, do not believe in God and think I am silly. But I know Him and have personally experienced His love for me firsthand. All Christians have because of their belief that Jesus died to cleanse them of their sins so they may enter Heaven. I am really bad at putting this stuff into words, I know how I feel in my heart though. I just have this peace, always have since even before Mom passed, and it can only come from God. Mom passing away only strengthened my faith and I am so thankful for that. The book of Job in the bible was a huge influence on me. Job lost his entire family and everything he had, but never once turned his back on God. It really helped me to see that there are others way worse off than me. And the fact that my mom loved the Lord so very much helped me know that she would be in Heaven waiting to be reunited with her earthly family one day.
I love you Mom and miss you so very much! Thank you for all that you did and for raising us the wonderful way you did. I am sorry if I gave you a hard time during those rough "tween" years. Luckily I had to grow up and never was a selfish (though I had my moments) teenager. Because of you I didn't have time, nor the interest, to get into too much trouble. =)
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