Skip to main content

How to visit a mother with Alzheimer's

The mother's son
The mother's son
Barbara Bayer

This happy story may brings tears to your eyes.  It concerns a man’s 88-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease (http://www.alz.org/index.asp); note the word has, rather than suffers from. 

Mom enjoys the moment, even if it’s a visit from her son who she carried in her womb for nine months, lived with for 18 years, bragged about for 25 more, but now doesn’t know from Adam.  She thinks he’s her brother, who died at 91; her husband (a corpse for 10 years); or her father (who’d be 118 if he wasn’t dead for 25 years). So much for his liveliness.

When he arrived for the visit, she was kissing a stuffed animal like a new-born grandchild. When your mother has Alzheimer’s, you go with whatever reality she inhabits at the moment, so he asked if it was her daughter.  She said yes.  So they played as if “she” was her flesh and blood, rather than a stuffed toy.  Mom laughed excitedly, and asked 10 times, “We’re having a wonderful time, aren’t we?”  They were.  In fact, he hadn’t laughed like that with his mother since he played with stuffed animals.  It was the most enjoyable time he remembers ever spending with his mother.  Yet, legally she was a complete incompetent.   

Mom has no past and no future: she resides in an eternal present and, like an innocent child, enjoys it immensely—clearly more than any adult he knows.  Mom is a child in an 88-year-old wheelchair-bound body.
His heart breaks to see what’s become of the mind of the woman who brought him into the world and brought him up to join it. 

He’s happy, however, that she has a merry old time, blithely unaware of her condition.   If the dark cloud of Alzheimer’s has a silver lining, it’s clearly that the so-called sufferer has much to teach us.

The following things he learned from his mother during this visit--things you can incorporate into your life starting now:

1.    Enjoy the present because that’s all you have.
2.    It doesn’t matter what time it is, because time doesn’t exist.
3.    You don’t have to know who people are, or what they do for a living, to have a ball with them.
4.    Stuffed animals make great playmates and, if necessary, friends or family members.
 

Comments