It’s Me, Mom!


Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity

Mom is getting more confused. It doesn’t show up all the time, but the occasions are funny-sad.

I call home to remind mom to take her lunch. My help, M, had taken a couple of days off, and mom can still be left alone at home for a few hours.

Hi mom! Have you taken your lunch?

No, not yet.

Well, it’s one o’clock, you can take it now. By the way, remember we will be going out tonight. I will buy dinner home, and after dinner, we will go out with B.

Oh… How do you know?

This is a little strange, but I just explained B and I had made plans earlier. She went on,

Where are you now?

I’m at work.

Oh, you are at work! Wah, you’re working so hard, eh?

Okay by this time, I realise she did not know who I was. All her questions were her way of trying to gather clues about my identity. So I said,

I’m Angie, Mom!

She laughed and I thought she understood. After reminding her again to take lunch, I rang off.

Later that night, my daughter spoke to me. She had come home to Grandma eating lunch, and she told my daughter someone had called to remind her to eat. She told my daughter that the person on the phone said she was “Angie’s mom”.

                                                                                               

My mom had always had difficulty with names. She learned very few of my friends’ names when I was in school. Now she finds ways to avoid using names.

“My son” is used to refer to my brother.  She sometimes uses “my son” to me and my children, when “your brother” and “your uncle” would be more appropriate.

Sometimes I wonder if there is confusion about identity. One day, I came home and my daughter had just gone out. She told me, “Angie just went out”. I said, “No, I’m Angie, and I’m back.” She pointed towards my daughter’s room, and said, “I mean her, she just went out”.

She resisted learning the name of my help, calling her “the servant”. To this, I have repeatedly and firmly told her not to do that, but to refer to her by name. I am happy to report she is learning, in a way. She cannot recall her name, but can recognise it, and remembers not to say “servant”.

The difficulty with names makes it difficult for her to initiate conversations about people. She cannot tell us who she is thinking about, and who called her during the day. So she doesn’t tell us about anything that happened.

                                                                                                     

But it is more than just names of people and things my mom has forgotten. It is the meaning and relationship and the stuff that goes with the names. I feel some things are held on to more strongly and some are not.

She is close to my brother and looks forwards to his visits. She brightens up when he calls, and has plenty of stories to tell him. She definitely knows he is her son.

As for me, I wonder if she remembers I am her daughter. Or maybe she does remember on one level, but the knowledge is not held onto so strongly. Hence:

  • she fails to recognise her son is my brother
  • she mixes up me and my daughter
  • she doesn’t understand why I would call her “mom” (resulting in the phone call fiasco)

Some of this may be contributed by how she interpreted our culture. When I got married she told me I had officially left the family. On visits back “home” to see her, I would be a guest, and therefore must always bring a gift. Usually this is just fruit or some food item. For the record, I did not always comply, and she  never minded when I didn’t.

                                                                                                      

So now she lives in my house as a guest, not as a matriarch.

It’s good. I’m okay.

 

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24 thoughts on “It’s Me, Mom!”

    1. It was eye-opening for me too – only as I was writing did I finally understand how all the bits linked up. Am glad for the opportunity to write and think deeply, and share with others via this blog.

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  1. I remember one visit when my dad had a chart propped up on the piano with my kids’ names and my name and my sisters’ name and her daughter’s name. I asked my mother about it; he had done his “homework” to prepare for all of us having a reunion. Still, he mostly hovered about silently watching us all interact.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this memory. It does seem that forgetting names and people can happen quite early on in the disease, whilst there is still retention of knowledge about social norms and the need to remember.

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  2. Brings back so many memories. To this day I can still recall when mom last said my name. It seems as though they work backwards in time. I, the last child, fell off the radar first and it went backwards to the oldest child; she remembered her long gone father more than almost anyone. She always had a fondness for males more than females and would brighten up when my son would visit. It hurts and is scary I know, but continue to try and find some humor in it – which will help you! A helpful trick is to put up notes or messages on white boards to help stimulate memory.

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    1. Yep, humor helps. It also helps that the forgetting happens irregularly now. Thanks for the tip on the white board. We did get one, and I need to train everyone (me included) to use it.

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  3. This brought back so many memories in dealing with my mother – she forgot names and sons and daughters -even in the midst of forgetting she fought so hard – I found a cheat sheet in her room -at some point when her memory was still there she wrote the names of all of her children, who they were married to and the names of their children. As well, birth dates and phone numbers – then she would get on the phone and say your so and so your birthday is this date and you’re married to this person and these are your children -I can remember being so amazed by her strength and determination to try and remember – it still brings me shivers to think how hard this must be – to know that you are not going to remember the people you hold dearest!

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    1. Thank you for sharing this memory. It is sad and poignant at the same time, and your mother’s strength and determination is obvious.
      I believe mom does not remember the significance of birthdays now – during the last occasions, she did not wish the person, nor ask how old, nor give the customary gift of cash.

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  4. I am so impressed by your compassion and understanding.
    Does your mom confuse he and she, and her and him? This is something my cousin did, and I’m wondering if it’s typical for someone suffering with memory loss.

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    1. Confusion about he/she and him/her is common here especially amongst non-native English speakers. My mom had this confusion in the past so this would not be new. In any case, she speaks so much less now that it is not obvious.

      On language – my mom grew up speaking dialect, but we all converse and communicate much better in English. A few years ago she started speaking more dialect, but she seemed to think it was our secret language and used it to talk about other people in their hearing (maybe an early sign of dementia). That’s why I discouraged dialect and kept to English.

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  5. Your description of dementia as ‘funny-sad’ is so apt. You have to find a way to laugh about it sometimes. I always looked at the ‘humor’ as the persons current contribution to life! Sometimes they can share in the laughter and sometimes the laughter is for a time when they are not around….but still, it’s OK to laugh about things. When I worked as a nurse, I used to love to hear 2 patients with dementia carry on a conversation. Both talking about totally different topics, but having the time of their life doing it!

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  6. I absolutely enjoy your blog submissions. You write well, and in your writing you tell a story that all of us can follow and feel as though we actually know you and your family even though we’ve never met them. I’m also thrilled that since we started following each others’ blogs I have many page views from people in Singapore…what influence you have Frangipani!!! Irene in Redmond, WA, as Boomer98053.

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  7. Think of it as a Giant Warehouse, one part of the facility got destroyed by fire doesn’t mean that part is not important or not loved. It just means it got destroyed. That’s how the brain works when you have Dementia or Alzheimer. They are still the same person, they don’t love you less they just don’t know. So don’t be too hard on yourself or her… Just go along with it and make her happy…. 🙂 You have a lovely blog by the way. Love reading your stories.

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  8. I’m reading this with tears streaming down my face, because I know this is what will happen with my mom next. I actually couldn’t finish reading it because it was too scary for me. I’m not ready for that, you know? But thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing it and being “out there” so I know I’m not alone.

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