Mom got a letter, and she read it to herself.
Read it to us! we said. Can you read it?
She laughed, Of course I can! I want to know if you can read it!
We said, But we want you to read it to us. Read it aloud!
And so she did, with a loud clear proud voice she read the whole letter, hesitating over words she could not decipher. Yet she could remember the pronunciation of names that were not English, and said them correctly.
When she finished, I asked her what the letter said. And she told me what she understood, passage by passage, reading again from the letter to remind herself what it was about.
I would give her 50% for reading comprehension.
- She knew what a sentence meant, even when she could not remember the event it referred to
- She knew most of the people in the letter
- She was happy to read the letter, recognising it was written with love
It doesn’t matter the parts she did not seem to understand, which were the parts referring to the passage of time, someone’s accomplishment, or illness, or future plans. She seemed not to recognise the significance. Or she might have understood after all, and I didn’t see it.
Mom hates to move about, she has become very fond of just sitting. She still walks around the home and is mobile, but is becoming increasingly stooped. Getting up from her chair takes long moments of concentration to coordinate the right movements and exertions.
After an attempt to bring a physiotherapist to the home to engage her in exercise, I realised it wouldn’t work. The physiotherapist felt she was still alright, and encouraged us to get her more active throughout the day. Scheduling exercise with a professional might do more harm than good if we didn’t do anything in between sessions.
So here we are, trying to staunch the decline by exercising Mom 5 minutes at a time (*contrite expression*). I’m still figuring the best things to make her do, the most “value-for-money” movements – for example, half-squats seem to be particularly effective, and she is getting out of her chair a little quicker. Stretching upwards several times improves her posture within minutes.
Mom finds it funny and often giggles and laughs, which is good breathing and abdominal exercise, so I encourage it. She has lost the coordination to be able to “blow out a candle”. I shall practise that next.
Everyday my mom starts her day by greeting me thus.
She calls me Sister only but once a day. The rest of the day I am nobody. But without a doubt I will be Sister once more when morning comes again. It is like a game we play, every day, same time, same place.
I tried interupting her by boldly saying “Good morning, Mom!” before she can get a word in, but she only laughs and says back, “Good morning, Sister!”
One day, I decided to be brave and brought Mom out to lunch. It was special because Mom only heads out for medical appointments nowadays. (How did it come to this? Let me think about it and cover this in another post)
Anyway at lunch I put her to the test – and asked if she could still count. Yes, she could! From one to ten, and then backwards form ten to one, more slowly and with slight errors. She could add single digits, but when I asked her to minus, she couldn’t do this anymore. Ten minus eight is “I don’t know, eight?” Three minus two is… “???” She just couldn’t do it. She knew it sounded easy and was just as puzzled why she couldn’t manage it.
About 6 years ago, when I first brought Mom for screening because I thought she had early dementia, Mom could minus 7 from 100 all the way down. The tests pronounced her normal, but we knew she was already different.
She can no longer tell her own age nor understand who’s older or younger. But she loves a birthday cake and song, and happily joins in no matter whose it is.
I haven’t posted for months though the thought often comes to mind. There’s enough to say but I’m not sure where to start again. So here’s a recap, which is also a summary of sorts for myself.
Mom has dementia and has lived with me several years. She is increasingly homebound as her energy levels are falling and she walks slowly and carefully. She fills her day scanning through newspapers, watching TV and looking out. Sometimes she packs her “stuff”.
I work so I have a helper in my home who keeps Mom company, looks after her and does much of the housework. Singapore has about 300000 such foreign helpers for a population of just under 6 million – these helpers play a huge role in childcare and eldercare. Without her I wouldn’t be able to manage.
Mom is happy and smiles easily, so we’re lucky in that sense. Does she recognize me? Of course! She knows I’m a loved one who looks after her and lives in the house. But words are confused. Daughter-Sister Son-Husband – she knows which are male and which are female. No need to be 100% accurate, they’re all home characters or frequent visitors who love and care for her. She recognizes and remembers people she often sees even though she cannot name them.
To everyone else (not so close relatives) she says, “I don’t quite remember you.” It often bothers the others so much more than it bothers her. The older folk will be dismayed and distressed. My younger cousins not so, because they can’t imagine it happening to them. I just tell them she can’t remember you because you look so different now! Mom just carries on, smiling, “I don’t remember. So who are you again? No, I don’t have any recollection.”
I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote. There’s not much change in Mom’s status, which is a good thing.
She’s a Happy Camper.
She wishes me Good Morning with a huge smile.
She laughs because exercise tickles.
She sleeps when she feels like it.
TV is fun or not, it’s still watchable.
Occasionally she spits out chewed food.
Occasionally she thinks afternoon tea is breakfast time. At times I’m her sister.
But on the whole, it’s peace and love. Life goes on. Touch wood.
I’ve been meaning to write, just didn’t get organised enough to do so. Some ideas don’t bear closer scrutiny, and fall by the wayside. Anyway, here’s an update of sorts.
The weather has been mostly hazy. Grey and smoky. The sun, when we do see it, is an angry red ball. There may be one clear day every ten days, when the wind shifts. By my estimate, the forest fires should be done by the end of this month, and November will be better.
Mom is calm and happy. Occasionally we catch her doing something she shouldn’t, like trying to take a bath fully clothed. But all in all, we are managing. Conversations can be amusing or fascinating, or astounding. One example:
Me, holding a banana: What’s this?
Me: No, no! Look again, what’s this? B-a-n-a…..
Me: I know you love mangoes, but we’re out of mangoes. Here, have this banana.
Mom catches on to emotions of those around her very well. She is still sensitive though the words don’t come so easily. She knows who she likes, and who she dislikes. She’s consistent that way.
She’s nice. Affable. Totally accepting of what is. When she says, “I don’t remember anymore”, it is a statement of fact. She smiles as she says it. But she is clear, because underlying that and unspoken is, “Don’t even try to remind me. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter.”