"When She Was Good, She Was Very, Very Good..."


"When She Was Good, She Was Very, Very Good..."

autumn-151112_640That poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; yes, that is my mom. In case anyone doesn't know the punchline, it goes: "When she was good, she was very, very good. And when she was bad, she was horrid."

That's what dementia is like with her. I took her to a geriatric specialist and he wouldn't diagnose her with Alzheimer's, just plain ole " run-of-the-mill dog-day dementia". On her better days, she is her old self, full of piss and vinegar, competent, accommodating, extroverted, controlling. When she was employed, she assisted a dermatologist, and her OCD qualities served her well. Now she doesn't let one dish sit in the dish drainer without being dried and put away. On good days, I call her "all that and a bag of chips".

But when the dementia takes over, she is angry like in The Exorcist without the pea soup. She sits in a chair and doesn't recognize the room. She doesn't know who we are. She harps on money, money, money. She blames me for hiding things or my dad, who died 3 years ago. The part of her that controlled her anger and resentment for so long, is long gone.

Her sympathetic doctor said this was normal in the progression. She would have good days and bad, with the bad coming more often and being more serious. He gave me some medication to calm her down when she gets very confused, which, thankfully, I have not used yet. I am getting more alert to when we stand on the brink, that there is a brink.

The trick here is how quickly we go from function to disarray. One trigger is if she feels ignored. If I'm in a conversation with someone and she's not participating (because she can't hear us), she's off in her zone. Too many people, too much noise, too many activities, not enough routine. But sometimes I don't see the trigger at all. In the time it takes to walk to the mailbox, she's fallen off the wagon. Too much attention, too little attention, always an attempt at balance between stimulation and boredom.

Keeping her comfortable, happy, safe and secure is my goal. I can't restore her whole mind, but I can help the part that is left to be at peace.

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Hi Jan--What a wonderful window into your day. I love how you explain what the day looks like and feels like and just how difficult it can be to stay ahead of the day. You've put as much into place as you can, you cross your fingers and sometimes it works. Then, without notice, it just falls apart. \r\n\r\nWhen it does fall apart, how do you cope?