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With the new TCC website about to launch, I have recently been reminded of several life-lessons that might be both personally cathartic and generally relatable.  My Mother, Rae just passed at the fine age of 94. The last 15 years we all lived with her  Alzheimer’s and I thought I would share some thoughts about her last years that might be insightful if you are in a similar family situation.  

There’s an exercise I learned in college of what’ it is like to experience things in another’s shoes.  We all spent a day without sight, hearing or speech and felt the sad reality that those in their declining years actually feel.This exercise from years ago made me understand what my dear sweet mom was experiencing for the past 15 years. Dementia affects the entire family and we often don’t realize how devastating it is for the person living with it. Our whole business is to provide care to others in this need and we had a first hand window into what a family needs as well as the patient.  For the past decade and a half, Teresa & I were the client, dealing with Mom’s transgression from fully mobile to wheelchair bound, from an active senior lifestyle that included knitting, sewing, reading and crossword puzzles to staring melodically into space. The worst was her just not knowing who we were.

Through it all we were infinitely fortunate in that she somehow always kept her sense of humor. With a gentle reminder, upon seeing us always brought  her infectious smile and abundant kisses. Over time, conversations became more limited  and tended to focus on certain routines. One of these was her age. We discovered she believed she was 100 years old and took great pride in this milestone. I would often remind her of the actual 94 to only to be firmly rebuffed. So, we agreed that 100 was the number and enjoyed affirming it with her. The last month we were in hospice and we summoned the family to come for a visit. Together we reminisced  about grandma who made homemade poodle skirts, played endlessly games of Uno in her kitchen, the off key singing and her hilarious jokes.  While quite frail, unable to support herself and very weak she had smiles, kisses and positive words for all. We had a great time those last days with Mom and 3 days after everyone left she went to sleep…. forever.

We have all heard stories like this. From the children, to the hospice nurses, my wife and myself all believe my Mother waited for for the final visits from all the children and grandchildren and then chose her own time and way to go. While there is no science to support it, what we witnessed in her passing felt as much a miracle as we witness in birth. It also supports my feeling that even during those dark moments of dementia when it feels that they,…”aren’t there”,….they are.

Stories exist from people that have been in a coma sometimes for years but, then regain consciousness only to tell everyone that they saw and heard every word. So, know that your loved one is really there,…behind a screen or curtain perhaps, sometimes shrouding you from seeing them as they once were,….They are still there and loving every moment and happy interaction! Remember to always be there.