How Alzheimer's Upset My Mother's Life and Mine

Major upset is what we’re talking about. We cannot ignore it. We cannot fix it. We’re forced to accept it, and that means rearranging our entire lives to accommodate it.

As upsetting as the Alzheimer's disease is, I have to embrace it when it confronts me wearing my mother’s face. Even while it aggravates me, I must put my distress on pause long enough to recognize that my mother, not me, is the primary victim.

My mother is an introvert, so she could have been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s for a while before she said or did anything to make it obvious. However, a few months ago she was visiting me. One morning she woke up, got dressed, and sat in the bedroom past breakfast time. I went to inquire what was keeping her. “You’re supposed to tell me when you’re ready,” she scolded me.

That was never part of our routine. I suspect now that she had completely forgotten about breakfast, and cleverly covered up her forgetting—one of the usual signs of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (images combined by Garrondo).
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (images combined by Garrondo). | Source

----- Ten Warning Signs -----

from the (Alzheimer's Association)


  1. Memory loss disrupting daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time of place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking and writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality


Emotional Upset

The disorientation was not always easy to conceal. There were some obvious signs:

  • She gave me her laundry, then complained to me within minutes that she had not seen some of the items she had just given me.
  • She bought two new blouses and swore the next day that they were not the colors she bought.
  • She walked out of the restaurant ecstatic that it was the first time she had ever been in one, which was not true.
  • She accused me of causing her confusion by tampering with her personal property or giving them away.

Some incidents were perplexing and scary, including accusations which felt like thumps on my chest. I wanted to hide, but what would happen to her if she could not find me?

“It’s the illness,” some of our relatives said when I related the incidents. “Don’t take it personally.”

I wanted to understand that, but I found it difficult. I had heard about the memory loss and disorientation, but I never heard anyone mention the suspicions and the rebukes bordering on resentment. In time I would learn to react with less emotion, but at the start, I was an emotional wreck.


Alzheimer's Facts and Figures

  • Alzheimer’s disease was first identified more than 100 years ago, but only in the last 30 years has research into its cause, treatment and so on gained momentum.
  • One in eight people (13%) aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Nearly half of the people (43%) aged 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 16% of women aged 71 and older have Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia compared with 11% of men (not that women are more prone to the disease but that they live longer).
  • The cause or causes for the Alzheimer’s disease remain unknown.

(Alzheimer’s Association, 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures for the U.S.)

Residential Upset

Having accepted the fact that my mother needs my care, I bought my one-way ticket to my Caribbean home to care for her. I am her only child. It is a major upset, but I dare not think of it with regret.

It was difficult to sell out my furniture and furnishings within one month. There was not enough time to consider my best interest concerning the prices that were offered to me. My aim was to get rid of everything however I could, and be on my way in response to the urgent call from my relatives.

Permanent relocation to the Caribbean was never in my plan. I considered having my mother move to the United States to live with me, but all three times she visited, she insisted on returning home. Now the situation demanded that I return to her home. Why did I never imagine that my mother would become unable to care for herself?

On the one hand, the Alzheimer’s disease upsets me because it threatens my control over my life; and it has also taken away my mother’s control over the rest of her life.

On the other hand, I am grateful that my mother and I can face this dilemma together. If means living together in her house,so be it.


Alzheimer's: The 36-Hour Day

Relationship Upset

I went back to the Caribbean reluctant to live there permanently, but willing to become my mother's caregiver. I settled into the routine of preparing meals, organizing doctor's visits and administering medications. I never forgot that my mother had done the same for me in my childhood. It was a privilege to extend the same love and compassion to her in her second-childhood.

We were yet to learn that the Alzheimer's disease can become a continual upset. It does not relax just because we settle into the drill.

My mother entered into the phase where she became super-possessive of her household items--curtains, tablecloths, drinking glasses, cutlery etc.--and was offended that I used them. My constant presence annoyed her and constant badgering was detrimental to my state of mind.

At the same time, she expressed fear whenever I had to leave the house. Locked in together, we were fast becoming each other's nightmare. After twelve months, she took up residence in a home for the elderly; I went back to the United States for a mental breather.


Source

Upset but Not Unmindful

The following Mother's Day I called from the United States to speak to my mother. She was indifferent to my wishes for her. She talked about having a bad day, but could not explain why. She promised to tell me later. It pained me that she was unable to express what she felt. It was like having mother and at the same time, not having a mother. My plan is to reside in the Caribbean so I can be near her.

I am grateful to my mother for teaching me about faith in God. My favorite promise from Him is “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you" (Deuteronomy 31: 8 NIV).

I know that God will be with my mother and me, and I depend on Him to sustain us beyond this upsetting disease.


© 2012 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 32 comments

Cynthia Lake-Asfaw 4 years ago

I admire your sentiment for your mother and the love that draws you closer to her in this time of need. My father suffers also from this harsh disease. It has stolen him away from me. I continue to love the father that this body represents.


teacherjoe52 profile image

teacherjoe52 4 years ago

Hi MsDora.

Having seen the effect of this disease on many people I knew I must tell you, you are in for a very difficult time. Please get a support group to help you.

If and when you need to unload on anybody please feel free to contact me. You are on my daily prayer list.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Cynthia, thanks for reading and sharing. God bless you and your father.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Teacher Joe for your prayers and your offer of support. I will not forget. I appreciate you.


Vampsdes profile image

Vampsdes 4 years ago from Missouri, US

Hi MsDora, my heart goes out to you. Alzheimer's is a very difficult to disease for the sufferer and the family. I have a lot of experience working with patients who suffer from dementia. One important piece of advice I can give to you is to alarm the doors in some way. Make sure it's loud enough for you to hear it. If she does not allow it, you will have to find a way to alarm them without her knowing.

Many people with Alzheimer's get confused about the time of day and are often up and about all night. Sometimes wandering out the front door and down the road on some mission, perhaps from long ago. Many people have gotten hurt, hit by a car, fallen in the night, wandered into water, and many other horrid things have happened.

Make sure the alarm is loud enough to wake you. You never know when this type of behavior may present itself. Some people never do experience, but a great many do. If she does attempt to wander outside by herself in the future (whether at night or in the day), you will be glad you had that alarm system in place to avoid a potentially disastrous outcome.

As I said, I have a lot of experience working with the dementia patient. As a nurse, it's my preference though it is very difficult at times. If you ever need any advice, feel free to contact me and I'll do my best to help. You and your mother will remain in my thoughts and prayers, best wishes to you both!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Vampsdes for your advice. I really appreciate it. Thanks also for your prayers and the invitation to contact you. I am very grateful for your kindness.


Donna Warner 4 years ago

My prayers go with you, Dora. May God give you the strength you need in the days ahead. I also agree with teacherjoe52, you will need a support group. Professional resources are limited in St. Kitts, but as you know, Janice traveled this road with her husband a few years ago. Touch base with her when you get home.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Donna. I wasn't aware of Janice's situation. I'll follow your suggestion to contact her. I appreciate your prayers.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

There is no nobler task than to take care of our elders when the time has come. I will pray with you that her memory will fade no further and that your time with her will be blessed. Such a difficult journey you face. My thoughts are with you and my own life not too far behind. Smiles, Peg


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bless you, Peg. Thanks for your kind words. We just have to enjoy one day at a time in the best way we can.


Jerri Parker 4 years ago

I admire your courage, Dora. May the Lord give you wisdom and strength to support your Mom successfully. I had some experience with my grandmother who raised me.

Get some support for both of you. Keep in touch. Prayers will be ascending. Hugs, Jlp


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Jerri. I especially appreciate your prayers. We can keep in touch via FB and my blog right here.


Namesake & Teacher Lloyd 4 years ago

This is so very sad. Words are so elusive. You have made the right decision and the best one even though it will be difficult. Walter Hawkins sang _ Is there any way I can make it? Seems I've got so far to go....Though it may not be easy, I have this assurance...That you promised always to see me through. I hope we can get a chance to talk before you leave.


godspeace361176@aol.com 4 years ago

Good morning my friend: My thoughts and prayers are with you. God bless you for the strength you have to stand by your mother. So many give up the opportunity to share the later years of one's life with love ones for whatever the reason. Remember to cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for you (1 Peter 5:7). Love you!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Teacher Lloyd and Dora. I actually read your comment soon after your wrote it, but I needed to cry first. You've always been encouragers to me and I appreciate you more than you know. We'll talk, for sure.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Godspeace, thanks your continual support. I love the verse you quoted and your advice means much to you. I love you, too.


Laurinzo Scott profile image

Laurinzo Scott 4 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

Incredibly important and informative hub MsDora... a touching story... and a Must Read.

Am definitely sharing and voted up!!!

Nice picture (by the way)

God bless you.

Laurinzo


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Laurinzo, for the votes and the encouraging comment. God's blessing on you, too!


creation56 4 years ago from Texas

You have shared your God with me and your God is my God now. I will always be grateful for that. Your mom will be mom and I give you my strength. You are not an only child, you are my SISTER, always have been and always will be. I love you and so do lots of others. Please let us hear from you. I love you

Glynda


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

My thoughts and prayers go out to you. This is a very touching story and I appreciate the facts and information on Alzheimer's.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Glynda. You are indeed my sister and I know that you know how much I love you. We'll be in touch. Thanks for your love and support.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Mama Kim. And I appreciate your prayers. Blessings!


malonge profile image

malonge 4 years ago from Western New York On Hubpages

Your article speaks volumes as we too suffer with my mother-in-law who has several symptoms of Alzheimers. Sitting at my son's baseball game this past Spring at the same school field where her own son played she claimed she had never been to this scool before. I didn't know what to say as her inablility to remember something so familiar was so suprising. God bless you for taking care of her your mother.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

My heart also goes out to you and your family taking care of your mother-in-law. Thanks for sharing your story. It is heartening to know that we are not alone on this road,


peachpower profile image

peachpower 4 years ago from Florida

Ms Dora!! I cannot tell you how much I love this post.... I did a similar one yesterday, and somehow, stumbled upon yours today. It is so beautiful, and I feel privileged to have found it. You are right- it helps very much to know we are not alone here. Xoxo


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Peachpower, I will look for your hub. Glad you like mine and thanks for reading.


HendrikDB profile image

HendrikDB 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this. My mother also suffered from it but passed away January 2011. I think we know too little about this disease and the problem is that we never can say 'it would not happen to me.'


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

You're so right Hendrik. This was never on my list of things I should prepare for. Sorry about your mother. Hope you and your family members are sharing comfort in your loss which is still new.


Liza 4 years ago

Hi Ms Dora, I just read your experiences today. My husband and children and I have been caring for my mother for the past 2 years when she was first diagnosed with alzheimers. One of the difficult things that I have found is some days mum can be quite lucid and then next day forget what has happened. I have found if I tell her about something funny that has happened especially something about our pets, it really brings a smile to her face. 2 weeks ago we were fortunate to find a place for my mother at a wonderful multi - cultural hostel 10 minutes from our home, with dementia specific activities and kind carers. Things became too unsafe to at home because I still have younger children who need my time as well. But we bring mum home on weekends, to church and other events and sharing the care with these other wonderful people really helps. Another difficult thing has been that my younger brother has not accepted mum's illness so I feel like I have lost my brother and my mum at the same time. But my husband is really kind and great with my mum because his mother also had alzheimers. I hope that things go really well for you and if you are able to continue caring for your mother whether full time or sharing the care like we do, then I think that is a really good thing. The way I look at it is this and this is what I tell mum - I was God's gift to you to and now you are God's gift to me to look after. God bless.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Liza, I really appreciate you sharing your story. You can be sure I will read and re-read it. I'm happy that your husband is cooperative. Sorry about your brother; that's exactly what I mean when I say that Alzheimer is upsetting. Anyway, your philosophy of God's gift to your mother and then to you is very helpful. Thanks a million.


AnnaCia profile image

AnnaCia 4 years ago

MsDora, Thank you for sharing your story. I used to work with patients with alzheimer and I had the chance to talk and explain to family members that the way he/she was behaving was not personal. It is such a difficult and delicate situation you must be going thru, but I can see that you put your life in God's hands. I respect your story very much. I wish you all the best.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Anna. I admire you and the other faithful workers who deal with this situation everyday. Thanks for your encouragement.

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