“This mirror looks like me,” Mom exclaimed. We were in a café with my dad.
“It does, doesn’t it?” I answered, as Daddy and I exchanged humorous glances. I was pleased she actually recognized herself.
Mom’s general state is often one of confusion. “I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” she says. Today it was, “I don’t know if I’m ready for what I’m waiting for.” How apt a phrase for someone with Alzheimer’s.
We try to cheer ourselves up by suggesting that even though Mom is deteriorating, she is still engaged with the world, and perhaps not as bad off as others. She seems to be fading at a shuffling crawl, and I hope it continues that way.
There are many stories of Alzheimer’s victims who are not so lucky. One fear is how many manage to wander from their homes and caregivers and end up in the hospital in a state of utter befuddlement with cuts and bruises, or worse.
In an article that my brother Simon shared with us from the Contra Costa Times in Concordia, California, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that about “60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease at some point will wander away…because of boredom, overstimulation or confusion.”*
Boredom, overstimulation and confusion. Wow, that pretty much sums up Mom’s whole day. When she’s bored, she has a tendency to wander the house looking for things that she has only a vague sense of. She can get herself into trouble, like today, when she turned the kitchen faucet on full force and was shocked by the blast of water that shpritzed her. She wanted to help make lunch so I put plastic cups and dishes in the sink for her to “wash.” When I’m with her, I try to engage her in singing or word play. We’ve even colored an adult coloring book together.
Walking outside with Mom is a sure recipe for her to be over stimulated—the noise of cars, construction, conversations, crowds, or even barking dogs can unsettle her. I’ve taken to always holding her hand when we are together.
As for confusion, that’s a given.
Several companies have created GPS locaters small enough to be worn as a pendant, stuffed unsuspectingly into a purse, or embedded in the bottom of a shoe. These enable family members to keep track of their loved ones if they go missing. Mom wears an ID bracelet with her name, address and phone number on it. She thinks of it as part of her standard jewelry, but I look at it as something that may help her if she’s ever lost.
I can only think about these things in the abstract, because if I begin to ponder losing my mom, anything can set me off. This weekend, I wore a beautiful glass necklace and earrings that Daddy recently passed on to me. I remember coveting this jewelry when I was little, the exquisite Venetian beads in blue and gold having made an impression as they glittered around Mom’s neck one night as she dressed for a party. As soon as someone complimented me on the necklace, I felt uncomfortable. Clearly she’s not wearing it anymore. Had I unwittingly stolen it from her? I loved wearing it, the grace it added to my outfit, the gentle clink of the beads, the knowledge that it was given with love to her from my dad. I pacify myself by saying that my dad has loaned it to me it for the foreseeable future.
We make every effort to keep Mom tethered to the world. We love and laugh, and we try to prepare ourselves for what we know is awaiting us.
The chilly weather has brought out my urge to make soup for dinner. How heavenly to feel the warmth of a good soup surging through your body. Here’s a pumpkin leek soup recipe that will warm you up.
Pumpkin Leek Soup
Pumpkin is one of my favorite fall fruits. (Yes, pumpkins and gourds are technically from the fruit family.) This soup uses similar spices to those in pumpkin pie, which I also love, and for me is reminiscent of chilly fall days.
3 leeks (white part only), chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 lbs pumpkin, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups water (or more for thinner soup)
Sauté leeks, onion and garlic in large pot until they become translucent. Add spices. Stir. Add remaining vegetables, stir, and cook for five minutes. Add water. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until vegetables are cooked through. Allow to cool slightly then blend with a hand-held blender right in the pot. Serving suggestion: add 1 Tbsp of cream and a sprinkling of chives to each bowl.