Dealing with a parent with Alzheimer's is mercurial, with ups and downs on a moment-by-moment basis and I often think I'm overly focused on the negative (though I know there is also positive). I don’t want to keep writing negative accounts about how Mom’s abilities are fading. They are, it’s true, and we just have to accommodate her slower gait, her confusion, her inability to hold a conversation. My dad gets an A++ for keeping his cool. I know that his bi-monthly support group enables him to share in a safe atmosphere some of the strange things that Mom does—and get feedback on how to deal with charged situations. This is an essential, positive tool for all caregivers.
One aspect of Mom’s behavior that has not slowed down is the speed with which she engages her emotional scale. It’s like riding a roller coaster as she moves from anger to laughter. We can’t predict what will set her off, though I think the anger stems from hearing parts of conversations and not comprehending them. Another thought I had was how like a child she’s become, and like a child, she demands attention. If a conversation is not about her, or does not include her, she becomes annoyed. I had that thought as Daddy and I both held Mom’s hands as we crossed a street together. She was in the center between us as if she were our child. I actually swung her hand about and started a song she likes to sing to try and change her mood. I was only mildly successful.
So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll tell you about the laughter. We were stuck inside for much of the morning due to rain. When Mom started singing a song she knows about Christopher Robin and Alice (“Buckingham Palace,” based on a poem by AA Milne), I pulled out the song book we’ve been perusing, Rise up Singing, and there were the lyrics. My dad actually joined in, too, and then we did a rendition of “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” and another one called, “My old man said follow the van,” an old English music hall song from 1919, and we were all happy, if just for a few minutes, and everything else fell away and Alzheimer’s didn’t matter.
Alzheimer’s didn’t matter. That made my day.
With a nod to Halloween this past week and Thanksgiving just around the corner, I want to share my pumpkin bread recipe. I buy a freshly cut block of pumpkin in the supermarket every week and it makes its way into many of our dishes, including soup and stir fry or even roasted vegetables.
Serve this bread as a side dish to any meat meal. It’s almost like dessert.
½ cup oil
1½ cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin, mashed
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Chop pumpkin and place in a small pot. Cover with water. Boil then simmer until pumpkin can be pierced easily with a knife. Drain and mash. Whisk oil and eggs then add sugar and mashed pumpkin. Add spices and salt. Add flour, baking powder and soda, and mix thoroughly. Pour into two loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes or until browned on top.