I got annoyed with Mom today. Not for what she was doing, but because I wanted something from her. I wanted her to pay attention to me. How ridiculous is that?
Mom was animated. When I got her up for a short walk, instead of dutifully following me across the room, she stopped and spent her time talking and blowing kisses to the other residents. She stroked some of the women under their chins, told them they were beautiful, and talked a blue streak of nonsense.
Our arms were linked, but I couldn’t get Mom to budge. She just stood in the middle of the room engaging with other people.
“Hey, Mom, look at me,” I said. I tried to swivel her head so that she’d look me in the eyes. “I came to visit you today.”
Mom glanced at me, patted my hand, and returned her gaze to her fellow residents. She had important things to tell them.
When she finally agreed to walk with me into a quieter section of the ward, we sat down with her fidget blanket on our knees and talked and sang and chatted. Mom was still in a good mood, and she was happy to interact with me. And I was appeased.
I can’t believe that I felt this way. I was actually resentful of the other residents! My goodness. You’d think I’d have learned by now that someone with Alzheimer’s can’t control how they behave or interact with others. I should accept and be pleased that Mom was so positive, that she wanted other human contact, that she had something to tell us.
As caregivers, we try to gently direct our loved ones to specific behaviors and outcomes. It is a matter of persuasion, and sometimes using their Alzheimer's to our benefit. When Mom didn’t want to take her pills because she was sure they weren’t for her, I’d distract her then offer them to her again. When I knew that specific stores were too crowded and noisy for her, we’d cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. When Mom needed to go home, even when she was standing in the middle of her living room, I took her outside with me and walked her home (again). When she was in a foul mood, I used every resource I could think of, especially music, to calm her.
I can’t always suppress my own needs for hers. I’d like to be perfect, but I’m not. I wanted her attention.
In the end, we spent a cozy time together, Mom’s good mood sustaining itself long enough for us to laugh and share our love for one another. When we returned to the main room, the residents were sitting in a circle waiting for their animal therapy session. I took Mom to one of the empty chairs, and she happily turned to the woman next to her and held her hand. They were jabbering away when I left, though they did not share a common language.
My expectations are still high that Mom will recognize me and want to be with me. I must constantly remind myself that each visit will be different and unpredictable. There are no certainties with Alzheimer’s. It is a lesson I should have taken to heart by now.
I once went to a weekly class in Jewish living that emphasized the point that there is always another way to see or do things. We don’t have to be set in our ways or stuck with only one option. We can teach ourselves to think differently. I thought of that as I set out to make cashew spread, or what is known as a variety of vegan cheese. This is not one of my routine recipes, but I had invited guests for dinner who were vegan, and I wanted to try something new. And I’m glad I did. This “cheese” has a mild, sweet and tangy taste, and it goes well with cauliflower and noodles. Cashew spread is different from cashew butter in that the nuts are not roasted.
I can’t believe how simple it is to make this spread. Mine came out the consistency of humus, but you can add more water for a thinner consistency. Make a vegan mac and cheese, a cauliflower and cheese dish, or spread it on your challah.
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic
1 medium sweet potato, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
¼-½ cup water
In a large bowl, cover cashews in water and soak for two hours. Place cubes of sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer until cubes can be pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside to cool. Place cashews and potatoes in blender, add garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until cashews become smooth. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the blender to push cashews down. If mixture is too thick, add water a little at a time to make the spread the consistency you want.
I will be away next week visiting and caring for my grandson. Bon voyage to his parents, and happy 5th anniversary! You might not get him back.