When I visited Mom this week, I wanted so badly to tell her about the new version of West Side Story. Under different circumstances, we’d have gone together to the theatre to see this new, bright, flamboyant version of this beloved musical. She would have loved it. As she taught me to. It reminded me again of all I have lost to this disease.
Instead, I arrived with my high energy level to cajole her into smiling, singing, and laughing with me. And, it worked! We had a lovely visit, albeit short, until Mom disappeared somewhere, her eyes losing focus, her demeanor becoming feisty and angry.
I stayed for about a half hour all told, then watched with resignation as Mom was walked back to the main activity room.
My energy flagged, and by the time I arrived home, I was exhausted and deeply saddened. Again.
I want so much to be there in the moment with Mom, but that interaction comes with a cost. It’s one I am willing—yet unhappy—to pay. It takes a while to decompress and return to “normal” because there’s a lingering sense of loss that hovers around me. No matter how long I sustain that happy interaction with Mom, her situation never improves. She never returns to who she was. Rationally, I know all this. Emotionally, it’s heart-ripping every time.
I console myself by helping others deal with Alzheimer’s. This past week I was privileged to give advice to two women, one who is a resident of London while her mom lives near me; and another who reached out to ask how to help a friend who is her mom’s caregiver.
For the overseas daughter, it is imperative that she assess her mom’s abilities and start the process to hire a 24/7 caregiver, even if the mom refuses. At some point—and it’s different for every individual—an Alzheimer’s patient cannot be alone. Even if it means hiring someone to companionably sit with them during their daily routines, it is a necessity, especially for someone who lives far from their loved one. I’ve seen Alzheimer’s steal a person’s abilities, only to restore them for a short while before grabbing them back. You never know when it’s going to happen.
As to helping a friend who has become a caregiver, this really touched me. I suggested a two-pronged course of action. The first: provide some downtime for the caregiver friend so that she can recharge her batteries by “babysitting” or caregiving in her place. The second: interact with the friend’s loved one by playing children’s games, coloring together, looking through old photos, sorting socks, or anything that will engage them at their level. And do it consistently once or twice a week.
And so another week has come and gone. I’ll see Mom again this Friday. I’ll feel that joy of interacting, and that continuous ache of knowing it’s not sustainable.
Sometimes the muses inspire me. Or maybe I ate something like this in a restaurant once. It’s a combination of lentils and bulger, sautéed mushrooms, walnuts and craisins, topped with tehina and date syrup. Wow, what a meal! The hardest part is making all the separate ingredients.
Bulger and Lentil with Sautéed Mushrooms
A dish to delight even the staunchest carnivores. Who says you can’t enjoy Meatless Monday more than Taco Tuesday?
Cook 1 cup bulger in 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer until water evaporates.
Pour 1 cup lentils into the bottom of a pan. Add 1 tsp olive oil, salt to taste, ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp cumin. Cook for a few minutes. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer until water evaporates and lentils are soft.
Sauté 1 onion in a large pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil until browned, then add 2 cups chopped mushrooms. When most liquid has evaporated, add salt to taste and ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley.
To serve, place ½ cup (or more) bulger on a plate, top with ½ cup lentils, a good heaping of mushrooms, 1 Tbsp walnuts, ½ Tbsp craisins, and decorate by dripping 1 or 2 teaspoons of tehina and silan on top.