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Alzheimers: Crossing the Threshold

March 24, 2011

Like Elizabeth Taylor, my mom has congestive heart failure. The failure is a condition of the left ventricle of the heart not pumping out blood sufficiently. It leads to all kinds of complications and eventual death. I went in last week to get a baseline echo-cardiogram and will see my doctor later today to discuss the results. What Elizabeth Taylor and my mom did not share was dementia and alzheimers disease – a disease I have written about here many times as my mom and her mother both have/had this terrible disease.

My last visit with my mom last week was a defining moment. Upon entering her room I gave her my usual smile and greeting. She looked at me as though I was a stranger. No smile. No recognition. There was a brief pause and then she said, ” Am I supposed to know you?” The visit this time was different. The tone was lacking. The connection between us impaired. She has crossed the threshold into a place I cannot go. I have become part of the background of her life of caretakers coming and going. Her personal boundaries have tightened over the past year and I have not been able to hug her for quite some time. I am at a place where I want to tell the one person who would understand my pain and what I am going through — except that one person is no longer available and is the person this awful thing is happening to.

I communicate with my mom through a writing pad as she is deaf. She can reply and often cognizant and this works on a basic level. Just a note on this subject. My mom could hear from her left ear when she was placed in the nursing home in November 2009. I have urged the nursing home staff to clean and clear her ear regularly. But that seems to have not happened. I have requested a hearing aid be provided for here over the course of a year — Medicaid pays for the aid, we pay for the test. That has not happened either. I have advised friends of mine who have a parent in a nursing home to be vigilant as to the quality of care provided. It is imperative that relatives be strong advocates for their loved one. If this is you, I can only say this — do what you know is right. Insist on what you want to happen within the parameters of care covered. Accept nothing less.

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