When you’re a caregiver for your loved one with dementia your role in the family dynamics often times reverses. Here’s a personal look at how I felt my mom wasn’t Mom anymore.
My mom’s birth name was Barbara Jean. However, she went by many other names.
My dad called her Bob. My cousins called her Aunt Bobbie. Her friends called her Barb and I’m thinking she was called Bobbie Jean or Barb when she was in school. I didn’t hear people call her Barbara and it was never shortened to Barbie!
To me – she was always Mom. Not Mother, or Ma, or Mama. Just Mom.
Then Dementia came along.
As she progressed through the Dementia journey, our roles reversed and I took over the role of Mom. What she did for me as I grew up, I was now having to do for her.
Things like . . .
I was now the one cooking for Mom. I got her something to eat for breakfast and lunch and made sure we ate a healthy dinner.
If you leave a dementia patient to fend for themselves, that’s asking for trouble.
Either they won’t eat or if they do, it may be whatever they can scrounge up which may not be the healthiest thing. Or God forbid, they put something on the stove to cook and walk away forgetting it and it burns the pan (we had a couple!) or worse.
My mom would not think to shower, so I had to encourage her to do so every couple mornings. I would start running the water to warm it up, then cajole her to get into the shower.
I knew she didn’t want to and I think it was because she got so cold going into the shower.
Boy did she feel good, though, once she was sitting down on her shower chair with that warm water cascading down on her!
While Mom was showering I was able to change out her clothes. I took the dirty ones and put them in the washer (to get them out of sight) and got clean ones out.
A dementia patient will stay in the same clothing if you let them. They don’t have the cognitive ability to realize they should change clothes they’ve maybe been wearing for a few days, or that it’s dirty or smelly.
So, you either put clothing out or you give them a choice of what to wear.
I would hand Mom one article of clothing at a time and help her put them on if need be. She needed help with putting on socks and tying shoes.
Dementia patients become oblivious to seasons and weather changes as they progress through their journey, so at this point, you need to make sure they are properly dressed to go outside.
That means making sure they are wearing appropriate coats and footwear.
Just like you do with kids before bedtime, I encouraged Mom to brush her teeth, go to the bathroom and helped her get into her pjs and into bed.
Once a week I would take all of Mom’s meds and dole them out into the little plastic daily compartments of her weekly pill case.
Then each day I would try to get her to take her meds for that time of day.
The dementia patient will over time lose that memory to take the pills.
It’s not enough to just get them out and put them near your loved one, you also have to make sure they are actually taken. This I learned from experience!
It was my turn now to be Mom’s chauffeur. As her dementia worsened and she didn’t recall where places were in our home town, it was time to do the driving for her. I was scared to let her go places herself for fear she’d end up lost.
She’s Not Mom Anymore
Towards the end, after Mom had been in Memory Care for a few months I started to wonder if she even knew I was her child.
Her face would light up when she saw me but I don’t think she knew what the relationship was between us.
I think that was the point where I realized she wasn’t Mom anymore.
At least – the Mom I had grown up with. She was still Mom, but different.