Alzheimer’s disease like the Heart of an Onion

Alzheimer’s disease – like the Heart of an Onion

By Lori La Bey of Senior Lifestyle Trends

I went to visit my Mother today at Maplewood Care Center, her nursing home.  It’s hard to believe she has been there since 2001, and that she asked to move into the nursing home.  Who would have thought?  Surely not me, Mom was always going to live with us. Nine years in the nursing home has been an incredible journey of friendship, love, and awakening.    Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined my Mother’s path would change my career and my way of life, but it did and I can’t thank her enough for what she has taught me through her illness.

Today when I went to visit Mom it was just prior to supper time.  I decided to pick up a Hot Fudge Sundae from Mc Donald’s for her anyways.  She loves her Sundaes from Mc Donald’s chipped teeth and all.  As I scooped the ice cream with the black plastic spoon that came with the sundae, I was anticipating Mom’s smile once her lips felt the cold.  Instead, Mom’s lips popped open and closed around the spoon.  I gently pulled the spoon out from the lips that trapped it as the ice cream melted in her mouth.  My wrist soon turned to scoop another serving of hot fudge, and I saw Mom winkle her face like crisp dollar bill being scrunched in a powerful hand.   Today It was evident the cold was causing her pain, yet she wanted more.  I guess the fudge out weighted the pain, for today anyways.

After dessert was gone we went onto the main course.  Chow mien, peas and carrots, a whipped fruit salad, all per aide.  The baby food texture does nothing for my pallet, but it works well for Mom and she doesn’t seem to mine.  Who am I to complain anyways, especially when I know she can’t chew with her dilapidated teeth.  As I chatted with Mom and the staff I noticed one of my favorite people was missing from the dining room.

 “Where’s  Lillian?” I asked.

 “Oh she passed about two weeks ago.” One of the staff said in a soft compassionate voice.  My heart sunk to my toes.  I hadn’t seen Lillian in the past month between being out of town and visiting Mom later at night when she was in her room.  I felt horrible I hadn’t looked for Lillian when I was there.  My mind raced knowing there was no way of going back in time. I will miss Lillian, she made my heart smile.

Lillian had befriended my Mother, watching and checking up on her throughout the years.  When I would come to visit Mom, Lillian would scurry over, grab my hand, look deep into my eyes, and share stories with me. Her soft loving smile positioned on her aged and wrinkled face was one of my favorite things to see.  Some days Lillian would sit and visit with Mom and me, other times she thought I was her daughter.  On these occasions she would grab my hand, lead me off to a private setting where we could sit next to each other holding hands and sharing stories uninterrupted.  Lillian’s crystal blue eyes could calm a tornado and her soft smile framed a strong and amazing woman who was a gift to know.  It was just in the last year Lillian started to fail physically losing her balance; needing a walker; which many times she would forget was hers.  Lillian was the elder, the wise one on the floor loving and caring for those around her until the day she died. If I’m not mistaken, she recently turned 104 years old.  I would have loved to have met her family, but it’s not likely now.  I will miss her beautiful crystal blues eyes, her soft fail hands that would reach for mine, and her compassionate voice like that of an angel.

Losing Lillian has made me realize, Mom could go any time.  Mentally, I’ve known this, but the loss of Lillian made the thought sink into every pour of my being.  One day, there may be no reason to go to the nursing home.  Mom will not be waiting for me.  She will not surprise me with subtle facial expressions, or a goofy comment, or a little giggle that lightens my spirit.  What in the world will I do when the time comes for Mom to pass?

I know many think I should be relieved as I am released from this “Caregiver Role.”  They view this journey I’ve been on with my Mother as a burden.  But truth be told, I will deeply miss her.  I will miss that shell of a body that is all many people see.  For me there is so much more to Mom than her shell.  I guess I see Alzheimer’s disease like peeling an onion.  There are many layers and like the heart of the onion it’s always in the middle and never dies first.

4 Replies to “Alzheimer’s disease like the Heart of an Onion”

  1. Hi Lori,

    I remember having the same feelings as many of my Mom’s best nursing home friends suddenly were no longer there.

    My Mom would sometimes ask about them and cry when I told her they were gone but quickly forgot and was soon back to her same smiling self. I guess it was a blessing and one of the benefits of her Alzheimer’s, if there are any.

    I also missed these wonderful people as they became my friends as well and I made a point to see each one and spend a few minutes just chatting or making eye contact or holding a hand quietly.

    Once back home and with my other friends and family, I used that experience to reflect on how quickly time passes and found myself making a point to see an old friend, hold my wife’s hand or just spend some time with someone who needed it.

    I am coming up on the one year anniversary of my Mom, Ida’s, passing.

    You and your’s are in my thoughts.


    1. HI Alan
      Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I know it’s important to focus on the present, the things before us right now and be appreciative. Old habits are hard to break sometimes and that peering into the future, well it just doesn’t do any good as we are not in control of what happens tomorrow.

      I think it is wonderful you took the time for others when you visited your Mother. So many people have such a difficult time visiting the one they have came to see, they can’t imagine other people there have anything to offer them. I wish there was a way to change all that. The gifts are huge and the impact is amazing. I guess just talking about it helps. Kudos to you!

      May your heart be warmed by the love you shared with you Mother. I am a believer they have not left us, they have just changed locations and our communication style must change with them. May you find the new language comfortable and healing.

      Take care and thanks for reading

  2. What a great story. While the memories may fade away, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create and share new memories. Thank you for posting this.

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