Alzheimer’s – Engaging Three Generations – Lessons Learned

Moms Birthday…85 Years Old

Today was bitter sweet visiting with my Mother at the nursing home.  Bitter as my mind took a tour of the almost 12 years she has lived there.  When Mom first moved in she was still very mobile and social.  Many who met her thought she was a visitor.  Throughout the years, Alzheimer’s has robbed more and more of her skill sets.

Now at age 85, Mom is unable to take care of any of her own needs.  She is totally dependent on others to feed, toilet, dress and interact with her.  My mind thought of the reason Mom wanted to move into the nursing home in the first place.  Yes, you heard me right.  She wanted to move into the nursing home because my Father’s cancer had taken it’s toll and he was unable to live independently the last few months of his life.

By the time Dad died in 2001, Mom was totally comfortable in her new environment.  Friends and long lasting relationships had been developed.  Today, as I sit in the dining room with my daughter Danielle and my Mother, it soaked in just how many are no longer there. This includes residents that have passed on, as well as staff who have moved on.  Much of the staff today were people who were not familiar with the shift and routines. A holiday crew I guess you would say.  They tried, but the lack of specific knowledge of the individuals they were serving and the standard routines, just broke my heart.

My Daughter Danielle, on the other hand made my heart melt.  She is so wonderful engaging and loving her Grandma.  Her efforts appear so natural and compassionate. As I watched the two of them together, my eyes swelled with tears.  The small things she has learned over the years in terms of how to feed her Grandma, the tone of voice she uses, the soft touch so tender when embraces her Grandma or as she just sits contently and rubs her head watching for a small smirk or Grandmas eyes to open was such a gift for me to see.

Danielle and my Mom have always been close.  Grandma used to watch Danielle when she was small.  Now the roles have reversed and a Granddaughter lovingly dotes on her Grandma. Even when Danielle picks a gift for my Mother she thinks about how it will feel against my Moms skin, or if there is a scent she will like, or when food she evaluates the texture and taste  to make sure it will be a good match for her Grandma.  It makes me smile as I see their love for one another has not waned.  It is still very much mutual and intact, even if expressed differently.

As Danielle and I left, today I once again could not help but wonder will this be Moms’ last birthday?  Will it be our last New Years Day with her?   For the last four years I admit I have wondered this same thought, never thinking she would still be with us.  Thinking that the “end stages” would have taken it’s toll on her.  Needless to say, I have learned we truly have no idea how long this journey will last.  But what I have learned, is that my Mother has continued to teach me as well as others, important life lessons throughout her 30 year journey with memory loss.

This year was again different, as we did not have a Birthday Party for Grandma.  I won’t get into the details as it has to do with family dynamics…. and we all have those times to deal with.

Will this be a sense of guilt for the family?  I think so, but both my daughter and I have gotten to a place of not taking on the responsibility for others decisions.  We can only be responsible for our own actions and reactions and I think both Danielle and I are comfortable with our decision to visit and celebrate Grandmas Birthday with her.

Last, I want  to thank my Mom for teaching me so much through your illness.  I am truly blessed by the lessons she taught me and I promise to continue help others through my work with Alzheimer’s Speaks.I hope you will join us!

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14 Replies to “Alzheimer’s – Engaging Three Generations – Lessons Learned”

  1. Lori, beautifully written. I placed my husband in assisted living last Saturday, one day after his 84th birthday. It was a difficult decision, but with the stress level increasing for me as caregiver, my oncologist reminded me of the role that stress could play in a return of cancer in my body. My husband has DLB. I have to admit that my guilt has not been resolved and his fluctuating cognition has made it difficult. Giving in to “Lewy” was and is difficult. I have shed many more tears than when I was diagnosed with cancer. I know that I will be okay – I have lots of support from family and friends which does make the mourning/adjustment period easier.

    You continue to amaze me with your insight. I thank you for directing me (and LAMAA) to Memory People on FB. I have received lots of advice and support from others dealing with DLB.


    Karen Ford

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Lori,
    Happy birthday to your beautiful Mom! Thanks for continuing to share your journey and how you and your daughter still keep that beautiful connection of love. I recently lost my mom, right after Thanksgiving. This holiday season was tough without her, but I feel forever blessed to have been raised by such an amazing woman. Best wishes to you, Danielle, and your mom in 2013.


  3. I have 4 children 6,8,10,& a newborn I take the kids to wakes/funerals as long as it’s immediate family great grandma. grandma, grandpa etc people they knew. I think it’s important to expose children to death & the grieving process. Even when they were much smaller I took them they didn’t have to go up to the casket unless they felt comfortable but how else are they suppose to know what happens & what we do when someone passes unless we show them. My mom recently passed away all 10 of her grandchildren were there & some great nieces & nephews.

  4. Well, I didn’t have anything better to do other than caring for my mom so I decided to get very good at it.

  5. My experience with a job and happiness. I worked as a store manager. There were 2 other managers that were there before me so they were like “superiors” During my first few months I didn’t do things to their liking so instead of saying “hey I don’t like how you hung those shirts there” they instead made lists instead of actually talking to me about it. After a few months (and getting me to work mostly nights, holidays, weekends) they decided to to “talk” with me and went on about how one night I forgot to check the glass windows, didn’t change over something blah blah blah. They just wanted to complain. I then went on my 2 days off and my grandmother went into the hospital (she lived with us for 25 years) so I told them I wasn’t coming in. They went on to say I was inconveniencing them. Whatever I didn’t care, my grandma passed away and I took a few extra days off. I went back to work and they made a comment about the mannequin display I did. I quit right there.

  6. Sometimes the urge is so strong that I just head on over there and then I feel so much better. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. You will always remember your mom especially on special occasions. This year my daughter had her sweet 16 and we were decorating the hall and putting confetti on the table that said sweet 16. Well in the sweet 16 confetti we found one piece of confetti that said grandma. My daughter got so excited and of course i got all choked up. I think they are always with us and sometimes they will even give us signs. It does get less painful but they are always on your mind and in your hearts. It has been 16 years since my Dad passed and 2 since my mom.

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