Grandma Turns 84 Today…The Cake Glows

Grandma Turns 84 Today…

The Cake Glows

Today my family gathered to celebrate my Mothers 84th Birthday.  Never in my wildest dreams would I think we would still be so blessed to have her with us.  You see Moms journey with memory loss started a little over 30 years ago.   For almost eleven years  now she has lived at Maplewood Care Center, a Volunteers of America Nursing Home where she has received wonderful care.

Personally I believe the social environment they have provided has allowed my Mother to live a longer and fuller life then if she would have lived at home with us, which was our original plan.


Check out the cake.  It looks like there is a light on top of it because of all of the candles!  It just glows…LOL  I was getting nervous we were literally going to set off the smoke detectors when we blew out the candles.

Years ago I didn’t consider or even know to put into the equation of care, the importance of ones social environment.  I just assumed living with family would be best for her.  We were closest to her. We knew her the best. We were the ones that loved her.  We wanted to care for her and… the list goes on.

What I know now after thirty years of being a caregiver for someone with memory loss; is that all the best intentions don’t necessarily add up to good care; let alone great care.  I now realize the true value of having peers for the person with dementia to interact with.  Family and peers are not the same even though each may love the person with memory loss.  Peers have common interests and typically common levels of interaction and abilities. They enjoy being together, not that family doesn’t but often with family we are trying to juggle to fit everything and everyone into a tight schedule.  There is a different dynamic with history and expectations.  Staff too can be an added value as they don’t feel the loss that many times is difficult for families to deal with.  They are able to accept the person for who they are today with whatever skill set they have.  There is not the personal attachment of loss and grief for what was, which is normal for families and friends to struggle with, but rather an appreciation for what “is” today, in the moment.

Think about what bonds you to your circle of friends?  What is it about these people that you love?  Would you ever be willing to give them up?  For most of us that answer is no.  Yet when someone is ill or aging it is a common request we ask of our loved one.  I caution the importance of peers.  The ability to fit in.  The ability to be accepted by those in your community and living environment. The importance of feeling purpose filled.  Is the environment truly a good match for the person in question?  Or is it a dutiful task you are trying to cover?  Is it a matter of trying to save money? Is it that you are not ready to accept things have changed?

Many things come into play.  I caution you to look at your situation closely and be honest with the options at hand, the impact of each and your personal motivation behind each you are considering.  Remember, this decision should be about what is best for them, not what you will feel more comfortable with or that which makes your life easier.

No matter what decision you come to, remember change typically needs an adjustment period. Change with dementia is inevitable and constant.  If  the person continues to live at home, if they move in with another family member or friend, you hire in home health care or they move into a community geared for their needs.  Be smart enough to allow that period of adjust for each of you before you start second guessing things.

And whatever you do, please try hard to appreciate the simple pleasures before you that are the foundation of your relationship with the person with memory loss.  Today I shared with my younger brother Scott several videos I’ve taken of Mom.  I decided to share these with  him as he was struggling with Moms decline.  The videos showed him Mom is still in that body that Alzheimer’s disease has kidnapped.

Scott was able to smile and a softness came over him.  He was able to see  his “Old Mom” come alive in brief moments of humor, or simple statements or facial expressions that were hers since we’ve been young.  He saw Mom able to connect on video, even if in new ways.  He seemed to feel the connection with her as he watched, and I felt a calmness come over him as his fears  and guilt seemed to leave the room, allowing him to love and  appreciate the simpliness of our Mother and the core of her soul that remains and is present when we look for it.

My Brother Scott and Mom

Here are some pictures of our party.  We had lots of food from Sushi to Sloppy Joes, which I have to admit I make awesome batch of.  “It’s the mustard” my Mom would say, “and just a bit of sugar!”

May you each be blessed to seek out and

find the simple moments that matter

so much to each of us.

7 Replies to “Grandma Turns 84 Today…The Cake Glows”

  1. Thanks for your comments on the complexity of making care decisions. That’s such a needed reminder. Happy birthday to your mom!

  2. Liked your post! Nice to see your Grandmother with her family. I also appreciate your point of view when it comes to long-term care. I think housing is such a personal decision that the family members needs to discuss, and weigh out the pros and cons. Glad to hear that your decision to place her in a nursing home was a good one. You made some really good points. Take care.

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