The Infectious Visit

The Infectious Visit  by Lori La Bey of Senior Lifestyle Trends

Today was a wonderful day.  My cousins, Sandy and Donna came to visit Mom.  We talked of getting together for years.  It’s hard to believe how much time has passed by.  We went from talking of getting together with our classic cars at the downtown North St Paul  Friday night car shows, to me now being divorced over two years (Tom got our 66 T- Bird).  Where does the time go?  It was so nice to spend the day together, just catching up and laughing.

Yes, it was this past Saturday we met at Mom’s nursing home so Sandy and Donna could visit with her first.  None of us knew what to expect as she sleeps most of the time these days.  The girls said, “Hi Aunt Dorothy.”

I always loved the tone of their voices.  They are both so love filled, it just seeps out them.  I don’t think either of them really knows that about themselves, but I’ve always noticed it since I was a small child.  I could tell Mom felt their presence too, even though she didn’t appear to react.  That was until Sandy leaned over and touched her.

It was fun to watch the chain reaction.  Mom was calm as Sandy leaned in towards her.  Then the jump and jilt as Sandy’s cold hand touched her.  Mom panicked, not knowing what was going on.  Next Sandy jumps and pulls back.  Her face almost fearful yet apologetic at the same time, surprised at Mom’s reaction.  Than giggles from all of us including Mom, knowing all was really just fine.

I realize these days how in tune my senses have become with Mom.  Recognizing things most people don’t see, like when Donna was rubbing Mom’s legs through the blanket when they were saying good bye.  Even though Mom’s eyes were closed she surrendered to the peaceful, loving touch of Donna.  I can actual feel the energy around Mom change these days.  I know it sounds strange, but this is what happens and I accept it for what it is. 

At one point in our conversation Mom appeared to retreat back into her own world, than up went an eye brow rising in response to our voices.  It was so cute, so perfect.  She was with us and she wanted us to know that.

Sandy and Donna brought Mom one of her favorite things.  A Dr Pepper.  She always loved her Dr Pepper and many times would start giggling and singing the “I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper” song, but those days have passed.  These days are simpler.  I just look for ways to bring her joy through taste and touch…  As she sipped the pop her body tightened and then she grimaced.  I felt a pang in my heart wondering if the pop caused her pain.  Her rotting teeth up until now seemed not to bother her.  Another thing I’ll need to investigate.  I hate the thought having her “knocked out,” as she would say about having her teeth pulled.  Mom was always so proud of her teeth, her smile.  Even in the end stages of this disease my soul feels she would know if her teeth were pulled.

I’ve watched her closely over the years reacting to textures and changes in her mouth – smooth, rough, chucky, peer aide, hot, cold, bitter, sweet…

My mind wonders if she does get an infection from her rotted teeth what would she want me to do?  Would she want to be toothless with dentures in a drawer somewhere, or just let the infection take it’s course and let it be God’s will?

Mom always had a strong faith, but she also had a strong will to survive.  She had an incredible fear of the Dentist.  A childhood friend died in the dentist chair from anesthesia.  I would hate for her to grab that fact and focus on the fear.  Would this childhood memory be a likely thing for her to cling to?  The moments of clarity are further apart but they still exist with no warning. 

I don’t think I could live causing her great fear like that.  What would Mom want?  What would she want today knowing things have changed so?  She always said she never wanted to be a burden, but in whose eyes?  She is not in my eyes.  How will I know what to do?  How will I react?  Just pull one tooth if it is infected knowing others may need to be extracted at another time?  My eyes well with tears, contemplating, agonizing over the “right” decision.  Is there a “right” decision?  How will I know?  How will I live with this decision if it must be made?

She has a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate.  Does this fall into that category?  I kind of think so and that gives me some comfort.  Mom was clear on not having added measures to extend her life.  Yes, that she was clear about when we did the paperwork and she understood what that meant. 

I was strong and adamant with the Dentist a few years back when she wanted to pull all of Mom’s teeth and do the denture thing.  I knew that was not what Mom would want.  Back then I knew it would cause her too much pain and she would feel the difference in her mouth and it would be devastating to her.  Why does it feel so different now?  I guess it’s just getting closer to that final good bye that will take place sooner or later.  Back then I knew we weren’t that close.  I knew it would come, but it was still far enough out to feel safe.  I knew it was safe to think just about what Mom would want as I didn’t have to deal with the end.  But now, well now it’s different.  This could be one of the last decisions I make for my mother and this one will really have a great effect on many.  This could be a decision I won’t have a second chance to rethink.  Oh my God the weight is heavy weakening my body.  I just want to scream as loud as I can, but I can’t.  I would scare my dogs to death. 

“Stay calm Lori.  Walk your walk Lori.  Follow the words you peach to others.  What are the three words you have told others to live by Lori?”  The voice in my head and heart won’t stop until I answer it.

“Ok, three words.  I know them.  I can hear myself say them… is Mom SAFE, HAPPY, and PAINFREE.  Yes those are the words that have changed my life and Mom’s for years now.  It’s about her, not me.  Is she SAFE, HAPPY, and PAINFREE?”  I say to myself.

Right now we are 2 out of 3 for sure.  The pain free thing is a tough call as it’s like an interpretive dance.  It’s an art to figure out if they are comfortable, and if not then looking for the signs to direct you to what is wrong.  So is pulling her teeth going to allow her to be pain free?  Well, definitely not during the process.  “What about afterwards?” I ask myself.  There may not be physical pain, but there could be emotional pain which would be horrendous for her as well.  No I don’t think pulling the teeth is the answer.

It’s hard to imagine my life without her, without my Mother.  She has always been a strong force in my life; full of wisdom and compassion. She has taught me so much through this journey of disease.  Actually, especially through this maze of memory loss.  The impact of this woman on my life cannot be summed up by mere words.  She was so much more then the spoken language could describe.

How do I honor this woman?  How do I honor her while she is here?  How will I honor her life upon her passing?

So how did I get here in this overwhelming realm of responsibility and guilt through an amazing visit with my cousins?  It’s called care giving.  There is no beginning or end to anything.   All is a piece of another. It’s just another turn in the maze of memory loss. 

Will I find my way out or is the true lesson of life walking through the maze?  Learning to love unconditionally, putting others needs before our own, no matter what?  Is it all about getting us to focus on what we’ve gained which then allows us to feel such an extraordinary loss?  Is it about teaching us gratitude for what we have and have had in our life?

Yes, the visit with my cousins Sandy and Donna was wonderful.  After visiting with Mom we sat for hours chatting and laughing, disclosing hidden treasures buried within the family so we could connect a few more dots.  It was fun and refreshing and I sure hope we do it again very soon.  Yes it truly was an Infectious Visit.  I have been infected and affected by these two wonderful women and I want more of it.  Mom would love us to be closer too.

11 Replies to “The Infectious Visit”

  1. Thank You so much for these infectious words. I could not stop reading them until the last word ended with a period. I feel like I know something of you and your family. It was a nice glimpse into these small moments that add to the makeup of a lifetime. We both chose the same artwork for our sites. I changed mine this week. I have been without my net for a long time. My computer was stolen early last fall. I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to read more about you and your journey with your mother. Again, Thanks for sharing.

  2. HI
    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to write. I would love for you to become part of our community here at Alzheimer’s Speaks. You are welcome anytime!


  3. I have been on the outskirts of the care giving role for almost 20 years. Watching, hearing, consoling but not really participating as my mother cared for my father’s parents, her own mother, and then my father as they went through the stages of this awful disease.
    A car accident 3 weeks ago put my mother in ICU and left my father without his care giving wife. My siblings and I decided that the best way we could help my mother recover was to continue to care for my dad in his own home as she had done. So here I am, 800 miles from my home caring for my dad.
    Like your mom, he is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, but still very much alive. For all intents my mother should recover in about six months, but they are both in their 80’s so anything can happen. I think that as you expressed in your blog, we are there for them. And I want to be here for my dad as much as possible. We have hired kind and loving people to come to his home so that I can get back to mine. And I will continue as best as I can to run households in 2 different states.
    What I have learned these past three weeks is how much of my dad is still here. Though I wished the accident hadn’t happened, I am thankful for this chance that I have had to get to know him all over again.
    I appreciate your same thoughts and feelings about caring for your mom and the compassion and love that you express for her, no matter what her condition. I think you will enjoy the blog that my mother has been writing and that I and my daughter will continue to write until she gets back.
    We choose the same artwork too. I think the bridge and the mist are what struck me as representing Alzheimer’s. It is a disease of bridges, paths and mistiness. May we all help each other along it’s wandering and unknown path.
    Deborah Schultz

  4. HI Deborah,

    Wow you have been dealing with a lot the past few weeks! I’m glad you were able to find someone to help care for you Dad that you are comfortable with. That is so important.

    I would love to check out your blog. I fell in love with the bridge for the same reason as you. That misty calmness which is in contrast with the strong trees and beautiful orange leaves.

    If I can help in anyway let me know! Take care and thanks for writing.


  5. Lori,

    As usual your website is lovely. I wish I’d had it when my Dad was slowly dying and suffering dementia. Your blog is a true service. I hope many people with aged parents or partners find it.


  6. Great post summing up all of the emotions at this juncture in caregiving! I just wrote about it and added a link to it from my blog.

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