My mother’s dementia is progressing slowly but steadily, robbing her of her mind and her memories and robbing me of the woman I most admire and love.
I accept it and I am living with the everyday reality of the situation and I am getting on with other aspects of my life as fully as I can, but some days are harder than others.
For some time now my mother has been living in a twilight world where the present, the past, dreams and reality overlap quite randomly. She is unable to explain what she feels or what she wants because the illness is also robbing her of a lifetime of vocabulary and the basic ability to speak coherently. In addition to all that she is losing her ability to swallow or to control her bowel movements.
And yet, for the most part her illness has reached a stage where she is unaware of her problems or of the person she used to be. She is in a waking dream where things happen at random and she accepts everything with a child-like grace. In a strange way, she is content, perhaps even happy sometimes.
She recognizes me although the concept that I am her daughter is, I think, beyond her comprehension now. I am just a friendly face that pops into her world at regular intervals. She seems pleased to see me.
When I visit her I often bring photographs with me. At first it seemed like a good idea, a way of jogging her memory and sometimes it has sparked off conversations which were almost normal. Over the past few months it has become obvious that she no longer recognizes my father (her ex husband). I decided that might be a blessing since the break up was very painful for us all. But I have continued with other family photos and pictures of holidays and other good times we have shared. Sometimes she seems to remember bits and pieces, and I guess that makes me happy.
But yesterday while I was visiting her and showing her some photos I realized it was making her uneasy and unhappy. I think that when she does remember something she also becomes momentarily aware that she is ill and that she is losing her mind. At some level she knows that she should remember more than she does and that something must be very wrong. I think she also feels guilt for not remembering people who have been important in her life. So my little memory jerks are causing her pain.
I am torn. I want to preserve as much of the mother I remember as I can for as long as possible. I want to keep those memories alive in her. But if the very act of remembering is causing her distress it is cruel and selfish of me to continue. Perhaps I have to accept that she is happier and more at peace not knowing and not remembering.
I think I should leave the photos at home and just hope that she will at least continue to see me as a friendly and familiar face for a while longer.