Are sudden declines in someone with dementia normal?

mommysunglassesAfter getting my daughter off to school, I check my phone and see that I’ve gotten a call from my Mom’s retirement community. My heart beats faster. It’s 8:30 a.m. and my Mom isn’t up this early, did something happen to Mom?

I listen to my voice mail message and it’s my Mom. I can hear the panic in her voice. “Kay, I don’t know what’s going on, where I am or what my hours are. Can you come visit me today?”

Did the universe know I just posted a blog saying I was “temporarily calmed” knowing that the personal assistants were helping me feel like I could dial back my visits to my Mom? I sense these days of clarity are going to come to an abrupt end. I just visited my Mom two days ago, so I wasn’t planning to go back today. However, I cannot not answer her call.

I admit I do a mental checklist before I blow up my day and head down to visit my Mom.

  • Will she remember she called me?  In general, my Mom has no short-term memory. When I return my call ten minutes later, she tells me she wasn’t sure if she called me or not. However, she would have called again. I often get clusters of calls within an hour on the same topic if I’m unable to return my Mom’s phone calls.
  • What will happen if I do not call or visit? As I have written, the emotional memories linger. I know my Mom is afraid. I’m a little worried because it’s early in the morning and usually she has more difficultly in the afternoon and evening.

The first and most difficult part of my journey was when we would offer help and my parents would not accept it. Now, she’s called me to ask for help and I will respond as I hope my children would respond if I called and asked them for help.

When I arrive, my Mom is noticeably more confused. She insists we go to the grocery store although her supplies (coke, peanut butter, jelly, bread and butter) are plentiful. As we are leaving she tells me we need to go get more underwear as well. After 45 minutes we finally walk out the door and today, she left her sunglasses in the apartment. Rather than return, I give her my pair to wear. As we drive away, she expresses her gratitude that I came and tells me how much she loves these shopping trips.

The rest of our trip is uneventful and when we walk back into her apartment she turns to me as asks “Is this my room?” She then starts to ask me what she’s supposed to be doing. “What is my schedule?”  We are realizing that Assisted Living really isn’t the right place for someone with Memory Care needs. Her personal assistant has arrived so I talk to her about working on helping her with a schedule for the rest of the day.

Something is very different so I stop and request that they check to see if my Mom has a Urinary Tract Infection — these changes seem too sudden. Suspected.

Avoid Mock Holidays after Dementia is Diagnosed

My in-laws were in town two weekends ago and we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving early. We invited my parents and I went to pick them up before our luncheon feast.

In the car on the way over my parents were unusually confounded that it was already Thanksgiving. “No, we are just pretending it is so we can celebrate when Todd’s (my husband) parents are in town.”  They would accept the explanation – only for the topic to be raised again five minutes later.

At one point my dad exclaimed “I thought it was the weekend, I can’t believe it’s Thursday!” I then shared it was the weekend.

We had a great meal together. I had not seen my parents eat as much in months. However, I realize I need to simplify how I talk about the holidays. The advance planning is stressful to my mom in particular. Now, I simply put times and events on their calendar with my name so they know I will be there to coordinate with them.

We will get to spend the real Thanksgiving at our house tomorrow. The big holidays always make you wonder how more of these we will get to spend together. Appreciated.