First, the facts and figures. One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Now my story. When my mother fell and had to go into a nursing home to recover I rushed home to North Carolina to see her. One of the issues facing her was paying her bills. She had been a successful insurance agent with Nationwide Insurance and was smart and independent. She had never needed help of any kind. I asked her if I could
gather up her bank statements and if we could go over them. As I did, I found out that my mother had sizable investments that she had never told us about. I put everything together, printed it out and brought it to my mother’s room. I showed her the assets and said, “Mom, you have enough money to last until you are 119.” (After all, one of our greatest fears as we age is that we are going to run out of money.)
I left and called her later that day. In the course of that conversation she told me that she was afraid that she didn’t have enough money to pay her medical expenses. With my voice rising I said, “Mother, I just went over this with all of you.” No response on her end….and in a short time I realized the awful fact that she didn’t recall our conversation.
That was the beginning of our growing frustrations with her, our initial inability to come to terms with her memory loss. But over time, we did. As a friend whose wife had Alzheimer’s told us, “You have to meet them where they are because they can’t meet you where you are.”
Here is a poem that speaks to all of us who have or are living with an Alzheimer’s victim.
|She’s still my mother, who’s standing there.|
It’s still her eyes, her face, her hair.
It’s still her body, but it’s just a shell,
Of the mother that I once knew so well.
She’s still my mother, who looks at me,
Then asks the question, “Who might you be?”
Her memory’s fleeting, her gait is weak.
Loved ones long gone are those she seeks.
She’s still my mother, whose angry words,
Like a sharpened sword, my soul can hurt
|She’s still my mother, who shares our home,|
This one we dress, whose hair we comb.
She’s still my mother…I know tis true.
And so dear God, I turn to You.
Please give me patience, wisdom, and love,
Til the day that You take her to heaven above.
Let me return…if even through tears,
The love she gave me through all these years.
Though she often thinks that I’m her brother,
I’ll love her yet…she’s still my mother