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Alzheimer's Unanswered Questions

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There for Each Other
Credit: Copyright Merrci

Will They Ever be Answered?

Not sure that is likely

While researchers seek a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s, I wish they would study and report what people with Alzheimer’s feel and think. With all the time they are spending with the ‘subjects,’ I hope they are gathering data on what remains in their minds. There are so many questions I wish they could answer. Questions that may never be answered.

On a recent visit to see mom, one of the aides said two different mornings she had asked, “Where’s Dale?” (her husband, my father). I haven’t heard her mention Dad in a long time. Yesterday she asked where her purse was. Something she hasn’t used or mentioned in over six or seven years. 

To be honest, while it pleases and surprises me that she has those glimpses, it also makes me a little nervous. I’ve heard many family members say that their parent or spouse had moments of clarity, when it seemed they knew you and remembered, not long before they died. A sweet gift from God,  tell them you love them one last time, and have them acknowledge and respond before they go. No, it doesn’t always happen.

Those glimpses have made me consider how often her memories might come and go. Dad died over three years ago, while they were living in this same facility. I’ve wondered if she remembers him, and was pleased that she does sometimes.  Does she look for him? How often? How much does she remember? After all they were married seventy years.

"I Belong To You."

The only words she needed

Comforted by Caregivers
That same day when I went to sit by mom, she looked pleased, taking my hands, saying, “Oh good, "I belong to you." 

I could see she was reassuring herself, that she wasn’t alone, that she knew we were connected. She probably couldn’t have identified me, but she knew I was hers.  She used the words she could come up with to express that. 

It touched me so, not only for what she said, but because it hit me that if you are lost in your mind, how good it must be to know you do belong to someone. Which I suppose is why she always holds my hand too, fingers entwined. 

How steadying that must seem, like an anchor to a boat that’s adrift in a storm. I don’t know why I didn’t think about that before. I’ll see their adjustment, how they cope, but hadn’t thought much of how unsettled it must feel within their minds.

Holding Hands is Holding On

Comfort, reassurance, presence, all in one little gesture


Visiting in Memory Care
Several of the residents like to hold hands with each other. They’ll often walk down the long hallways that way. A few, who are more often upset or restless, may calm quickly once holding hands with someone else. It’s comfort for them to know they aren’t alone. At times at least, it must be very frightening for them.

Try to imagine how you would feel if you couldn’t remember most of who you are. Seems like holding on to someone’s hand would feel like you are holding on to you life. I know it’s much harder to see and accept if you are a spouse, but I hope you will take comfort that they are comforted.

They do what they can, what they remember, to feel a sense of normalcy in their lives. Sometimes that means they form connections as if they are a couple. Honestly, if that brings them comfort—and it does—isn’t that all right?

The Amazing Brain

Still functioning after much loss

Baby doll comfort
Doctors have said with dementia of any form, the brain cells die. In some cases a person can have only twenty-five percent of cells remaining, and still be high functioning. It seems incredible to me that we are able to function at all with that little, but our bodies are amazing. I suppose it must depend which cells have died off and which haven’t.

For most the short term goes first, but the past, their childhood memories, linger. Often a resident will remark that they are waiting for their mother to pick them up. Towards the end, though he didn’t have Alzheimer’s, Dad kept thinking he was in Nebraska, in the town where he grew up. But does Mom remember sometimes too? I thought she was past that. I wish I knew.

What do they remember? Do have have an hour spread throughout a day when things come back to them? When she is alone, does she realize her family isn’t there? Does she get scared wondering where we are or is she not really able to think of us at all?  I wish I knew.  

All Time Best Present for Aging Seniors

With or without Alzheimer's

MicroMink Luxurious Soft Blanket Throw, Aqua (Light Blue)
Amazon Price: $79.99 $19.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 26, 2014)
This is especially nice for seniors. Aging generally means lessening muscle, which is another reason seniors are always cold. I can't tell you how many blanket are in residence at the home when my mother lives, yet they never seem to have enough throws. They find it so comforting to be wrapped up in a soft, cozy throw. Multiple quantity is good in this case too, since frequent washing is required.

Something to Cuddle

Animal or baby doll

Gund Philbin 18" Bear, Beige
Amazon Price: $30.00 $22.39 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 26, 2014)
The second favorite treat for the residents has to be big stuff animals or baby dolls. They provide instant comfort and often are all that is need to calm someone who is upset. Any kind would be loved, but do make it washable.
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