Posted on: June 10, 2015 | 0 Comments |
Note: In 2007, Jamie Wilson Headley (founder and CEO of Dementia Services Group) began the complicated process of helping her once-independent mother adjust to life with dementia.
These are the challenges that one woman faced, but although Jamie’s Journey is deeply personal, it is also universal. We hope that her trials and triumphs will shed light on the emotional and logistical issues that come with caring someone with dementia.
Mom slumped to the couch and nodded, looking at her feet. She didn’t cry or scream — she just sat there.
I told her that she should stay with us for the weekend, and that it would be all right. We could get another cat, couldn’t we? I said other things, too… I tried every lame thing that came into my mind, so long as I thought it might comfort her.
As I made my clumsy attempts, Mom only looked from me to the floor, and back again. She didn’t say a word.
While I packed Mom’s clothes and medications, I called Scott and told him what was going on. Wonderful man that he is, he headed out for some much-needed supplies: wine for me, chocolate for mom, and a filet for our dinner.
That night, Mom was as quiet as she had been before. After we ate, she insisted on sleeping on the couch (instead of the more-comfortable second bedroom), so we set her up there. Eventually, we went to bed, and Mom stayed up late watching old movies. I hoped that she might feel a little better in the morning.
But the next day Mom would not get up.
She wouldn’t take a shower. She wouldn’t eat (except for the occasional bite of chocolate). And she wouldn’t take her meds.
She barely spoke to us, and any time I suggested something she would just glare at me a go back to watching TV or staring out the window.
I backed off and tried to give her some space, which wasn’t easy in a very small, two bedroom apartment. The kitchen, dining area and living room were all one small space, so you were either in that living area or one of the bedrooms. There was no place else to go. Mom’s apartment was actually much bigger than ours, but she didn’t want to be there and I couldn’t blame her.
Even though Mom didn’t want to talk she also didn’t want to be alone so I couldn’t leave the apartment – which made for a very long weekend.
When Monday morning rolled around, there was little change in Mom and I was getting even more concerned. I had convinced her to eat a small amount of food, but that was it.
I called off of work (again) and told Mom that I would have to go to work the next day.
“Do what you need to do,” she said. “I just want to die. I keep holding my breath hoping I will die. I would jump off your balcony but it isn’t high enough.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Lost for what to do next, I called in some reinforcements and asked my sister, Kendall, to come in from Chicago. She drove down the next day.
By the time she got there, Mom hadn’t showered in days and was looking miserable and frail. My sister suggested Scott and I get out of the house for a while, and she would try and talk to Mom. They had a different relationship then Mom and I did. In our family, Kendall had always been a sympathetic listener, full of empathy and understanding, while I’d always been the problem solver, but I couldn’t solve this problem.
After a few hours, we returned home and Kendall said she would take Mom back to her apartment in the morning and would stay with Mom for a few days before returning to Chicago.
I couldn’t begin to describe my gratitude — and, to be honest, my relief (which just made me feel guilty).
Kendall stayed with Mom, and after a few days, we were all happy to see that Mom was doing better so Kendall headed back home.
I wasn’t sure what had transpired or what my sister had said to snap Mom out of her grief, but I was glad things had improved for the moment at least.