For the past several months my 88 year old Mom has had difficult moments. On a few mornings she woke up and thought she was in her old home and not at the independent Living Community she had moved into. Once in awhile she thought she was at the Senior Center waiting for a friend to pick her up, but every time I went to see her she recognized who I was and seemed relatively lucid.
Then things changed. She caught a very uncomfortable stomach virus and had to go to the hospital to get treatment. While she was there her alertness diminshed dramatically but she still recognized who I was. After four days in the hospital she was moved to a rehab. facility. I went to visit her there and she surprised me by calling me by my father’s name. I had become my father. After an hour visit I told her that I had to go home and would be back in two days. She was very angry with me expecting me to stay there with her. There was nothing I could do to diminish her anger. She expected her husband to stay with her or at least visit her every day. When my father was very sick with Parkinson’s she visited him every day in the nursing home and she expected him to do the same for her.
How do I respond? Do I go along with her and become my father for her? Or do I continue to remind her that I am her son. She was very angry today when I called her, asking why I was not with her. Then she asked me how long we had been married. I was in a no win situation. I told her I would see her three days this week and she was very unhappy, expecting more.
Dementia is a very elusive force, slipping into the background one moment and returning with power a few hours or days later. It seems to appear in stages, at first a moment or two here and there, then just in the mornings and now as a full time agressor. I felt very confused and depressed when I first noticed that my mother no longer recognized me as who I was. I had always feared that this would occur someday. But now it is here and I must come to grips with it. Should I embrace it as part of my Mom’s existence or fight it and her every chance that I can?