And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. –Jeremiah 1:19
This will be something of a rerun for frequent attenders to the Digital Cornbread Table, but it is important, so I am going at it again. I was thinking again on the way to run this morning about mom’s early months of being symptomatic leading up to her early time in the memory unit. One of the very challenging things that she did was hiding/storing/hoarding stuff. Perhaps it is unfruitful to try to understand every little thing that goes through the mind of someone with the disease, but in this case, I feel good about it.
So join me re-winding to 2017/8.
Mom was scrambling.
My stepdad was supplementing her and enabling her around every corner so well that we, her kids, didn’t notice clearly enough to push for treatment. Heck, we didn’t even know what treatment looked like nor did we really understand what, if anything, was to be treated anyway. She was around 70 and we kind of fell into the completely mistaken camp that thought that “forgetfulness and dementia are a normal part of aging”. If you catch nothing else, catch this: It is NOT a normal part of aging. 🙁 But we fumbled along…
So, mom was looking for more and more shortcuts and memory aids. The brain, you see, LOVES rest. Call it micro-evolution if you want, but just know that our body is created/wired such that we NEED sleep, we NEED rest, and we NEED familiar things to cling to. That is why we feel great about driving the same route to work every day, buying the same flavor of PopTarts, and listening to music that is shrink-wrapped to fun and/or meaningful life experiences. But in a loved one with dementia, the things that bring peace begin to evolve.
Sharpening the pencil a little, Mom started by hiding her important things in her room. Things like pictures, cards, and more typical and obviously sentimental things found their way to her room where they could be kept safe. As the disease started being more symptomatic, though, her peace-giving things took a turn too. She hid bills, food, toiletries, and ultimately what was pretty much trash in her room. As I would help clean up her stuff sometimes (after it became unruly), it can be possible to grasp, if I let my mind wander near her mind, why she found something mundane as important/peace-giving. Here are some examples:
- Marbles: Maybe she liked their smoothness? Perhaps she liked to roll them. Maybe she had a positive childhood experience with them?
- Scraps of paper cut from a magazine: She is/was very artistic. She loved art in general and drawing in particular. That love passed on to my brother and a couple of my kids. She probably associated it with the great times she had with my kids.
- Toilet paper cardboard rolls- Craft time with the kids! Binoculars as a childhood toy?
- A fork- Eating was happy time many times growing up. Picnics at the river. Camping. BBQ at the house…
- A metal Ball jar lid- This is an easy one. At her grandma’s house, while she would visit with Great Grandma Myrtle, we would play in the kitchen with magnets and Ball Jar lids. We LOVED them…sooo fun. The kids these days need an iPad to stay busy…we loved our lids.
- Pipe cleaner/twisty tie- Connecting one small thing to another is the essence of keeping from losing things. That is why we keep our keys on a ring, right?
- Empty Kleenex box- Mom loves music. It could be that the box was a drum for a while or our could have just been a transportation vehicle for the rest.
- Alarm clock- Need to not forget to wake up? Set an alarm and forget it.
- Lint- Symbolically, when you wear down a piece of fabric, slowly, but surely, in a dryer, flecks of it combine into lint. She may have just been showing me that what is left and what is missing both have value and to never forget that…
Honestly, I have no clue why she found comfort in any of these and the 100 other items she kept, often, in a pillowcase, but she did. The disease does terrible things to your brain, and if these things helped, as long as they were safe, we shrugged and made a Meh sound and went on.
We need to beat this disease sooner than later. Are you with me?
Mom Update: I have been scared to visit the last few days, but I will be going tonight. Reports are she has been more aware again lately, which is nice. I feel like I am safe to visit. I haven’t been in crowds in a week now, and I will mask up and use a gallon of hand sanitizer. I so wish I could make this mess go away for her. But, at least we can visit. 🙂
Want to help find a cure and/or help locals who help those with the disease? I am Runnin’ til I’m Purple again this June and I have started my fundraiser program. Please consider dropping some coin in our little fund or, if you prefer, mail a check. LINK for donations or mail a check to SeniorAge 1735 S Fort Ave Springfield, Mo. 65807 (attn. Runnin’ Til I’m Purple). 50% goes to the Alzheimer’s Association and 50% goes to help seniors in the SeniorAge coverage area. Thank you very much!
My training update for this event: I have now ran either ran a 5k or more or did 30+ minutes of cardio (often a bike or a stair machine) for 50 straight days. I am still around 250 pounds and need to lose another 40 before the run day in June. I can’t be all dad bod-y and complete this lulu. 🙂