The type of Dementia that mom has is a cousin to Parkinson’s and she has similar symptoms to
Parkinson’s patients. The masked face, shuffling walk, and aphasia make her unrecognizable as my mom—the independent, fearless, never-give-up, ingenious woman I grew up with. I know she’s in there and laughter is one way to connect. This is mom as a teen—isn't she lovely?
She speaks an entirely new language fluently, similar in pronunciation and syntax as Martian. She knows exactly what she said or asked and waits patiently for my response. I smile and nod and say isn’t that interesting, or how about that. She’s invented many words and so we laugh when she says burble instead of spoon. Recently she’s been able to catch them and realize that’s not what she meant and laugh at the word instead of getting frustrated, but if burble remains a spoon I’ll eventually speak Martian, too.
She developed side effects to the Alzheimer’s medication Aricept, which she’s taken for several years and the neurologist replaced it with the Exelon patch, which had new side effects and seemed to be too strong for her even in smaller doses. Along with one daily form of Dopamine, which can cause hallucinations, and an evening drug that stops hallucinations—we balance on a tightrope wire of prescription heaven and hell.
Possibly the disease has progressed or possibly the medications are simply not able to assist her as they did previously. She is confused, agitated, and cannot follow simple directions or perform tasks she enjoyed like folding laundry or rinsing dishes. And when she has a break with reality and yells at our friend, or calls into a banana urgently asking for help, angrily says I am her mother, or takes the pictures off the wall because the images in them came to life—we laugh so we don’t cry at the heartbreak of it all.
She says the darndest of things just when I don’t expect it, each night I tell her she is safe, have sweet dreams, and I love you. With a prompt and through the fuzziness of the sleeping pill she may say ‘love you’ but it often sounds parroted. A few nights ago I tucked her in and we had had a good day and I thanked her for that, my evening salutations were met with usual silence, and then she said, “I love you more every day.”
And I smiled through my tears thinking—ahhh there she is. Those words reaffirm why we’re on this journey together.