I THINK I REMEMBER
14 August 2003
I had lunch with my mother yesterday. She's been having so many houseguests, and I
haven't been able to drive, so it's been awhile since we saw each other.
During the course of the afternoon, she mentioned that my cousin Denise was going to be
picking her up this morning and driving up here to Sacramento so that she could visit with
her sister, my aunt Barb, who has been living in an Alzheimers facility for the past
several months. She asked if I'd like to go along. I jumped at the chance.
It was a good "family day." My mother and Denise picked me up, we drove to
the home of my cousin Peach (yes, it's a nickname). We all went out to lunch and then
ordered a piece of ice cream topped chocolate cake to go (so we would have a treat to bring for her) and we were off to see Barb.
I haven't seen her since she was admitted to the facility and wasn't really sure what
Her slide into Alzheimers has been heartbreaking to watch. The pain of seeing that keen
mind slowly slip away was accentuated by the care that my uncle was giving to her,
literally killing her with kindness. He kept her heavily medicated, seemed to be directing
her medical care by telling the doctors what she needed, and having the doctors write
What made it even worse than the fact that he was pumping her full of pills several times a
day, was that he himself had macular degeneration and was sorting her pills by feel,
rather than by sight and we were certain he would end up killing her with an overdose or a bad mix of medications.
The care of an Alzheimer patient can be quite taxing and my uncle was dedicated to her
and determined that he would be her sole caretaker. The concerns of people in the family
who wondered if she was over-medicated fell on deaf ears. She had seizures, he would point
out, and for that she needed to stay in bed so she wouldn't fall and hurt herself, and as
the seizures worsened, she needed more medication.
Eventually she hardly recognized anyone. She slept all day. We were watching her slip
My uncle finally agreed to put her in a facility, but again he was adamant about her
medication schedule. Then he developed a severe heart problem, requiring immediate
surgery. He did not survive the surgery. He was buried at the start of this year.
Since his demise, she has been placed in a new facility and has a new neurologist. Over
the months, she has been weaned off of all medications, except a mild sedative to help her
sleep at night. Reports that have come in about her condition have been steadily more
She knows her children by name (previously she thought that her oldest daughter was my
mother). She is able to follow a conversation. She hasn't had a seizure in months. She is
able to work crossword puzzles again. There is no question about her Alzheimers diagnosis,
but it's not nearly as advanced as it appeared to be before my uncle's death.
Bless him, he did the best he could, but he was a proud man and terrified of losing her
and he did the best he could. He did too much.
Apparently you never really know what to expect on any visit. She has good days and bad
days. Today was a very good day. I don't think she remembered Denise or me by name, and
she asked the same questions over and over again ("how old are you?" "do
you have any brothers or sisters?" etc.) but her conversation was articulate and
funny. She and my mother teased each other and reminisced about events that happened when
they were growing up. She remembered all of her 9 siblings' names and stories about them.
We spent about 3 hours there. At the end of the time she was obviously tiring and you
could tell she wasn't quite as sharp as she had been at the end of the visit, but the
whole afternoon was just wonderful. I'm sure she has no recollection of our having been
there by this time, but the rest of us do--and we are all smiling tonight at having had a
glimpse of the warm, funny woman we have all loved for so long.