February 11, 2011

Mom's Valentine Flowers

The longer I am around it, the more I am mystified by dementia. My mother has shown signs of dementia since 2003, and finally received a diagnosis of multi-infarc dementia at the moderate to severe stage in 2009.

Diagnosis means nothing. Let me repeat that: diagnosis means absolutely nothing.

While it may arm a family with a label, the reality of the disease isn't something that can be written down or identified because it changes on a daily basis. What it is called doesn't matter. What matters is the way you deal with it, 24/7.

I talk to my parents on the phone once a day, and try to visit as often as possible. Quite a change from my youth -- they called on Sunday nights and I had to psyche myself up to talk with them.

Yesterday Mom had a manicure. This is something I recently suggested to my father for various reasons. With a salon right in the building, I thought this would give Mom another human interaction and the sense of touch. The manicure and hand massage could help her with hygiene, and give my father's large hands a break in trimming her nails. He also needs that precious time to himself.

Dad was excited about the idea, and happy I suggested it. He takes great pride in mother's appearance and told me how happy he was with her pale pink nails. After I spoke with Dad yesterday, I asked Mom about her time at the salon. She had only been back in the apartment for twenty minutes.

"I didn't get my nails done," she said, indignantly. "What are you talking about?"

After sitting in the nail salon for 45 minutes, twenty minutes later it is totally gone. I've learned that you don't argue with her, as she can get quite upset.

Now today is a different day. Dad got her a big, beautiful bunch of flowers for Valentine's Day. I called just now and he was so happy that she liked them. After nearly 56 years of marriage, he's still a romantic.

As he always does, he handed the phone to Mom after we are finished talking. I purposely didn't mention the flowers. I wanted to see if she would say anything.

"We got flowers today," she said. "He just brought me flowers for Valentine's Day."

Of course, she couldn't remember "his" name, but she was overjoyed and thrilled about the flowers. This is the disengagement of the person with dementia. You learn to appreciate what you get. She is happy with her flowers, and feels loved at this moment.