The longer a person lives with Alzheimer’s Disease, the more likely they will need assistance walking … and eventually be unable to walk at all. Watching my mother progress into the late stage, it’s apparent that fear is as much a culprit as this ability-robbing disease itself. Ever since she fell and broke her hips last year, she’s been fearful. “Don’t you let me fall and crack my head,” she blurts with nearly every transfer. She has difficulty swallowing too. Yet, by having the foods pureed and liquids thickened she’s able to maintain the dignity of feeding herself.
We savor every bit of ability, even when spoken words are few or jumbled. Yesterday when I arrived to visit, Mom was napping in her wheelchair. I approached softly, “well, hello sleeping beauty,” I whispered. She slowly opened her eyes and then reached up to hug me, exclaiming, “Maryann I love you!”
You see, her inabilities haven’t diminished her ability to immerse in the little things. I share memories of the places we’ve been, and while car rides now seem impossible, it is still possible to transfer her of the wheelchair and onto the love-seat. The CNAs use a Hoyer lift, just as they do to get her in & out of bed and to the bathroom. When Mom sits next to Dad on that love-seat, something “magical” happens inside their 62 years together. A peacefulness overcomes them and joy exudes from their smiles. It’s as if Alzheimer’s is temporarily erased. It’s necessary to grieve while journeying through this awful disease … but it’s also necessary to maintain faith, hope and love. You see, the small things are really big things, now as well as someday.