Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Can't Fix It, But I Keep Trying

When I visited my parents today, I brought a chocolate shake for Dad and a small order of french fries (from McDonald's of course) for Mom. I also bought a small diet Coke for myself going through the drive through line. I should have ordered a large; turns out all drinks are only a buck no matter the size but I didn't realize that until after I placed the order. Oh, well. That's not the point of this post.

Dad enjoyed his shake although he only drank half and asked me to put the rest in the small refrigerator in his room. Mom went right after the fries but seemed vacant, as if she was off in another world. Her thoughts, when vocalized, make little sense. She starts in on one topic and finishes with another.

My treats beat out the mid afternoon snack served by the caregivers so I ended up eating Dad's cup of diced pineapple and half of Mom's since they were "too full" from the stuff I brought. So much for my plan to just have a diet Coke this afternoon.

This evening, Mom called my home phone with the help of a caregiver. Distraught. She wanted to "see me" and wouldn't divulge the nature of her concerns over the phone. "I can't", she kept saying. It breaks my heart when her demented confusion translates into anxiety and near panic. I was told she barely slept last night. Over tired and bewildered tonight, I hope she can get some rest but I doubt it. Even if I did jump in the car to see her, it wouldn't make any difference. And so, I do nothing except sit here and think about how unhappy she seems in her world and how helpless I feel as witness to her anguish.

There's nothing I can do to fix this problem. No amount of French fries, chocolates, frequent visits, small jokes, hugs and kisses will get to the root. I feel sad. I feel I've lost her. Whenever I can (still) get her to say in response to my "I love you, Mom" a "I love you too" in return, the pain in my heart eases briefly. But, the sadness always comes back. Why can't I do something to make this better for her? (and for me?)

Dementia steals our loved ones. Cruel and insidious, I end up saying my goodbyes to her over and over again.


  1. We would like to fix things, Kate, but we can't. Whether it's our elderly parents or our grown children, their lives do not belong to us. This lesson is driven home to me over and over again. This evening my husband and I looked at each other and said, "It is what it is." Things are not going the way we want them to, but it's not our call. I send out compassionate thoughts...and stay up late at night, which doesn't help at all.

  2. Oh Kate, I'm so sorry. Dementia is evil.

  3. Dementia is so sad. Last week Ed went and visited his mom. I asked him how it went and whether she talked to him. He said she talked and he thought things went very well until she asked him. "And how is your mother? What is she doing these days?" It's so sad. We roll her out to see the ducks on the pond. "Sted, let's go see the ducks". She always says the same thing, "No; it is too cold outside". We take her out anyway and she feels the heat of the sun on her back and says, "Oh that feels so good"! That is what we call a good visit.

  4. So sad. I can't imagine what this must be like.

    I read a very short article in the June 2010 issue of Psychology Today that said apple juice helps to ease the anxiety dementia suffers feel. It also helped with their cognitive behaviour and it only took one glass a day, if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, the article isn't available on their website, just in their magazine. If you can't find it, e-mail me privately (address on my blog) and I'll get the information to you. Every little bit...


  5. I am very close to my mother and she always had a healthy lifestyle so somehow I could never imagine her developing any sort of health problems. Somehow, you never imagine these things happening to you. It is sad that everyone has to face this. At 75, my mom does not have dementia, but last year she developed these vertigo attacks that come about every eight weeks. Yesterday she had another attack. I was hoping the medication she got from the neurologist would help, but it doesn't at all. I believe it is an inner ear problem, similar to Menière's disease.
    Like you, there is nothing I can do to fix this problem and feel sad that life has to be the way it is. (Tina)

  6. I am so sad to hear this. The best thing is that you are there for her - even when you feel helpless, you are there and I know it must make a difference for her.

    I talked to my mom on the phone this weekend. Since her move from living alone to the assisted living place, there's a big difference. She is now in daily contact with other human beings, and it feels as if she has returned to the human race again. She's human again. A pain in the ass and a contrarian, but still, human - connecting. No longer a feral granny, as she was before.

    She has joined the resident committee to advise (read - critique) the food service. I'm sure the staff loves that.


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