Out of the blue like a bolt of lightning it strikes fear in every fiber of your being.
For me it came during a visit to my mom’s house while we were watching TV. She looked at me and called me Bud (her deceased brother’s name) and talked about the fun we had swimming with the family at the beach. My heart sank. Is this the beginning of what my friends told me about, or was it just an aberration?
My brother Bruce and I were a team. After my dad died we thought we had reached a period of normalcy. We were a family again and now there was something taking place that would challenge both my brother and me beyond anything we had experienced before.
Gradually reality, that cruel aspect of life that gets in the way of your dreams, led us to take Mom to Johns Hopkins Hospital and see the renowned specialist in this area, Dr. Paul Dash. His diagnosis was MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) of which 10% will go on into full blown Alzheimer’s and 90% may stay stable or gradually get worse.
As time progressed the signs grew more evident and we adapted the best way we could. Mom confessed she got lost a couple of times while driving so fear led her to relinquish her keys. She knew she was losing her freedom and life would never be the same for our family.
Medication can play a key role in this battle and my mom’s physician, Dr. Nick Mellis, worked miracles in tweaking her medicines, each time giving her a new lease on life. The medication fought off the demons standing at the door.
My brother and I anguished over the issues facing us. My friends told me that if you take dementia sufferers out of their home the deterioration is rapid. Realizing what that meant to our mother, we brought in a nurse, Caroline Ngandu, when things seemed darkest and reality was beyond our reach. Caroline was the angel from heaven. She bonded with my mom and became part of the family. Mom counted each day waiting for Caroline to come. “Caroline coming today, Buzz?” she would ask. Caroline would take her to the hairdressers and on the way back they would stop for a hamburger. To my mom that was everything.
There were times when we thought the day had come to make that horrible decision; dark days and nights of not knowing what could happen next. Weight loss, panic, anxiety, medicines scattered about the house and each time we fought back with different medication and more supervision.
I told my brother we would know when the day came. Through all the darkness the plea was the same – “Please don’t take me out of my home, please!” How could I do that? How do you take away the one thing that keeps them alive, the one thing they know? The decision on that issue came by way of a phone call.
“Buzz, I fell down but don’t worry I’ll be OK after I rest for awhile.”
After talking to her I drove over to see her and I knew in my heart the day I dreaded the most was a twenty minute drive to her house. It was a Sunday and raining heavy like tears falling from the sky.
When I got there I found her at the kitchen table. She was bewildered and scared. Her favorite channel, TV Land, was changed. I thought about the remote and portable phone by her favorite chair. Did she try and dial the channel changer? I wondered?
Sometimes these events are a cry for company to fight the loneliness and I was hoping this was one of those times. It wasn’t, it was real. She fractured her hip. I tried to move her back to her favorite chair and she screamed in pain and I knew it was real. I called my brother and he came right over. We called 911 and they quickly responded. My heart told me that dreaded time had come.
When paramedics Tasha Williams and Cherish Ross carefully placed her on the gurney and covered her against the elements and started to wheel her out, my heart broke because I knew the home she spent most of her life in, the one she loved beyond anything, she would never ever see again—never.