When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was fortunate to be able to place her in a nursing home about five minutes away from where I lived. This allowed me to visit with her at least several times a week. We took walks together, and before she was really sick, we would go out for dinner, lunch, or ice cream. She was an avid reader, and I took books to her all of the time. And, when she could no longer read, I would sit and read to her. I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with Mom in the last years before her death.
After a while, Alzheimer’s played the cruel trick of role reversal with Mom and me. There were times when she would call me Mom. She also started acting like a three-year-old in stressful situations. I was getting complaints from the home that she would hit other residents for no apparent reason. Before Alzheimer’s struck, Mom was a sweet, kind, and quiet person.
Having Mom act like a three-year-old was quite a surprise for me, especially since she created havoc when we were together. In fact, one particular event comes to mind.
The nursing home in which I placed Mom was quite nice. In addition to regular events and activities, they also hosted elegant dinners for residents and their guests. These were wonderful dinners with white tablecloths and linen napkins. The meal was served by candlelight and a pianist played music for everyone’s enjoyment. They were lovely, elegant evenings, and Mom and I always looked forward to them.
At our last elegant dinner, Mom was starting to show the effects of the Alzheimer’s. We were served a menu of baked, boneless chicken breast, mashed potatoes with butter, a vegetable, hot rolls, and wine, dessert, and coffee.
We sat at a table with another resident and her guest. During dinner, Mom kept trying to eat her roll with a fork and her mashed potatoes with her hand. I cleaned the potatoes from her hand and gave her the fork. Then I broke her roll into small pieces. After my third attempt at encouraging Mom to use a fork for her mashed potatoes, she stabbed her roll with the fork, grabbed a handful of mashed potatoes, and threw the glob into my face.
Everyone who saw the food missile hit me gasped and then started to laugh. Soon all of us were laughing. The laughter made my mom laugh, too. All this laughter brought the nurses in to see what was happening. As one of the nurses helped me clean up, I told her “I think this is the last of our candlelight dinners.”