As difficult as it is to admit, the Alzheimer’s journey often involves a measure of guilt. Friends might try to soothe with platitudes, reminders that false guilt is not real. Nonetheless, the inner critic continues to scream, “You should have done more!”
During the years when Mom was in assisted living, it was easy to drive the 250 miles to her town and sit with her for a while.
At first, we took walks around the lake or up and down the halls. We sometimes shared a cup of coffee, talked about the grandkids or focused on happier memories.
Sometimes I watched the clock, waiting anxiously for the time I could escape — leave the facility and meet up with family for a nice dinner or browse through the mall and try to forget my mother sat alone in her room. Comforted myself with an empty purchase.
On some level, I knew those years and those visiting opportunities would someday end. But I never could have predicted the trauma of 2020, and what COVID-19 has stolen from us.
Visits in person are no longer possible. In fact, Mom has recently weathered a positive test for the virus. No symptoms. Her isolation now in the past.
But even window visits are few, only allowed when the authorities can set them up. And my travel for 250 miles is no longer easy or even possible as I’m dealing with my own health issues. A sprained hamstring that prevents travel for longer than an hour.
Now I remember back to those days that seemed so cavalier, sitting in the room with my mother, answering her repeated questions, giving her a hug and a quick “I love you” when I escaped.
I, blessed with the freedom to leave.
COVID has stolen the opportunity to keep the relationship alive even though Mom no longer knows who I am. I still know her, so I feel the guilt of leaving to continue my easy life — while she remained behind.
I have no idea when or if I will see my mother again. I can only hope that on some level she knows her family still cares for her.
So I pray for grace and transfer my need for hope to this woman who sits alone, unaware of COVID-19 or of another year that will soon end.
Then I remind myself not to give a pandemic too much power and instead — try to let go of the guilt.
©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
If your family is dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, check out Holiday Tips for Caregivers.