The Alzheimer’s Slush File

Is there a file somewhere that holds all the things Alzheimer’s patients lose? Sometimes those items are imagined, but even so – the person struggling with Alzheimer’s is convinced the object exists yet has simply disappeared. Where did it go?Alz Slush File

My mother has lost a seersucker pantsuit. As far as I know, she never bought a seersucker pantsuit although she always wanted one. However, this suit is so real to her, it must exist somewhere in the universe, if not hanging in her closet. Perhaps she did buy one, at some point in life, but now – it has disappeared. Where did it go? Does it wait in an imaginary file that is hidden from the world of realism?

We no longer take jewelry to the assisted living facility where my mother lives, because it will disappear. Then Mom will accuse someone of stealing it. And truthfully, when Mom loses something, it cannot be found.

Jewelry has disappeared as well as the infamous seersucker pantsuit. How do you lose a pantsuit? Seersucker or any other variety? This puzzles me.

We dare not take Mom’s hearing aids to her room, because lost hearing aids cost a bundle to replace. So my sister has become the Guardian of the Hearing Aids, producing them only when Mom goes to church or joins us for a family outing. The rest of the time, Mom just doesn’t hear well. She turns up the volume on her TV and when someone talks to her, she asks, “How’s that?” “What?” “Huh?”

Mom has lost socks – but then, who hasn’t lost a sock. They are constantly running away from home or disappearing into dryer vents or someplace where nobody can find them.

Mom has also lost other clothing and important documents. We know better than to leave any legal papers with Mom. Her collection of greeting cards that people send her sit in a basket, waiting for her to reread them. So far, she has not lost the basket.

Because Mom is always giving things away, she sometimes thinks she has lost something when she actually gave it away. She often wins at Bingo, so then she has Snickers candy bars and doesn’t eat them. She gives them to grandkids, then doesn’t remember giving them away – so they are then lost and hiding in the Alzheimer’s Slush File.

It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, if Mom loses some things – as long as they aren’t major items like hearing aids. The problem is that the disappearance of items causes Mom additional stress and we don’t need that.

The other problem is that I’ve wondered lately what has happened to one of my favorite rings. I have no recollection of taking it off and putting it somewhere other than where it belongs. I have looked in every suitcase, every jewelry container and every dresser drawer. My ring has disappeared. It only cost me five dollars, but I liked it because it sparkled and matched lots of different outfits.

I have, of course, prayed, “Oh God, oh God, I have lost my ring. Please, please, please don’t let me have Alzheimer’s. Please let me find my ring.”

He has not answered. I think my ring might be hiding with the seersucker pantsuit.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo                                                         Finding Hope When Life Unravels

Television Becomes Mom’s Companion

As I entered the assisted living facility and walked down the hallway, I heard Mom’s television. I knew what I would discover even before I knocked on the door.

televisionMom sat in her maroon recliner, watching but not really comprehending the images on what she calls, “The Idiot Box.”

Television was never a revered object on the farm. In fact, the set was turned off after the evening news so that my siblings and I could finish our homework or start reading a new book. The only sound in the house came from the old stereo and Dad’s many classical albums.

So nowadays, it seems odd that Mom’s television booms its sounds not only throughout her room, but also down the hallway.

Whether from boredom or loneliness, the need for some type of humanity in her room, Mom turns on her television and powers up the volume. Her hearing has slowly declined.

She does not use her hearing aid because it only gets lost or in her mind – stolen. Truthfully, the design is not easy for older folks with shaky hands as the tiny battery has to be removed after each wearing and replaced every time she inserts it into her ear. The order of tasks seem impossible, so Mom just ignores it and goes without.

My sister is the keeper of the hearing aid, so she takes it home for safekeeping, then instructs Mom all over again every time she needs it.

Mom turns up the volume on her television and mindlessly watches shows she cares nothing about. I turn down the volume so we can talk.

“I hate the TV,” Mom says. “I’d rather read a book.” She points to one of the many books in her stack that she reads over and over again, reaches for one of the Reader’s Digest condensed versions and opens it. Occasionally, she looks at me and asks one of the many questions we have just talked about.

The core values of the Alzheimer’s patient do not always coincide with their behavior.  What the heart and mind believe does not always jibe with action.

So Mom’s television is another reminder of the difficulties of communication. When Alzheimer’s overshadows a behavior that is not consistent with life’s memory, all we can do is seek patience and another level of understanding.

The television is now Mom’s companion, the noisemaker in the room, but it will never replace the life story of a woman who read voraciously and made sure that her children also learned to love books.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1