Tag Archives: relationships with elders

The Life Expectancy of Emotional Ties

My mom has a hard time talking now. She utters strings of sounds that resemble words but make no sense unless you know her. Somehow, though, she still understands feelings: happy, sad, thankful. So we stick to activities that awaken emotions. Visits with old friends revive her love of life.

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This week I organized things so she could have quality time with her lifelong best friend. They met in first grade, shared teenage secrets, and learned the jitterbug in poodle skirts. They helped each other through the challenges of motherhood and marriage and never, ever lost touch. As I prepped Mom for the visit, I reminded her how they went dancing on Saturday nights and lived in the same town for many years. She smiled but had no idea who or what I was talking about.

When her friend arrived, she was thrilled just to be near her. Though Mom can’t tell stories well, she is an ardent listener. Hearing about grandchildren and holiday plans made her grin. She loved the tale of her friend sneaking all the way around her back yard just to escape the notice of her barking dog. Mom’s comments were limited to a few things she can repeat — “Oh, that’s nice” and “I like that” — but she seemed to absorb the essence of her  old pal as they sat together. The visit boosted her more than any vitamin could.

Her friend’s visit meant a lot to me, too. Some of Mom’s family members don’t want to see her because they think her condition will upset them too much. Whoa, they are missing something precious. Mom’s words and abilities are dwindling fast. This is the time to be a witness her sweetness, before dementia erases it for good.

My moments with her are like butterfly joy. Her spirit hovers, comes close, then moves on to matters I can only imagine. I know this time will end, but I wish with all my heart that butterfly season would last forever.

Writing and Readers

This week I’m writing to thank readers for their many visits to the Between the Pond and the Woods  website. Thank you for reading and sharing these stories with other caregivers and Facebook friends. The site shows that over 26,000 visits have been logged. Subtracting all the hits from Internet spammers, it’s still an event worth celebrating.

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I’m grateful that so many of you take the time to read these pieces. But I feel an even bigger debt to those of you who have posted comments about your personal struggles as caregivers. I’ve heard from people in every part of this enormous country and also from some who live in other nations. We know that dementia is a disease with no boundaries and the number of caregivers will rise dramatically in coming years. Over time, I’ve thought a lot about the philosophy that guides my writing. After 26,000 web hits, it’s probably time to offer some sort of mission statement.

Here is what I’ve come up with: “I write to share ideas about how to reduce caregiver stress — and to highlight the fleeting moments of insight and love that occur while caring for someone with dementia.”

Too wordy? Maybe, but it gets at a whole range of feelings that seem important to me. Thank you for your many comments and all that you’ve shared here. Tell me more!