I called my Mom today. She's in the Trinity Center nursing home in Des Moines. Recently relocated to a wing where she can receive more support, my mom is now challenged with coordination tasks such as feeding herself and getting up and down from a seated position. Mom is a spry 80 and has been suffering with altzheimers disease since the late 90s. Altzheimer's is tricky. It robs your loved one of their memories and eventually their faculties, leaving the shell of a person who no longer recognizes the world around them. It is a brutal and cruel disease and leaves many families in dis-ease.
When I call my mom I try not to ask her how she's doing. Rather, I spend a lot of time talking about my life and the life of her family in Arizona. I recently made the mistake of calling her on her 80th birthday and asking her if she knew how old she was? When she responded "no" I emphatically told her "you're 80!". She did not share my enthusiasm. There was a silent thud so deafening I thought surely I was about to be slapped bald-headed. I also found out that my other brother had done the same thing. A double-whammy 80th birthday surprise. Oh joy. If you have an older relative, it is best not to remind them of their age. They probably know or don't want to know. It's that simple.
My mom is a wonderful woman. Even in her altzheimerish state, she maintains a sense of cheerfulness and self-deprecating humor. Every now and then I catch glimmers of her old spark. I miss her touch. I used to get excruciating 'charlie horses" as a child. These leg cramps would wake me up from a sound sleep and caused terrible wincing pain up and down both legs. Mom always came to my rescue. She'd walk me downstairs to the sofa, give me a few pink St. Joseph's apsirin and begin to massage each leg until the pain started to subside. I miss her touch.
I miss her smile, the smell of her perfume (Estee Lauder Beautiful), and the laughs we had. I miss laughing with her about the silly things she used to do. She had to pee so bad at the Buick Open one year and the only open port-a-potty was a handicapper. My mom limped all the way down that hill better than any authentic, crippled, post-war vet I've ever seen. After relieving herself, she forgot to stay 'in character' and practically ran up the hill. This was less than amusing to the rest of the folks in line who's back teeth may have been floating. I laughed so hard I nearly, well....you know how that goes. There are a lot of great "Gwen Stories" around.
So this being Mom's day and all, on behalf of my Mom, I'll provide some maternal advice that she might have shared with you:
Altzheimer's Prevention Tips
1. Take control of your blood pressure
2. Lower your cholesterol
3. Check your B12 and homocysteine levels
4. Eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies. (red wine is okay unless you're an alcoholic)
5. Protect yourself from brain injury
6. Check your eyes and ears. Sharpen your senses
8. Jog your brain; use it or lose it.
9. Socialize. Become a more interesting person
10. Beware of depression and stress. Be happy
and to this list I will add
11. Pray. Pray for those who suffer. Pray for a cure.
I love you mom!