Dealing With My Mother's Alzheimer's

I wrote this for another blog last week and think it might be worth repeating.


Many of our peers are probably in a similar position as my sibling and me.  We have an aging parent afflicted with Alzheimer’s, this insidious disease robs our loved ones of their minds over time.  It is this slow diminishing of faculties, including reason, memories and of course fearfulness.  I’ve recently returned from visiting my almost ninety year old parent.  I spent six days with her.  My mother is lucky that she has her own home and twenty-four hour care seven days a week.  The trip was heartbreaking at several levels. I don’t want to remember my mother like this for the balance of my life rather I want to relish in memories of the eighty previous years she graced this world with her vitality, wisdom and ready smile.  At this stage in her disease, there are a few things I can do for her.  Primarily is keeping her engaged and that is the most difficult, often times I have to repeat my several times within a five minute span.  I take her out on long drives.  My mother loves the thrill of going up and down the steep hills almost roller coaster like and I try and ferret these roadways out on her behalf.  I’m not a doctor, nor will I pretend to know the medical responses to questions however what I do know is how to successfully deal with my mother and I’d like to share these nuggets with you.  Some or none may apply to your particular situation.

  1. Be infinitely patient.  Your parent has lost control oftentimes what comes out of the mouth.  They can be rude, crude and one hundred percent off in their warped perception of reality.

  2. Don’t argue you might try gently and with only soothing sounds and emotion on your end try to remedy a situation.  If that fails, do what I do wait about ten minutes, by that time they might have forgotten the issue.

  3. My mother’s advanced Alzheimer’s now has her most of the time her past, and present all jumbled up.  Just go along with it.  For example on these drives my mother will point out a structure that she recall being built, recently on this trip she pointed out a building but the church was built over  one hundred years ago.  My response to her was “mom I remember you and I coming out to watch it being built.” And now comes the heartache, “and son I remember and I love you for doing that with me.”  I just smile and force the tears back into the tear ducts.

  4. Keeping them engaged, this is nebulous, what is engaged?  For me is having the realization that my mother’s reality is now-not two minutes ahead or one moment ago.  The immediate past is now forgotten the present as we perceive it is to my mother unimaginable. So I don’t say things like “mom do you remember when----“.  She doesn’t and I don’t want her to feel for a moment any remorse.  I’ll say something like this.  Mom I remember (whatever it is) and we had such a good time and I know you don’t remember after all mom your brain can’t store everything from the past almost ninety years. This way she doesn’t feel bad and we have a small conversation.

  5. I never lie to my mother.  One more than one occasion my mother has profound moments of clarity.  Doctors don’t know why this occurs but it happens.  Again on this past trip I told my mother I was going to visit someone she once knew.  The first time I mentioned the person and the connection to her there wasn’t any recall.  Two days later I again brought up the same information.  I almost fell off my chair, not only did she recall the person she also partly identified some of her appearance.  I don’t consider my going along with something that might be patently wrong a lie persae, rather a protective measure for my mother’s dignity.

  6. Laughter is still the greatest medical miracle far better than aspirin.  I make my mother laugh often.




oldbaldguy oldbaldguy
70+, M
3 Responses Feb 13, 2010

Thanks for giving me a much needed small laugh in the middle of my crying fit.

Thanks for this. I've been my mom's caregiver for years, and it is good to see different things that work for different people.<br />
One thing that I have started doing is making a memory book of sorts. So many of my mom's photo's were just thrown in a box, with no info on them. I started picking up photo albums that have a comment area next to or underneath the photo area. Since she and I live in the same town, I go over and spend the night with her about once a week. We will pull out the albums, and we will try to identify the people in them together, and put them in the albums with the information about the photo, the people etc. She gets alot of joy from this. It jogs her memory a bit and she ends up telling me stories about the people in the photo's. It's funny how I've ended up learning some things about my relatives that I wasn't aware of before, lol.<br />
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I can appreciate what you mentioned about the repetitive statements, etc. I just got back from spending the night with my mom this morning. We were sitting and chatting, and over the course of about 10-15 minutes, she repeated 2 or 3 statements about different subjects, probably at least 10 times. You really do have to recapture the patience that you had while raising your children. I remember the why stage with my son, where everything I said to him was answered by Why? I try to think of it in those terms with my mom.

Thank you for this wonderful story and all the great "nuggets" of information. While I don't have a parent with this disease, I still found the information very useful.