My mother had dementia. She died about four months ago. I’m missing her as I write this but I’m mainly writing because I hope it might help others.
Coping with the care of someone with dementia can be very challenging. Mom declined for a year and a half after doctors predicted she couldn’t live more than a few weeks. She had coronary artery disease and the left main artery of her heart was badly blocked. She couldn’t get out of bed.
We had begun seeing signs of dementia years before. She forgot things so I went with her everywhere and introduced myself as her memory. By a few months before her death, the dementia had progressed to a point where sometimes she was living in another world. These alternate world events usually happened in the middle of the night.
Many times she thought she had to get up and get dressed for school… at one a.m.
One night she thought she had to go preach at a church. The regular pastor asked her to fill in for him.
On another night she thought she was teaching a Sunday School class. Well, she actually did teach the class but I was the only person in it. Cindy and I used a baby monitor in our bedroom to listen for sounds from Mom’s room. If Mom started talking, it woke me up and I went to check on her.
She organized a youth group to begin rehearsing a play one night too. Cindy and I were told that in situations like this it was best to go along with my mother’s delusions as much as possible and try to help her relax. That took hours sometimes and it was really hard to go along with some of her scenarios.
When she was having trouble breathing she usually thought that a kidnapping had taken place and she was the only person who could save the kidnapped person. And then there was the night she thought our house was under siege.
Somewhere around one or two a.m. I woke to Mom shouting. I went to her bedroom and she started talking to me about the men that were holding us captive. They had guns and knives and they had us all tied up so that we couldn’t move.
I realized later that Mom’s mind was dealing with a situation in which she couldn’t move because she was too weak to get out of bed. That had to be frightening to her. Maybe she had been asleep and discovered when she woke that she couldn’t get up. She wouldn’t have been able to remember that she couldn’t sit up before she went to sleep.
Dementia is devastatingly painful.
I tried to reassure her that everything was OK. I told her the men had left and the police had apprehended them. It didn’t work. This thing went on for hours.
Finally she dozed off around five a.m. Stretched out in the recliner, I thought the real siege was over and I started to drift off. Then she whispered, “Max, are you handcuffed?”