Mom Doesn’t Know Me Today

Mom and I at Christmas

From my journal dated 7/3/05

Mom doesn’t know me at all today. She’s tolerating me like a house guest . . . barely. When she got dressed this morning, she put on long johns and underwear. When I suggested that she put on some pants or shorts, she asked me, “Why? What difference does it make?”

“We don’t wear long johns in the summer,” I replied.

“Why do you care?” she asks.

“I just don’t want you to be too hot. It’s so hot outside.”

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay,” I say.

Dad comes in to talk to her. I walk away but linger in the other room to listen to their conversation. Mom says, “Leave me alone. Don’t bother me, and tell that girl to stop telling me what to do. She deeps coming in here and checking on me every five minutes. I’m going to leave if she doesn’t stop it.”

“That girl is your daughter, and she’s just trying to help,” says Dad.

“No she’s not. And I don’t need her help.”

I bite my lip and walk away. I hurts so much inside to hear her talk this way. My dad says not to take it personally. It’s just mom’s illness. I know that intellectually, but it’s too soon for me not to care, not to feel sad and hurt and emotional about being the stranger that Mom doesn’t want in her home.

From my journal dated 7/14/05

Mom is sitting next to me at the table on the porch. She’s sorting flower heads and seed pods into beautiful little rows and clusters. We sit a while. I’m reading. She looks at me and says, “Do you know Karen?”

“Why, yes I do. I’m Karen.”

“You are?” she asks, amazed. “No, I mean the other one.”

“You mean your daughter, Karen?” I ask.

“Yes. Do you know her?”

“Yes, I know her. I am her. I am Karen. Don’t we look alike?”

“Well, yes, you do,” she says smiling.

“You’re my mother. And I’m your daugher, Karen.”

“Oh, I am so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. How can I not know my own daughter?” she wonders.

This is what I’ve discovered since that day. Bad days come and go; she’ll know who I am one moment and not know me the next. It’s hard to believe, but the pain of her not remembering me lessens with time. I just try to enjoy each of those precious moments when I’m her daughter again and don’t dwell on the times when I’m not.

I don’t try to convince her who I am any more because it’s not productive. If she thinks that I’m someone else, I just talk to her as though I really am that person. If she thinks I’m her sister or a different daughter, I just go along with it because I don’t want her to feel bad about not knowing. If she thinks that her sister Louise is still alive and talks about her as though she is, I swim with her memory.

And I don’t tell my dad how it hurts anymore. I write about it, and I talk to my sisters and husband instead. My dad is dealing with it too, and it just adds to his stress and heartache when he knows how this whole thing is affecting me. Can you imagine . . . for a time Mom slept in the recliner in the living room because she said it was wrong to sleep with “that strange man.”

They’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in March.

5 thoughts on “Mom Doesn’t Know Me Today

  1. Karen,
    It is just so heartbreaking isn’t it? Such a puzzlement as to why we have to go through such things. Love is so hard to find and then to spend all those years in a loving relationship only to eventually not know your spouse, it just makes me ache inside thinking about it.

    My mom turned into a totally different person. She was always so calm. When dad had to put her in the nursing home it nearly broke his heart. He was in his 90’s and still doing all the washing and cleaning and shopping and cooking and he was getting more and more run down. At the nursing home they asked him about her personality and he said quite truthfully(he believed) that ‘She is so meek and mild. She will do anything you ask of her’.
    Well, the moment she got in there she turned on a dime. She was a force to be reckoned with! She was threatening the nurses and was going to cut off one of the nurses ponytail, she tried to beat my dad with his own cane, he brought her candy and she threw it all over the room. He had never in all of their 65 years seen her behave in this manner. They finally had to strap her in the bed and he said the look she gave him would haunt him forever.
    One day he called me (I am in MN and he was in New Orleans) and said “You know Bonnie,Our romance started out as a beautiful melody……but it is ending up on a real sour note!” I immediately wrote that comment down. I didn’t ever want to forget what he said to me.

    Then daddy died. We took mom to the funeral home and she was just beside herself.She was so sorry for the way she had treated him. (She remembered it all!!)My dad was a career military man so I tried to snap a picture when they folded the flag and handed it to my mom and totally by accident I captured the most anquished expression on my mother’s face. I only meant to get the flag…….to this day, when I see that picture, I realize they really did have a strong love at one time and dementia is just a horrid horrid thing! It robs us of the most precious thing in life.

    My thoughts are with you Karen.

  2. Karen, I am so sorry for what you and your family are going through now. My family and I lost my father to Alzheimer’s in November 2005 after 8 years of struggle. I do not know how my mother managed to take care of my father for so long before he had to be placed into the veteran’s home. He was only there for 5 months. It still feels so unreal that he is gone. He had moments where he did seem to recognize us, and he would tell us that he loved us. We were fortunate that he never went through a nasty stage, as I have heard many do. Things were turned around, so that I was taking care of him like he used to take care of me when I was a child. I would go and cut his hair, feed him meals, clean his teeth, shave his face. I kept telling myself that it was the disease that made him not know who I was and act like I was a stranger, but inside, it hurt. I really looked foreward to taking care of him – it was my way of giving back to him for taking care of me and letting him know how much I loved him. As Bonnie says in her comment, dementia really is a horrible disease. I hope someday soon there are medical developments that will make this a thing of the past. Try to be strong, remember the good times, and know that there you are not alone. My heart goes out to you, and may God watch over you and your family.

  3. Dear Karen, My heart goes out to you. My Dad’s been living with the Alz. diagnosis and symptoms for several years now. Mom pretends pretty well most of the time that she is managing, but everytime I call her on the phone some emergency comes up which she has to attend to, like Dad trying to load the dirty dishes into a dishwasher full of clean dishes. Seems like she is his prisoner, although he is the one who is imprisioned by this ghastly disease. I’m researching to find resources like visiting caregivers or daycare to give her some relief. It hurts really badly to know that my Daddy is mentally slipping away from us while he is still there physically. I pray to God for help and strength for all of us. God bless you. Honi

  4. Hi Karen,

    I lost my best friend, my Mom about two years ago. I was an only child and very close to my parents. After my Dad passed away, my Mom and I became even closer. Well about 7 months before my Mom passed away, I moved with my husband to Arizona. We all lived in California. My Mom found that so hard to deal with. I called her at least 3 times and day and she called me. She started calling me and telling me everyday that she was so sick. Finally, my husband said “Let’s bring her to our house, we have the room”. I said great and we moved my Mom to Arizona. She was 93 at the time. She could hold a conversation with anyone. The only thing that I noticed was she would tell a story several times. Anyway, we called an ambulance one day because she said she needed one. Why? We still do not know. Anyway, they came and took her to the hospital. That is when all our troubles started. The doctor who saw her said she needed to be on Hospice because of her age and they could help me on a daily basis. I said fine. I didn’t know much about Hospice then. To make a long story short, they medicated her so much with Moriphene, Dalmane and some other drugs, that it put her into a coma and she passed away peasefully, two months after we brought her to our house. My grandsons and I were at her bedside. It was a shock to all of us because she seemed fine. What I wanted to tell you is when Hospice put her on all those drugs, my Mom became so mean to me. Said I was too fat to be her Daughter. I am trying to get rid of her. I felt soooooo hurt but like you I kept going. She never had good days after her medication started. Hosice is the reason she passed away so suddenly. It was a huge loss and void in my heart. My husband, sons and grandsons were such a big help to me at the time. I miss her sooooooooooo much. Nobody really knows. Susie

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