Today I found one of my mom's Dell Easy books I had tucked away years ago at my son Rasta's house, and on the front cover, my mother had filled in the blanks with her name, her married name, her maiden name and her nickname. As I looked at this, I flashed on all the things she had covered with her name and address labels, sometimes sticking 10 or 20 of the same label on a pie plate or casserole dish. I had always assumed she did this because she was so possessive of her stuff, a trait I sincerely hoped not to inherit. But seeing her name in those block letters on the crossword book cover hit me like a sack of bricks. She wasn't just trying to possess, she was trying to not forget. She had dementia, but at the time, I didn't know it. She was trying to make sure she could remember who she was.
Dementia is a trickster. My mom was always distant and difficult for me, so it was just in hindsight that I realized it was way worse than just her personality. Today, it broke my heart to think about all the times I was impatient, all the times we clashed and I thought she was just being difficult on purpose. Cause she could do that, too.
Until a few months before she died, my mom arranged the flowers at the Nursing Home birthday parties. She liked to give "the old folks" something to look forward to, even though she was 98 years old at the time and had to hold on to the counter as she arranged the flowers. There was nothing I could do to help, and even offering made her angry. There was this insistence on things being a certain way, a way that really didn't make sense and created lots of stress. But at the time I didn't realize how crazy it was; I didn't realize she had dementia. I thought she was just being a little more herself than usual.
My brother used to try to set her straight, explaining to her how things really were, but there's no setting straight with dementia. It's just crazy ideas and theories that you just hope will pass.
So if your folks are making no sense, starting weird projects in the middle of the night, wandering around the house or insisting on something that just isn't real, love them and keep them safe. Don't let them use the stove or drive, but don't argue either. Just love them and be as patient as you can. My blessings and best wishes go out to you.