Alzheimer's As A Test of Faith

Climbing the steps alone to meet my mother in her second floor unit, I begin to feel despair. There is a real sense in which I don’t have a mother any more. I am the mother and she has become like a child. It feels more melancholy, sometimes, to have this kind of mother than not to have a mother at all.

Can You Care for a Parent Whose Beliefs You Have Rejected?

As one college friend after another was drafted and sent off, against his principles, to fight in Vietnam, my mother and I drew lines in the sand. We violently disagreed about politics and religion. Then when she verged into Alzheimer's, both of us still raw from that fight, I was called upon to help take care of her.

Does It Pay To Care For a Parent With Dementia?

One of the most surprising gifts of those years I spent caring for mother as she verged into Alzheimer’s was a new sense of my own identity. That and those last connections with my mother became two incredible gifts that have remained.

A New Way to Think About Dementia

We carry our past selves within us. They can emerge and speak in the present. When my mother’s dementia increased, I had to learn to listen in new ways. My mother wasn’t losing her memory. She was losing her ability to ride herd on her various past selves.

Caught in the Middle: Your Parents vs. Your Kids

Each time I flew to Dallas for five days to take my mother to her doctors, clean her clothes, and treat her to lunches out, I felt like I was forsaking my kids.

So What, Exactly, Is Memory?

Cultural memory is often engrained in us more deeply than—or at least, differently from—our personal memories. It delivers us from our entirely private, idiosyncratic worlds. It offers us community, common knowledge, shared language.

The Problem with Downsizing

What is spatial memory? I didn’t get it, till I saw what happened when my mother downsized. But our ability to map and relocate ourselves in relationship to landmarks is one of the most crucial kinds of human knowledge.

Alzheimer’s: Is It Wrong to Laugh?

How to deal with the unpredictable hurricane of Alzheiimer's? Since every case is unique, there’s no clear map for caregivers. The whipping changes can be almost as disorienting for the caregiver as they are for the patient. And sometimes, well, it's a relief to laugh.

Alzheimer’s: To Set Them Straight or Not?

As my mother drifted into Alzheimer’s, she often referred to my dead father as if he were in the next room. I had already figured out that she was sometimes speaking of the past as if it was the present. But I felt it was my job to drag her back to the present. Then one spring I stopped doing that.

Alzheimer's: Who Says They're Speaking Giberish?

For me, care-taking became less lonely when I understood that my mother’s seemingly random gibberish might connect to and be explained by her history. I knew her history. I didn’t “get” all of her comments, but with practice, I began to understand a lot more of what she said. I actually began to look forward, again, to spending time with her.

How to Connect with an Alzheimer's Patient

Do you have the Alzheimer's Caretakers' Blues? Being able to communicate with your aging mother helps. I found ways of connecting with my mother when she had Alzheimer's that made care-giving less stressful and strengthened the bond between us.

So Your Mother Won't Stop Driving?

When my mother announced, without any prompting from me, that she didn’t need my help deciding whether to give up her car, I thought "Uh-oh!". She was in her late 80’s, losing things and forgetting language. How does a person who lives in Philadelphia find out whether her mother in Dallas is safe to drive?

Talking To An Aging Parent About Money

I am watching my mother open her safe. I am wondering her financial records are in that safe. I need to see them because in her late eighties, she is not managing very well. I have found letters from her bank lying unopened on her desk. She makes math mistakes at the grocery store. Worst of all, I am afraid she might be running out of money.

Caring for a Parent with Your Siblings

Each child in a family plays a different role. Each sees the parent from a different place in the birth order. There is no way on earth siblings can agree perfectly about what to do with an aging parent.

Forget the News on the Street About Alzheimer's

Our fear of dementia may be worse than the disease itself.