My mom entered hospice care this past week. She has reached the point where she no longer wants to eat or take her medicine. She has stopped moving her body at night so she has begun to develop bed sores. It has just been in the past few weeks that she has begun to slip away so very rapidly.
She was first diagnosed with early onset dementia during my senior year of high school in 1990.
For twenty-two years she has been painfully aware of each new loss as the disease slowly took and took and took from her. She lost her profession as a registered nurse and later her ability to work at all. She lost her sense of smell and eventually taste as well. She lost her ability to drive, and with that her freedom. Recently she lost her ability to read, which is how she has filled her days for years. She has had to mourn loss after loss after loss. Dementia is insidious, relentless, and in my mother’s case, incredibly slow.
I had long thought I looked forward to her finally getting to the point where she had lost enough awareness that she would no longer be tormented by all of her losses. I thought it would be so much easier. And it is… for her. And for that I am thankful.
But I am finding that I’m surprised by how hard it is for me. I mean, I’ve know this time was coming my entire adult life. I thought I’d be ready when the time came. But now when I visit this shell of the woman that is my mother it makes me incredibly sad. She is so vacant. I sat with her today for an hour but she couldn’t carry on even the simplest of conversations with me. I held her hand and she didn’t respond. At all. It would have felt to same to have held an inanimate object in my hand.
I knew it was coming, but this is much harder than I had expected.
Eli, however, managed to get a smile out of her twice during our visit. She seemed to really enjoy his hug and kiss when it was time for us to leave. Yet she didn’t seem disappointed at all to see us go. After we had left it occurred to me that I’m not at all certain that she knew who I was. Today was the first time I’ve ever wondered that.