The Last Day Mom Remembered everyone
Mom had been deep into late-stage Alzheimer’s for a couple years before necessity forced us to move her to a Group-Home. She was only a few blocks away so I visited almost daily. Mom ate fairly well and enjoyed family visits though she no longer recognized any of us by name but rather knew us as good friends.
Living in nice surroundings and of good physical health, we assumed Mom might be with us for a long while yet.
We were startled to learn that her days were numbered after a recurrent cough and bout with the flu required a hospital visit. During that week, Mom was diagnosed with both lung and thyroid cancer and our world with Alzheimer’s totally changed
Mom had never smoked a day in her life and took excellent care of her health. Other than the slow erosion of her memory, she had always been healthy. The “slow” part was gone now and suddenly we were told that Mom could be gone within weeks. It was devastating news for her entire family.
The transition was abrupt. Mom’s quiet room was suddenly filled with coughing and arguing as Mom wrestles the oxygen tube like a coiling snake. As fast as we settle the cannula in her nose, she removes it again, then gasps for air. She can’t remember she needs oxygen nor that the tube is the delivery system.
Sedation is required and Mom does not take it well. She doesn’t understand all the chaos around her; a noisy oxygen concentrator churning with a continuous thump thump thud, plastic tubes poking her nose and squeezing her cheeks, more hovering nurses than she’s ever seen before (a new team from hospice) changing her clothes, washing her face, rubbing her hands, moving furniture to make room for more medical equipment.
I wanted to scream or cry or do something to make it all stop! Leave Mom alone! But I didn’t and it continued through the first week.
During the second week, my niece requested to bring her two young sons, 3 and 5 years old (Mom’s great grandchildren) to visit. Mom hadn’t recognized my niece when she visited in the hospital, nor had Mom seen the boys for many many months. I could hardly say ‘no,’ but issued a warning to have the children prepared that Mom would not know them due to her illness. I was afraid the boys would be heartbroken.
Mom no longer recognized family members and believed us all to be nice people who visited her. So I was astounded when my Niece called me the following day.
“It was so wonderful,” she said. “Grandma played with the boys and reminded them of things they’d done together.”
“She remembered them?” I asked, astounded by that news.
“Yes, “ my niece went on, “She knew all of us. Talked about her apartment and going home and when was the new baby due and was it a girl. She called me by name and dad by name and knew all of us. Just like a regular conversation.”
I really thought she was teasing me until I spoke with my brother the next day and learned it was all true. Mom had an entire afternoon of being herself. She knew everyone, relatives, nurses’ names, her friend’s name, (which she never used.) It was quite stunning.
My first thought was that Mom had made a miraculous recovery from everything; Alzheimer’s, lung caner and thyroid cancer, but it was not to be. Mom passed away late into the evening two days later.
I’d heard of such “awakenings” by folks with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but never quite believed until– it happened to our family.
Recalling Our Own Stories: Spiritual Renewal for Religious CaregiversA Bamboo Grove for the Soul: A Storybook of Spiritual Resources for CaregiversThe Caregiver: Families of Honor, Book OneA Caregiver’s Divine Choice: Spiritual Warfare with Alzheimer’s PeculiaritiesThe Helping Professional’s Guide