Dementia peels back the layers of our lives

When you begin to pay close attention, you notice how what used to be so easy becomes complicated. When you step back and watch things unfold in front of you, you realize that what once was enough is simply too much. Dementia peels back the layers of our lives, and you begin to understand that less becomes more in the world of dementia.

The signs were there for a long time. I just wasn’t paying attention.

It started with our Mondays. Monday is “momday,” and has been for quite some time now. The day I take Mom out, and we do all the “things” that need to be done together. It began with a run to the bank, a stop at the drugstore, some groceries, and then “Timmie’s” for lunch.

She’d share with me as we’d sit with our hot cups of coffee and lunch. It was new, her sharing. Opening up about the past, sharing stories of the heart pain she had never spoken of before. This time together had become a gift. I was learning about my mom in ways I hadn’t ever understood. That weekly Timmie’s coffee opened the door to understanding and appreciation. In ways I’d never had before. I was grateful to see my mom in this new light and was eager to watch more unfold with her.

Gradually things changed. So gradually that I didn’t really notice at first.

Soon what my mom could manage on any one momday became less and less. Today, it’s either a trip to the grocery store OR the drug store – rarely both. And Timmie’s is now a drive-through experience on our way home.   Dementia has invited confusion and anxiety to our Mondays. Those conversations of close connection are now few and far between. It is only as I sit writing this that I realize just how few they are now. I miss my mom. I miss that window of opportunity where we began to truly see and understand each other. I grieve.

Mondays are now short trips – usually to the grocer. The list is much shorter and is an exact copy of the one she had last week and the week before. I can see that by copying the list, she still feels in control, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t quite notice that it is no longer easy for her to write the long list of grocery items. Less has become more. Less is what she can manage without confusion, fear, or anxiety. Less allows her to feel she has some control and wit about her.   I am sure she grieves.

Mondays are now a short routine, and she knows exactly what to expect. My daughter now joins us. Her granddaughter is a solid foundation where she connects, feels safe, and still feels like grandma. They have a close and loving connection – no words need to be spoken between them. They flow together like waves in the ocean. They have a dance that is based on pure joy and love. Together. This dance is what helps our Mondays go smoothly. It’s a beautiful dance that I am so very grateful to be witness to, and I envy it.

I now drive the car and take care of practicalities while they dance their dance on a Monday. In this world of dementia, less is becoming more.

I grieve.

Karen Hendrickson is a patient advocate and a life coach.

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