By ANGIE FENTON
â€œMom would repeat things, she was forgetting things,â€ said Kim Sanders of her mother, Mary Chapman.
â€œThen she stopped doing the things she loved,â€ Sanders recalled.
An expert seamstress, Chapman stopped attending a local sewing circle and gave away her sewing machine. She showed little interest in activities she once enjoyed, like cooking.
â€œThing just seemed, I donâ€™t know, not right,â€ Sanders recalled.
Testing revealed what Sanders feared: Her mother was suffering from dementia most likely caused by Alzheimerâ€™s. (While the diagnosis of the disease can now be up to 90 percent accurate, according to the Alzheimerâ€™s Association, it can only be positively confirmed through autopsy.)
â€œDad passed away in (2011) afterâ€¦his third time with cancer,â€ said Sanders, but up until just before his death, â€œhis brain was probably better than hers.â€
Sanders and her husband quickly made the decision to allow her mother to stay in her home, go into an assisted living facility or move in with them. Chapman chose the latter.
The most heart-breaking moments came when Chapman would look at her daughter in despair and say, â€œKim? Kim? I just donâ€™t know what to do.â€
So Sanders gave her things to do.
She put together a meticulous system to ensure her motherâ€™s medications were prepared for her each day and wrote lists so Chapman could figure out how to do simple tasks like make coffee in a one-step Keurig coffee brewer and work the microwave, and left a daily itinerary so Chapman would know what she could anticipate in the hours ahead.
Sanders labeled each drawer so her mother could locate her items with ease. And she spent time walking with her mother around the wooded grounds of her Crestwood home. They watched movies or often sat together in a sitting room and talked or read.
As time went on, Chapman began to get better, somewhat. So has Sanders, who didnâ€™t hesitate to take on the caretaker role for her parent but has found solace in a support group run by the Alzheimerâ€™s Association. â€œTheyâ€™re fantastic. They take the ones (like Chapman) with a memory problem in another room and you get to talk about â€¦ how guilty you feel, what little support there is.â€
â€œ(Chapmanâ€™s current condition) wonâ€™t last forever, I know that. You just never know how long,â€ Sanders said. â€œMom gets upset sometimes about how sorry she is that she has to be here (in Sandersâ€™ home). At times she understands she canâ€™t remember. Those are the rougher moments.â€
Those are also the moments when Sanders fears for her own son, â€œthat I might be this way. I hate the thought of it. â€¦ I havenâ€™t been tested (for Alzheimerâ€™s). I should, but I donâ€™t even want to.â€
Most unexpected, however, have been the beautiful moments Sanders never anticipated. â€œMomâ€™s memory has gotten worse, but sheâ€™s improved her outlook â€¦ and we get to spend more time together laughing and going places than we might have otherwise.â€
Chapman has since rejoined the local sewing circle, preferring to stick to simpler tasks like tying knots as opposed to sewing, but the camaraderie gives her joy. â€œYou get out with people and you have people to talk to and you know whatâ€™s going on,â€ she said during a recent interview.
Looking at her daughter, Chapman continued: â€œMy daughter takes care of me. She takes care of me. Sheâ€™s a very good person,â€ the 77-year-old said, smiling widely. â€œAnd sheâ€™s a good cook.â€
Contact writer Angie Fenton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
- One in eight older Americans has Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
- Alzheimerâ€™s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
- More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimerâ€™s and other dementias.
- Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in the United States in 2012.
Source: Alzheimerâ€™s Association