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Caregiver Stories : Don't Stop Asking About Mom

We had several great submissions last week. This post comes from Kathy Ritchie whose mother was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2010.


Don’t Stop Asking About Mom


I have a message for my mother’s friends, family and acquaintances: She’s still alive.

My mother’s heart still beats. Though she might not be able to talk to you, walk with you, or share a laugh with you, she’s still here. She’s still alive. If you spend any amount of time with her, you’ll quickly realize she’s here and like most living, breathing human beings, she craves touch. Hold her hand. I do. Yes, it’s hard, especially when she yells out; I hate watching my mother’s face contort in such a way that it looks like she’s in pain. I know she can’t be, but maybe, she knows. Maybe she knows she’s trapped inside a body that won’t follow her commands.

It’s a muggy Sunday afternoon when I visit my mom. It’s just after noon and she’s eating her lunch. The caregiver asks if I want to spoon-feed her the rest of her liquified meal. Next time someone talks to you about the preservation of human life, try thinking about the thing that really matters at the end of the day: DIGNITY.

Midway through her meal of watery green goop and off-white, milky muck, she chokes and coughs. Brownish goo comes flying out of her mouth and splatters all over my green shirt. I start to feel angry. Not at her, rather at those who have forgotten her. Her family and friends.

My mother did so much for so many people. When the church would call, she would pray, she would volunteer to give communion to the sick, she would give herself. When her family called with a crisis, she would pray, she would provide the means for them to literally have a better life… but now, she’s alone. No one asks for her, really. On her birthday, there were no calls, no e-mails. Nothing. It was another day for the rest of the world.

After lunch, I take her back to her room. Eventually, Mom is sound asleep. Good. I think she’d be yelling if she where awake. She inhabits a place somewhere between life and death. It’s a grotesque place. I wonder if there is a heaven or a hell. I wonder what God will decide. I wonder if he stopped asking about my mom, too.


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