I’m embarrassed to admit that I handle informative literature about the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in much the same way I deal with TV violence; I stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes.
I wasn’t always this way. When my mother was first diagnosed, I read everything I could find about dementia; and thanks to an encyclopedic treatment of the subject at the Alzheimer’s Organization’s website, I was able to find quite a lot. I learned about effective drug treatments, strategies to slow the progress of the disease, and many helpful resources for both caregivers and patients. However, every article I read ended with the same dismal and irrefutable conclusion about the prognosis of the disease.
After absorbing this wealth of information, I approached my beloved mother with pity dripping from every pore. “My sweet, unfortunate, afflicted Mama,” my attitude seemed to say, “How can I ease your suffering?”
My mother quickly set me straight. No one had told her she was terminal, and she’d have laughed at them if they had. Mom brings her plucky take on life to every new challenge, and is rarely willing to admit to misfortune or discomfort no matter how bleak a clinical analysis of her symptoms would look in print.
Here is an approximation of the sort of information I absorbed during my days of researching Alzheimer’s: “As the language center in the brain is compromised by the characteristic plaques and tangles of the disease, vocabulary becomes compromised and repetitive words or phrases are used rather than the more complex language patterns of the past.” Cheerful, isn’t it? But in Mom’s hands, or should I say, mouth, repetitive phrases deliver a wallop unequalled by more eloquent articulations of the past. For example, two of her repetitive phrases are, “That’ll be a plus,” and “Go with the flow.” There are very few situations in which one of these phrases won’t work.
Linda: I’m going to bring you a lunch tray in a few minutes.
Mom: That’ll be a plus.
Linda (annoyingly preachy and longsuffering): I have cleaned the jelly from the floor and am going in the other room now.
Mom: That’ll be a plus.
Mom is still praying, praising, and thanking God for her life. She goes with the flow and comments upon many “pluses” in her daily life. When in the throes of anger or grief, I have sometimes felt it might be appropriate to explain to her the hard facts of her situation. However, I have learned to allow her to maintain a blessed disregard of the seriousness of her disease. It is actually a great comfort to recognize she feels no pathos over her circumstances. I’ve been told that my mother has reached the late/middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but I am continuing to learn from her.
I’m going with the flow!
" Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).