Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You Take the Car I'll Take the Train

A characteristic of my mother's Alzheimer's is her inability to attend to more than one aspect of a situation.  She has lost the ability to discern nuances of meaning in conversation, and this leads to some interesting exchanges.
Linda:  Hi Mom--I'm getting ready to clean up for the day and thought I'd check on you first, how are you doing?

Mom:  I'm just fine, but you need to comb your hair.  
Well, yes, but I'd just said I hadn't yet groomed!  However, Mom registered only what her eyes told her; I was a bit of a mess (this is not unusual for me at 7:30 a.m., but Mom wasn't cutting me any slack for the time of day).  I was offended, though I hadn't ought to have been.  It has been nearly ten years since Mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis.  Her ability to converse on any level at all is worthy of my approval and praise. Nevertheless, even after all these years I often react as a daughter rather than respond as a caregiver when she's a little (or a lot) rude.

This evening I was emptying Mom's trashcan when I noticed she was singing along with her Statler Brothers' album:  "You take the car I'll take the train," warbled Mom.
Linda:  I don't think I've heard that one before," (pauses, listens...)  Wait, they are saying 'I'll take the blame.'"

Mom:  (disdainfully) That does not make sense.  It is train.  (Sings, more loudly this time for emphasis) "You take the car I'll take the train..."

Linda:  O.K.  

Mom:  (hesitates, then reluctantly admits..) Well, I guess it could be plane.  Plane would also make sense.  (singing) You take the car I'll take the plane....  
At this juncture I abandoned all I know about caregiving and attempted to correct and explain: "I think the couple is breaking up.  I think when there's a breakup one person takes the blame and the other gets sympathy.  So I think maybe they are saying "One takes the bow one takes the blame..."  

But Mom wasn't having it, and it was obvious I was disturbing her peace.  So finally (belatedly) I agreed with her..."Yes, I think you are right," I said.  Mom, however knew I wasn't convinced, and continued to sing her version of the song loudly the entire time I was in her room, even though the Statlers had moved onto another melody altogether.

Dementia patients are proud when they feel they have figured out a problem correctly and need affirmation as much as the rest of us.  I shouldn't have diminished Mom's joy by attempting to correct her tonight.

If you have a few minutes you might have fun listening to the song Mom edited this evening, One Takes the Blame, by the Statler brothers. 


  1. I'm so glad I bumped into you. I saw your title on someone's blog roll and had to look.

    I cared for my mom and dad for 5 years. Mama had Alzheimers and Daddy's health was poor. Two years before her death we put Mama in the NH that I worked for so that I could moniter her daily. We had to care for Daddy and could not do both. She was sweet and thankfully we didn't go through the misunderstandings that we did with Daddy. He was sick and angry that she was not with him and he took it out on us. I remembered all the times I had taken life out on them and endured the time. I miss them so much now that they are gone. Hang in there. Learn to laugh. Take care of yourself. Find a support group (I didn't have one) and hire a sitter so that you can take care of you at least once a week. Prayers for you. I will be following you to encourage you to hang in there.


  2. Bonnie, thank you so much for the encouragement and prayers. God bless you. Love this part of your comment: "I remembered all the times I had taken life out on them and endured the time..." Amen! Thank you for this.