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Mom's Time Out

A blessing is disguise

Mary Angel

(2/2018) This will truly be one of the hardest topics I will discuss with all of you. Sometimes being a mom is extremely difficult, even heartbreaking. When your kids hurt you hurt for them, when your husband hurts you hurt for him. Sometime in life you all hurt at the same time and that can be the most devastating. When you all lose someone you love so very deeply, then life seems to stop for a brief moment in time.

In January my mother-in-law passed away after a rapidly progressing form of dementia ravaged the amazing lady we once knew. After hearing the battle that many people watched their beloved family members go through for decades with the disease, we would probably be considered lucky. My mother-in-law lived for 16 months after her diagnosis it was a very shocking 16 months. Every time we turned around her condition was worsening. My kids watched their Grandma as she deteriorated more and more with every visit.

Early on we had to take her license when we found out she had scared all of our kids with her driving, gotten many tickets, and stopped in the middle of the road confused where she was or where she was going. It was a mere four months from diagnosis and she had lost 75 percent of her words. We sat helplessly playing reluctant charades at Sunday family dinner as she attempted to speak a short sentence. The simplest of words lost travelling from her thoughts to her mouth. We watched as she became more and more frustrated with herself and as time progressed with our inability to read her mind.

Another three months passed and she could no longer live alone. Even though she lived right next door it was unsafe for her to be alone. After much prayer and discussion we offered to move her in with us. She was elated and I believe maybe relieved, as we had toured several assisted living facilities in planning for the future. Then was a very long, trying and wonderful almost 5 months. At the time we didnít see the joy in having her live with us.

At the time it was hard to see past the sadness. It was very difficult to live with the daily suffering, mood swings, and trials. Her hyper focus was both amazing and frustrating to say the least. When she decided she was going to do something (no matter how dangerous) she was going to do it. When she decided she wanted her 5:00 wine at 3:00 she would do whatever it took to get that wine, from nagging, to sneaking, to manipulating a child. If there was one conversation we had with our children from the minute she was diagnosed to the day she died it was, "It is the disease not Grandma".

To watch someone you respect and love deteriorate before your eyes is something no one should have to go through. In her time living at our house she lost the rest of her speech except for "yes" and "no". There came a time (very quickly), as I stated, five months into her living with us when we had to make the very tough decision to move her into an assisted living facility. We did not take this decision lightly, but had to take our childrenís well-being into consideration. We had many conversations before she moved in about some of the behaviors that would require her to no longer live with us. This small step made in the beginning was one of the most important things we did. Unfortunately with dementia come behaviors that can be very inappropriate and also dangerous.

The move was filled with tears and relief and guilt. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She took very little time to make herself right at home in the facility. You could say she ran the roost. She would spend a good portion of her day sitting in the furthest seat out front of the main building watching everyone come and go. She said "yes" to everyone who greeted her, partially to be polite and partially because she was reduced to only her two words. She enjoyed tapping on the birdcage in the lobby. She usually tapped right next to the sign that said, "Please do not tap on the glass". She went to lunch and dinner the minute the dining room opened. Another 4 months and we were called to the facility for a meeting to discuss her progress.

They felt she was displaying unsafe behavior and should be moved to a more secure wing in the facility. They explained that she was attempting to get into the kitchen and utility areas and had begun to start yelling at people. We totally understood and agreed. They moved her the week before Christmas. Since the transition was difficult we were asked not to visit for a bit while she got acclimated to the new area and routine. We went to visit between Christmas and New Years and I was pretty sure she didnít recognize me (that was exceptionally difficult).

After the New Year her condition went down hill rapidly. On a Friday, that I will never forget, I got a call saying her condition was "guarded" and that she had fluid retention and a rattling in her chest. My husband was going up the next day for a visit, so being the naVve person I am I asked if my mother-in-law would feel up to a visit. The nurse suggested we come that evening if at all possible. After being hit with that ton of bricks I finally understood, although I was in shock. My husband and I went that evening and he went back with his brother in the morning. Saturday evening my husband took two of our kids up to say good bye. When they got out of the car my 13 year old daughter looked up at the stars and said, "Dad, I think God is telling me that Grandma is already with Granddad in Heaven." Two seconds later the phone rang and the facility told my husband she had just passed.

She was an amazing woman, she lived an amazing life, she loved Jesus, she left us too early, and we are blessed that she didnít suffer long! As a mom I am sad for the pain my kids are going through and at the same time proud of how they loved on their Grandma through it all.

Read other articles by Mary Angel