by: Catherine Frayne
I was not prepared for the delusions of dementia. For all the dark sides and symptoms of Alzheimer’s I have to say that I found aggression the most difficult and distressing to deal with. Back in 2011 I arrived home after getting a call from my father. He told me that Mammy believed she had been robbed and that a large amount of cash had been stolen from her. We all knew it was not true but Mammy believed it with her heart and soul. The first thing I did was listen to her accusations, nodding and taking in what she had to say. I could see in her eyes that she felt someone believed her and this seemed to help.
I then tried to rationalize the situation with her, advising that if she did contact the guards they would only have to search for the missing money and, imagine if they found it, wouldn’t we feel awful for having wasted their time? Mammy agreed wholeheartedly.
I suggested that we go about looking for it ourselves first. We spent the next few hours together checking coat pockets and finding the odd note here and there. With every coat or cardigan that came out of her wardrobe, a memory came with it. Memories of where she had bought the coat and the event she had worn it to. We ended up having a lovely few hours together and the missing money was becoming a memory too, thank God!
Looking back now I think what kept me sane was knowing the truth – that Mammy had not been robbed. I had to try and understand how she must be feeling and how aggrieved she was. In my efforts to defuse the anger I ended up creating happier memories whilst never once denying or rejecting Mammy’s belief at the time. As I drove off that evening with a much happier Mammy waving to me from the window, I thought ‘Alzheimer’s is the only robber in that house, let it steal what it will but it will never steal the love I have for my Mother’. That’s one way I will never lose!
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