by: Catherine Frayne
I found myself unprepared for the bewildering world of dementia's delusions. Among all the challenging facets and symptoms of Alzheimer's, I must admit that dealing with aggression was by far the most daunting and distressing. The year was 2011, and I had just received a call from my father. He informed me that Mommy firmly believed she had fallen victim to a theft, convinced that a significant sum of money had been stolen from her. We all knew this was far from the truth, but Mommy clung to this belief with unwavering conviction.
My immediate response was to listen to her accusations attentively, nodding empathetically as I absorbed her words. I could see a glimmer of relief in her eyes, a sense that someone was taking her seriously, and it appeared to offer her solace.
Next, I attempted to introduce reason into the conversation. I gently pointed out that involving the authorities would only result in a fruitless search for the missing money. Imagine if they did find it; we would be left with a sense of guilt for having wasted their time, I suggested. Mommy readily agreed, embracing the idea.
Suggesting that we search for the money ourselves, we embarked on an exploration that spanned several hours. Together, we combed through coat pockets and occasionally discovered stray bills here and there. With each coat or cardigan that emerged from her wardrobe, a flood of memories accompanied it. Memories of where she had purchased the garment and the special occasions she had worn it to. We inadvertently created a treasure trove of new memories, and the notion of the missing money began to fade into the past, thankfully.
In retrospect, I realize that what kept me grounded throughout this ordeal was my unwavering knowledge of the truth – that Mommy had not fallen victim to a robbery. I made a conscious effort to empathize with her emotions and acknowledge her sense of grievance. In my attempt to diffuse her anger, I found myself inadvertently crafting a collection of happier memories. At no point did I deny or reject Mommy's beliefs during that time.
As I drove away that evening, with a visibly happier Mommy waving to me from the window, I couldn't help but reflect, "Alzheimer's may attempt to steal many things within those walls, but it will never rob me of the love I hold for my Mother." That, I knew, was one aspect of our relationship that dementia could never touch.
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