My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. I go over three nights a week and help her get to bed, to take some of the load off of my father-in-law who is on oxygen and isn’t very strong himself at nearly 81 years old. Most nights our conversation is much like the re-runs on television. I ask her what she did all day, and she pulls something from her dwindling memory such as the dishes or laundry, both of which she hasn’t done much of in years. Then she asks about my day. After telling her I worked, she asks where I work. I tell her that I work at The Stengel Agency, selling insurance. To that she responds, “That’s right.” Then I get her to bed and tell her that I will be back in two days. And she asks what day today is. Our routine is fairly predictable…on most days, that is.
Some days find my mother-in-law much more…confused, lost even. Last week, during our “normal” conversation, when we got to the part about where I work, she said, “Oh, at Kmart.” I know my jaw dropped, because I haven’t worked at Kmart since 1974. I told her, “No, at The Stengel Agency. I sell insurance.” Then came her normal response of “that’s right.” Then tonight, the conversation went along normally and I assumed we were past the bad spell, until she said that she would be glad when she could go “home.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so I asked where she was. She replied, “Casper.” That being right I asked where home was. She indicated north of town, and I thought she meant the place they used to live out in the country, but she said, after obviously realizing that something was not quite right, “That place we used to live when Walt was working for the railroad.” In talking to my husband about that part of her life, I found that his dad worked for the railroad in the 50’s in Montana.
I have known that this stage of the disease would come, and there would be things and people she would not remember, and confusion would become the norm, but when faced with these moments that are still shocking to me, I makes me feel very sad. I can see what the future holds for her, and it is heartbreaking.