One of my recent blogs was about getting a cat for Mom to keep her company. We thought that a cat would be easy, or at least easier than a dog. It was a failed experiment and Diesel came home to live with us.
One afternoon, I called Mom to see how she was doing. I heard barking and thought her TV must be on. No such luck.
“Mom, what is that noise? Is that barking?” My heart sank. She was so excited. She told me she went down to the local pet store and bought a puppy. Mom and Dad had always owned dogs, and the last one was an adorable Shih Tzu named Dolly. Mom loved that dog, and I guess it only made sense that she would want a companion now that she was by herself.
One of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is a loss of judgment, and we noticed that problem very early on with Mom. The ability to reason is diminished. Some of her decisions weren’t very good.
I drove up to meet Mom’s new dog, again named Dolly, and to see what we were now going to be dealing with. Adorable for sure. Made Mom very happy. However, if you’ve ever had a puppy, you know there are issues that aren’t easy like chewing and house training. How do I look my Mom in the eye and tell her she made a gigantic mistake? I couldn’t. You can do that with a child but it’s not so easy with your parent.
I was still trying to figure out what was happening to her brain and I didn’t know how to proceed. The house was starting to smell bad. Mom insisted that Dolly was trained and when I would point out a mess, Mom would say she didn’t know how it got there.
We all dealt with it by getting her carpets cleaned occasionally and trying to ignore the problems because Dolly made her happy. Five months in to MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment), Mom was still in charge of her credit cards, checks, and driving her car. She could go out and buy almost anything.
Looking back, life would have been relatively easy if a chewed table leg and spots on the carpet were our biggest challenges. That’s not how this story goes. Through it all, our family knew that keeping Mom happy was paramount but we learned that sometimes, that required a lot of patience and creativity.
And carpet cleaner.
Suggestion: Come to terms with the fact that if your loved one is experiencing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, judgment and reasoning will become impaired. You can’t live in fear of what might happen, but you may have to keep one step ahead of the person to help them be safe and happy.