After years of experience caring for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease, you can predict certain behaviors. Some characteristics of the disease start to repeat like forgetting family names, putting familiar objects in strange places or asking the same questions over and over. But in the beginning, before you really know what is wrong, your best quality may be your sense of humor.
I had been to Mom’s house the previous day to visit, check her food supply and go through a very large pile of mail. I saw that the paperwork was going to take another day and my calendar was clear, so I headed up to Mom’s again the next morning.
If there was anything I knew for sure it was that Mom loved hamburgers, fries and a coke. Burger King was right down the street so I told her I’d be right back with lunch.
I returned, set the table and we both sat down to eat our Whoppers. I casually said how nice it was to see Betty yesterday and I told Mom how lucky she was to have Betty so close. Mom put her burger back on her plate and said, “I haven’t seen Betty in weeks.” Her tone wasn’t good. Not nice.
“Mom, the three of us stood in your driveway yesterday and had a long conversation. Remember? We talked about all sorts of things.”
“Virginia Lynn, I HAVE NOT SEEN BETTY IN WEEKS! She doesn’t come over here anymore.”
“Mom, we just saw her YESTERDAY!” My tone wasn’t good. Not nice.
At that point, Mom picked up her hamburger and threw it at me. Hard. It landed all over my shirt and lap. I was a mess. I reassembled the burger, put it back on her plate and went to her bedroom closet to grab a clean shirt.
I could hardly gather my thoughts and was completely confused by what had happened. I put on a shirt of Mom’s and went back out to the family room. She didn’t even remark about my wearing her clothes and then she started talking about something else like nothing had happened.
There are several lessons here. One of them is that memories don’t stick. I really don’t think she had any idea of what she had just done. She went back to being her happy, loving self in a matter of minutes with no recollection of her nailing me with her lunch. Another lesson is that behaviors can be drastically different from what is normal for the person.
Suggestion: Try to keep your sense of humor. Looking back, I’m thankful that I was a least pleasant and didn’t start a food fight!