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Cognitive Declines


The last thing my husband said to me before sleep last night (just before he told me he loves me and to sleep well), was that I needed to write the stories about my mother and all of the stories about our journey together through the new landscapes she and I are discovering. I was tired and muttered something about having too much to do already.


My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. I have learned that the disease manifests differently in each person. I don’t think a lot about stages of the disease. It makes me feel disconnected from her. Yet, certainly there are cognitive declines or events that signify that the supports she needs to keep her safe have changed. Yesterday was one of those days.


I received an email from a friend at church in the morning telling me that my mother had been in the audience for her gospel choir the night before and looked like she was having a really good time. She said she was really happy to see her there. I was surprised to hear that my mother had made her way to see the choir and wondered who she went with. Later in the morning, I picked her up. We had a packed agenda: church, out for lunch and shopping for lingerie with her at The Bay.


Mum lives in a residence that requires clients to be autonomous. That is, supports are not provided to assist with daily functions: dressing, eating, and so on. If residents are not able to abide by these regulations, they are required to leave.


I arrived at my mother’s door and said, “Oh, I understand you went to hear the gospel choir last night – how were they?” She was shocked that I knew and her face revealed an even deeper amazement. She smiled and said, “Well I got lost but there is one good thing that came out of last night – now we know that I can’t go out on my own anymore”. A deep foreboding silence filled the room.


The details leaked out over the next 8 hours that I was with her. That is, what details that could leak out considering that she has no capacity for memory. All that I could ascertain was that she wasn’t outside and so must have taken an underground tunnel connecting her residence to the hall where the choir was performing. She sat in several rooms alone before she was guided to the room holding the performance. I know the show was sold out so I can’t imagine how she got in other than with the generosity of strangers and that thereafter someone who was working there assisted her in finding a route back to the residence. When she arrived, the nurse told her she had been concerned about her absence. She hadn’t been there for supper and it must have been 9 o’clock by the time she returned to the residence. When she asked, the nurse assured her that no, she hadn’t called me and that no one else knew. Mum asked her what she should do next and the nurse told her to return to her room.


Several times that afternoon she said that she made a new rule for herself , not to go out alone anymore , and hoped everything would be fine. I wonder though, how she is supposed to abide by that new rule if she can’t remember it?


Cognitive decline challenges! Our lives won’t continue as they have been from here on. I don’t know what that will look like I only know for sure that change is constant. Uncertainty is my certainty. Another reminder that my meditation focus of being in present is my closest ally in this journey with my mum.


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© 2019 by Margot Hovey, PhD