faces of two women

The Many Faces of Alzheimer’s

 February 26, 2024

Chances are you are familiar with the stereotypical faces of Alzheimer’s – empty gaze, lack of recognition of friends and family, incontinence. But there are so many more faces of Alzheimer’s, each as unique as the person behind the face.

Personal Experience with Alzheimer’s

In my twelve years as chaplain at a retirement community, I visited residents with Alzheimer’s in the health center associated with the community. By the time they were there, they had already passed into this stereotype. What I wasn’t familiar with was the many other faces of this mind wasting disease, until my mom began her journey.

I’m prepared for the eventual empty gaze, or at least as prepared as anyone can be. What I wasn’t prepared for was the repeated phone calls, saying she was scared and having to constantly reassure her that she was safe. Or sobbing calls as she turned the water works on and off when she didn’t get her way.

Or the constant calls asking, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know Mom. You tell me.”

And angry calls ending with the phone being hung up. Perhaps worst of all, repeating the same arguments over and over again, multiple times a day as she didn’t grasp what was said, and even if she did, she forgot the minute she got off the phone, or even before she hung up.

This has been going on for years, with increasing frequency.

Moving Mom to Memory Care

When we had to move Mom into a Memory Care facility, she questioned, “Why are you kids being so mean to me? Why are you locking me up in this prison?”

We explained she had wandered off and we were afraid she might go out of the assisted living into the bitter winter cold and not be able to find her way back.

“That’s ridiculous,” she insisted. “I never wandered off. When did I wander off? Don’t you want me to be happy?”

I mean, how many times and how many ways can you repeat the same unpleasant conversation, knowing no matter what you said, it would end in anger and/or tears. Sometimes distractions would work, but others …

My mom has always been like a dog with a bone when she fixates on something. This hasn’t changed, not yet anyway. I matter of factly state reasons only to have her go off on a tantrum. How many times can a person handle this? Not to mention her obsession with getting married at 93 with no ability to assess inappropriate suitors.

The Faces of Alzheimer’s – Mom

Certainly, this is not how I had envisioned my mom’s final years, nor is it what my mom would have chosen. It is what it is. Don’t know the reason why or if there is any reason. Is God teaching me something, or not? I would prefer to be able to have conversations, share treasured memories, talk about life and gather what wisdom Mom may have accumulated over her years. Instead, I have this: the harsh reality of a mind that is slipping away. No “Tuesdays with Morrie” are in our future.

I know there will come a time when the phone calls will stop, when Mom will fit the stereotype and stare off into space. Will I miss the calls then? Doesn’t seem possible now, but maybe.

I do know that I miss my mom.

She is already gone.

What has been your experience with Alzheimer’s? What other faces of Alzheimer’s have you seen?

Did you enjoy this post? Sign up to receive my blog posts and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, book two in my Dancing through Life Series.

click here to sign up

(Please note: in order to ensure you receive your free book, include my email address, patricia@patriciamrobertson.com, in your contact list. Some servers are quick to send emails they do not recognize to spam.)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.