She Knows Me By Love – Visiting my Mom with Dementia

My mom doesn’t know my name…

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with dementia.  We had noticed the signs for years before her official diagnoses.  For a couple years after her diagnoses, she remained at home, under the care and watch of my father, and to most of the outside world, she appeared normal and healthy.  While her memory was deteriorating, and the mother that I knew was slowly fading into the cloudy underworld of dementia, I was still able to call and have conversations with her every day and visit about once per month.

When I’d call my mom, she’d answer right away and say loudly and cheerfully, “Hi Kev! How are you?”  I called at least once a day after her dementia diagnoses.  We’d often have the same conversations over and over.   As time passed, she began to forget more and more about me and eventually she was unable to carry on phone conversations.  Shortly after, she was moved into her nursing home.

I visit my mom in the nursing home as often as I can.  For the first couple of months, she’d recognize me right when I walked in and she’d say, “there he is, my baby boy!”.  She was no longer able to carry on a conversation, but I could talk about my life, update her on her daughters and grand children, and share old memories. She’d occasionally remember something, but for the most part she just smiled and laughed and enjoyed the interaction.

About a month ago, in an afternoon visit to see my mom, I walked in, my mom looked right at me, then looked away.  I then said, “Hi mom!” She looked at me again, and looked away again. The nurse said to her, “Its your son,” and she said, “Oh I don’t know.”  My mom did not know who I was.  I pulled up a chair to sit beside her and hold her hand.  She turned and looked close at me.  After a few seconds, she smiled and said, “I love you honey!”

My mom could not recognize me.  My mom did not know my name.   When my mom heard my voice, it was as if it was the voice of a stranger.  But, the moment my mom was next to me, she knew she loved me, and she knew she was loved by me.

It turned out that my mom was just having a bad memory day.  In future weeks, and to this day, she often recognize me the moment I walk in.  Sometimes she knows who I am, sometimes she needs to be reminded who I am, and other times she doesn’t remember me but she recognizes that I am someone she loves.

My mom does not know me by name;  She knows me by love.

The devastating part of dementia is that it seems to take everything from a person.  Dementia robs your memories.   It slowly shuts down your body.  For most,  caring for it is so expensive that it takes all your money and possessions too.  It takes all that, and then, eventually, it takes your life.  There is only one thing it does not take..

Love.

My mom has that in abundance.  My mom will always have that in abundance.

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