We sent balloons to my mom for her 82nd birthday celebration exactly one year ago. It was the first time she had been out to see her friends in six months due to COVID. Her cognitive functioning was starting to decline. We could tell that over the phone. But we didn’t know about the physical deterioration.
Three days later she was in the emergency room. Over the next two months my sister took care of her and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as her cognitive abilities and memory declined further. Next stop, a memory care community near my sister. Her mental deterioration continued.
After a fall that broke her wrist, several ribs, and damaged already weakened vertebrae, she was hospitalized to get her pain under control. Significant dementia, a weakened physical condition, a need for 24-hour pain management caused her to be released to a hospice facility. After two months focused on comfort, she had a neurological incident. As a hospice patient there is no hospital visit to determine causes. Her comfort is paramount, not cause or cure.
It is amazing that all of this has happened in one year. This roller coaster of condition has plummeted so fast. Faster than normal compared to most dementia patients. But the physical spikes of the journey have sped up the decline significantly.
I have talked to her on Saturdays for so many years that I didn’t even realize how much it meant to me. More recently they turned into zoom calls on Saturday. It continued the ritual even if it became a one-way conversation. Now that those have ended, I’ve been collecting things that I haven’t told her. My son’s new job. How my job is going. Trips that Deborah and I are planning. And there are future things I won’t ever get to share with her. Graduations. The next stages of my kids’ lives. The next stage of my life with Deborah.
Alzheimer’s is called the long goodbye, but it seems like I said goodbye to my mom a long time ago. I even said goodbye to “Marjorie,” the person she had become without her memories, two months ago when we last visited. I don’t know where her journey goes next, but each stage, whether gradual or rapid, ends with saying goodbye to another version of mom.