By Ernie Brown
This month is bittersweet for me.
On the one hand, my daughter, Erin, turns 18, and I turn another year older.
But, this Mother’s Day won’t be the same because my mother is so far away.
She is not far away physically.
But she does live in her own world — the world of Alzheimer’s disease.
The family had seen some of the signs that my mother was slipping away mentally last year. There was the repetition of statements she already had made. She had trouble remembering minor things. She became easily disoriented.
My brother, Mark, had my mother tested, and Dr. Darrell Grace gave us the news we both suspected but really didn’t want to hear.
My mother had Alzheimer’s disease, and she could no longer live by herself. The disease is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
My niece, her husband and their daughter moved into my mother’s Campbell home to take care of her.
When my niece and her husband decided to move to Texas, my brother and I knew what we had to do. We had promised our father shortly before his death in 2004 that we would provide all the care my mother needed, and that included keeping her in her home as long as possible.
But that was now no longer an option. And with our work schedules, it would not be possible for her to live with us.
I give my brother all the credit for handling the paperwork, phone calls to social workers, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and the countless hours he racked up finally getting my mother into a nursing home.
He’s also handling the sale of our mother’s home in Campbell. He has great business savvy, and his job provides him with the flexibility to take care of most of my mom’s affairs. I forever will be indebted to him.
So, my mother finally entered Omni Manor Health Care Center on Vestal Road last summer.
The trips there have been trying.
My mother, now 79, does not recognize me most of the time. She can no longer read, hold conversations on the telephone, and she cannot count to 5.
As I sit with her and run my fingers through her hair or help her put on her shoes, I can’t help but remember that this is a woman who was once division manager of the children and infants’ wear department at Sears in Southern Park Mall. She was responsible for figuring out inventories, worker schedules, coordinating meetings with staff.
This was a woman who never forgot anyone’s birthday or anniversary.
And now, in her world, she believes she owns the nursing home.
On one visit, she told me she had been baking all day and wanted to know if I wanted a piece of her cake. I said, “Sure, Mom.” She opened up my hand and tenderly touched it. “There you go, sir,” she said. I put my hands to my mouth and told her it was wonderful. She smiled.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Some drugs can help slow down the disease’s progression. Hopefully, as research continues, a cure eventually will be found.
One of my mother’s good friends, Olga Kragel, has sent me literature on the disease, and she sends me encouraging notes from time to time. Thank you so much, Olga. I tell my mom you send your love every time I visit.
I also receive encouragement and prayers from church members who also have loved ones suffering from the disease.
The staff at Omni is doing a great job caring for my mother, and I want to thank you for all your efforts.
So, on Mother’s Day 2009, I will be at the nursing home to share that special day with a special woman. I know you can’t read this, Mom, but your oldest son loves you very much.