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The Unpredictable Nature of Dementia

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Funny thing about dementia—it’s hard to predict. More times than not, Mom forgets what happened five minutes ago. But every now and then, she doesn’t. If it is something good, like we are spending the next day with her grand daughter and great grand daughter, she’s up before me and in the shower—when it usually takes 45 minutes of me cajoling her to get going in the morning.

But other times, it’s something that upsets her, and she doesn’t forget it. The lingering is more emotion than specific details. And it can be very stressful for her. And impossible to foresee. That’s what happened this morning.

It’s Thanksgiving and my brother is in town to be with the whole family. Late last night, we made plans for breakfast this morning, with turkey et al scheduled for 3 PM. She didn’t like that plan last night. If we ate breakfast at 11 AM, no one would eat dinner at 3. She didn’t fight it too hard, but she thought it was poor planning.

No big deal. We went to bed and that was that. She had spent the last few days completely forgetting what day it was, and even swearing to me that I was born and raised in Sarasota, FL as opposed to Geneva, NY. (another blog to follow on that)

So this morning, there was a slight change in plans that occurred around 9 AM. Instead of going out for breakfast around 11, we were going to my sister’s for bacon and eggs. I had told my sister not to wait on us. There was no way I could get Mom moving in the time it took to scramble a few eggs. We’d get there when we got there.

I said to Mom, “We’re going to [my sister’s] for breakfast. I’ll feed animals if you want to get going get dressed.” That was it. That’s all I said. As promised, I went to feed the zoo, get the newspaper, and make our coffee and tea. I heard water running in the bathroom, and thought, “Cool.” I chalked it up to her remembering my brother is in town, and today is Thanksgiving. One of those good memories that gets her going.

Nope.

A little, very little while later, I walked passed her bedroom and there she was, underwear and bra, putting on her make-up. I said, “Wow. That was a quick shower.” She normally is in the bathroom at least a half hour or more.

She turned to me with exasperation and proclaimed, “I didn’t take a shower! I’m just dressing for breakfast and then I’ll come home and dress for dinner.”

Uh. Ok. Odd. But I guess I can work with that. Mom really doesn’t need to take a shower every day, it’s not like she sweats all day. She’d be having such a good time that she’d forget she’d only washed up this morning, and we’d not have to come back. I started the shower for myself, but before I could hop in, she was stressing.

“This is a bad idea! No one will eat dinner if we have breakfast now! No one plans!”

Oh Christ.

I told her it would be fine. We weren’t having a big breakfast, just bacon and eggs. Not even going out, just at my sister’s.

But it just wouldn’t compute.  That bad emotion she had been feeling last night was dug in like a tick on a dog. It had twisted and turned all night long and now she was huffing and doing that little dual-hand raise thing she does when all is lost and no will listen to her.

In hindsight, I should have just lied to her. I should have told her dinner wasn’t until 6, and everyone would be starving by then. But I didn’t. I tried to reason with her. Tried to assure her it would be ok. In my defense, I had not had my coffee yet, so I wasn’t on my A game.

That’s what I mean when I say dementia is unpredictable. Until she first said, “This is a bad idea!” I had no reason to believe anything was amiss. But once it was amiss, it was most definitely amiss. And I realize now that it was the word “breakfast” that had been the catalyst. I could have used that word in the context of any word jumble—

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The sky is blue and breakfast is delicious.

Breakfast is to noon and as lunch is to 6 PM.

Breakfast triggered her emotions from the night before, and there is  no way to have known it would.

 

I'm a blogger and freelance copy editor/proofreader. I am also a full-time caregiver, taking care of my mom, who has memory loss and mild cognitive dysfunction. I am also a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils and often blog about them.

1 comment on “The Unpredictable Nature of Dementia

  1. I can completely relate! When my dad got our home today from his memory care home, he kept asking if my mother had been invited over, too. My mother died three years ago. So some version of the same question was repeatedly asked throughout the morning.

    I thought he would take a little nap and it would be a new day, but the question continued. He ended up getting extremely agitated and demanded to know where she was. Of course I tried to come up with a good answer, but it the truth had to be told.

    He tested up for a few seconds and I felt so bad. I hate Alzheimer’s. In a few minutes he asked me, “well, who is that lady I’m with where I live?” I don’t know who he is referring to! I guess he has a new woman in his life!!!!

    Maybe he will remember to introduce me to her later on!!!!

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