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Gifts and Dementia

Gifts & DementiaMy mother died slowly, over years and years, bit by bit getting more lost in a cloud of dementia. She wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but the TIAs (transient ischemic attacks or mini-strokes — dozens and dozens of them) sure looked like it.

It was her worst nightmare and a really horrible way to go.

When Christmas and Mother’s Day and birthdays rolled around, it got more and more difficult to figure out what to do. If I did nothing, she wouldn’t really know — or care. She was so ill and was unable to do much of anything but sit and watch TV or go for drives in the car. Since she lived in Utah and I in Florida, sharing those two events in any way were out of the question.

Still, this was my mom. How could I do nothing for her?

Finally, in desperation, I ordered her some flowers to be delivered. Even though I love flowers myself, I felt like a cop out. Rather than give her something meaningful, I gave her something cliché.

A few days later, my dad called and my mood changed entirely. Because my mom had virtually no short term memory — and she loved flowers — getting a gorgeous bouquet was the perfect gift. Every time she walked down the stairs, she saw the beautiful flowers and — having completely forgotten the delivery — she excitedly gushed, “Oh! Who sent these wonderful flowers!”

According to my dad, she rejoiced in the glory of the flowers multiple times every single day.

Now you may say it’s a strange thing to blog about the perfect gift for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. And I guess I would agree. But coming across a gift for my mom that, even in that terrible condition, actually brought happiness to her — over and over again — was a real gift to me. For my mom it was a vase of fresh cut flowers.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • susan October 18, 2011, 6:11 am

    Such a sad story! when my mum was dying, I couldn’t help her anyway as she had cancer and the doctors told us to wait till the end comes. We waited and were absolutely desperate about it.

  • Vicky October 19, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Wow, flowers sounded like the perfect gift for your mom! What an unfortunate situation though. It is hard when you love some one so much but are unable to communicate it the way you’d like.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 19, 2011, 6:38 pm

    susan, I’m so sorry for your pain. Sometimes the waiting is years long and it’s very painful to watch loved ones suffer. Really, though, I think this was one bright — if odd — part of dealing with this kind of mental and physical deterioration. Thank you for commenting.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 19, 2011, 6:39 pm

    So true, Vicky. I mourned the loss of my mom years before she actually died. When we know longer could communicate and build our relationship, things took more of a maintenance mode. My dad still misses her terribly. 🙁

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