The Heartbreak of Dementia

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by C.E.Robinson

This small woman grips the worn strap of a large black purse tucked at her side, and leans forward in the rocking chair.

Her gnarled fingers trace tiny rose petals in her skirt as if to find a path back to her life; the aging face of her daughter, her husband’s death, her 90th birthday party, her flower shop.

She sits in the same spot every day, near the entrance door, waiting for husband and daughter to take her home. The daily vigil stops when I call her name,

Ida Mae, let’s go back to your room and look at the photos of John and Olivia, and one we took last week with all the nursing staff at your ninetieth birthday party.

I visit often, hold her hand and tell her “back when I was a little girl” stories, she told me over the years. Triggering a lost memory, she smiles in the looking glass.

While she made flower arrangements, rainbow roses, lavender and hydrangea, I stood on a footstool to help clean up the work table.

She baked fresh apple pie in summer, cooked hot oatmeal in winter, fried donuts and donut holes all year round for neighbor kids.

I clutched every stray cat in my arms, and she walked me door to door to find the rightful owner.

She bandaged and kissed every bruise and scrape I got falling off my bike, or climbing the tangled oak tree in the front yard.

I tell her back only good mother stories not to burden her lost mind, and hope to see a flicker of life in her eyes.

She strokes the flower folds of her skirt, and her eyes brighten. She searches my face, and says, “You looks so familiar, but I can’t remember. I know you from somewhere.”

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About C.E.Robinson

Sunny southern California has been home for the past 25 years, a transplant from the east coast, Europe, Asia, and the northwest. In 2014 I retired as a nurse practitioner to be a stay-at-home writer, co-author, and blogger. From the blog beginning, Before Sundown has been honored with awards, and blog tours. I’m ever grateful for my dedicated worldwide followers who like, share and tweet posts. Before Sundown’s Welcome Page is full of glorious sunsets and sunrises. The New Featured Monthly Sunrise or Sunset Header and mini-bio promote and support blogger friends. What better way to keep the blog theme, “remember what made you smile” than to give visitors something to smile about! http://cerobinsonauthor.com
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57 Responses to The Heartbreak of Dementia

  1. Heartbreaking. I have occasion now to quite regularly visit a nursing home facility. What I find distressing is how many “memory care” patients are in a state of anxiety, usually fretting about something that they can’t explain. It must be awful to be trapped like that. I like the details of what a good mother Ida Mae was, but you allude to other types of stories that the daughter doesn’t recount to her mother. I wonder what?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara, thank you for your thoughtful comment sharing your experience visiting a nursing home facility. Ah, well, the other types of stories are your typical mother limit setting ones, and nothing extreme. Glad though that you wondered about what wasn’t recounted. The poem does generate thought!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Lovely words Christine and close to my heart. They are still there – just in a different time zone. When on occasion you occupy that same time zone in the past it can be magical..

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree, heartbreaking and so sweetly written with details that paint a warm memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jodi says:

    My heart feels this. Sweet, sad, loving…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amommasview says:

    Just made me cry… My dad has dementia… He is somewhere between still remembering on some days and not at all on others. It is hard on my mom, strange for me as I can only call him at this stage. And sometimes I wished he could just forget…

    Like

  6. See, now you’ve made me cry. The only time I really lost it when Dad was dying was the day he asked me me hazily, “Who are you?” I totally lost it. Fortunately the following day he knew me and called me by name. That was the week before he died. I think we never get over these things. You are SUCH a good writer ❤

    Like

    • Laura, thank you for expressing your thoughts and feelings based on the poem. The memories of dark days seem to stay with us, and we need to rejoice and hang onto the bright ones! I can imagine how confusing this is when loved ones forget and remember. It’s heartbreaking! My thoughts and virtual “shoulder” support are with you. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    I am such a mess these days. Suddenly the waves of grief roll over me. They knock me down and I feel like I am drowning in tears. I can’t even write, but it seems that other people are feeling the same, so I will pass their beautiful pieces on to you. I hope you’ll be patient with me while I try to keep my balance in these deep waters. Dad only left his body on October 2nd, 2014, so I need to cut myself some slack while these waves wash over me. Blessings to all of my wonderful readers, may you have the strength you need to navigate your own dark days, and may bright days light your way so you can find your way back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura, again my “shoulder” support when you remember the dark days! I’d say it will take some time before you can stay only with good memories of your time spent with Dad. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, for giving back, and for the reblog to help others find their way back from the darkness. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sierra says:

    Be kind to yourself, I know there are days where it is easier said than done. We will all be here when you are ready.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dbp49 says:

    I had the heartbreaking experience just two years ago of spending a few months with a man who had become a family friend, relatively young, having just reached his 60s, who in his earlier life had been a reporter, and at the time that I’m now recalling, was in the early stages of dementia. I was simply amazed at how fast the symptoms could come on. It went from a matter of simply forgetting where he had placed things, to being unable to remember what day it was, and finally, unable to even truly grasp what time it was, among all the more common things we here about so often. He would show up at my apartment 3:30 or four in the morning,thinking it was daytime, and ask me why all the stores were closed. The best I could do was to bring him in, and get him to lay down on my bed until he fell asleep while I sat and worked on the computer. I was the one, worried about his safety and his health, who finally had to call adult services because he could no longer look after himself, and they assigned a couple care workers to check in on him from time to time to make sure he was eating, and taking his meds and stuff. On one of the occasions while he was in the hospital and I was visiting him on a daily basis, I arrived to find out they transferred him to an old folks home. Because I wasn’t a blood relative, they weren’t allowed to tell me which home it was. I tried phoning several of the facilities, only to get same story from each one. To this day I don’t know what happened to Lloyd, I just know that he was separated from the one person he did remember, and that has always struck me as being pretty sad. But even that is not as sad as this disease, and my heart truly goes out to you, and your mother, for all it has stolen from you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My new wife’s Mum has dementia. It is so sad to watch her decline and her faculties wane. We have to hang on to what is left for as long as we can. Rage against the dying of the light….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A condition that I fear more than physical illness; pretty sure I’m not alone in that one. Reading this, I thought about the appeal of The Notebook to different generations. To the young, it is a sweet love story; to those a bit older, a story of perseverance. To watch that man live for brief moments of light in a mind and memory gone dark…heartbreaking. Your post captures that same sentiment. Nicely done, Christine. Van

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Van, for you comment! I agree loss of memory is a scary thought. The Notebook theme was heartbreaking! Seems we can endure physical illness much better as there’s usually treatment and recovery. Not so with progressive memory loss to its end, dementia.

      Like

  12. This tugs at the heartstrings of my heart. This is a heartbreaking story. ❤ ❤ ❤
    Who moved my Kleenex?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My grandmother is in the depths of Dementia and I felt this was beautifully put. I always think of this disease as like the end of a song; a slow fade out.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Poignant yet beautiful, Christine. It’s also wonderful that you’ve generated such a response from everyone. Great big hug! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. megdekorne says:

    So tenderly felt dear Christine … Your writing has a certain light within and it is lovely … blessings xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  16. lbeth1950 says:

    This is heartbreaking, yet comforting. Thanks so much. Dementia is so cruel. Reblogging on Nutsrok

    Liked by 1 person

  17. lbeth1950 says:

    Reblogged this on Nutsrok and commented:
    Reblogged from Before Sundown

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My mother was in the middle stages of dementia before she died last year, at the age of 91. Every time I would go to visit her, I was terrified that she might not remember me (her only daughter). It would have broken my heart. Maybe in a way, it was a blessing that she died of cancer before losing her mind completely. On her death bed, she still remembered each of her children, even though she could no longer remember exactly where she was and thought she was at home. My heart goes out to anyone whose parent is suffering from dementia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cordelia, your experience with your mother was heartwarming. It’s a blessing when parents remember their children right up the last day. It’s sad when dementia takes that away. Thank you so much for reading the post and making a comment. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  19. A sensitive post, and topical for me as my Mum has dementia. I avoid talking to her on the phone as she doesn’t know who I am, but I write letters every week and we try to visit as often as possible. At least it’s only a 125 mile journey each way instead of 250.
    She lives with my sister which is a blessing as she has immediate family around her/visiting often.
    We take her out for lunch if we can, and as we reminisce, we laugh, repeat things, chuckle, repeat questions, and talk about the things she can remember.
    At 92, each day is a gift, and whether we’ve visited or sent a letter, I always tell her I love her.

    Like

    • What a beautiful comment. It makes all the difference in your Mum’s life to have you there and write letters to her. Plus she’s with family! And she’s included in the family socializing. Thank you for reading the post and sharing you thoughts. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  20. macmsue says:

    My dad died at 98 and although his mind had deteriorated he didn’t have full on dementia. What did surprise me and give me pleasure was hearing stories from long, long ago. Maybe as he let go of his recent memories he had richer recall of old ones. I presume others have had the same experience.
    Your mum certainly raised a wonderful, caring daughter.

    Like

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. How wonderful that your Dad told you long ago stories and stayed in the happiness of those. It seems as if this does happen and it’s a blessing. My Mum was a very caring person and it must have passed onto me and my sister. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Reblogged this on pensitivity101 and commented:
    reblogged as I think of my Mum every day

    Like

  22. Dom says:

    This hits me both as a student nurse who is currently working in geriatrics, and as someone who has very recently seen family members go down this road. It is such a hard thing to watch as someone loses grasp of who they were. Beautifully written.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for your comment. And congratulations on your choice to become a nurse! It’s important to keep the memories alive for those loosing grasp of who they are, and for geriatrics struggling with memory loss. That’s where familiar objects like family pictures and reminders of important things written down are important. Best Wishes in your nursing career. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Dom says:

    Reblogged this on Thoughts from A Rambling Psyche and commented:
    A touching post about how terrible dementia is and how it affects us.

    Like

  24. This is so sad… I work in a hospital looking after elderly patients, many of whom have dementia. It is so heartbreaking for the relatives, seeing their loved one slowly disappear from them, just leaving the empty shell. It is such a cruel disease.

    Like

    • Edwina, you are so right about the cruelty of dementia. It’s so important to support the families to understand how to help their loved ones. Working with elderly patients can be difficult and it’s always gratifying to make them feel a little more comfortable while in the hospital. Thank you so much for your comment, and for your work with the elderly. Christine

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Premio Dardos Award | Myths of the Mirror

  26. A couple of days ago I popped into a local pub for a drink and something to eat. While there I meet an elderly gentleman with whom I converse on a fairly regular basis. I mentioned I had just come from the supermarket and he asked me where it was. I explained that it was directly opposite the pub (he goes there himself fairly regularly), however he replied that he didn’t know where it was or how to get there. This gentleman lives alone and could, I think benefit from the help of social services. However he is not a relative and I would hate to be the one responsible for curtailing his independence. I felt sad during our conversation but, at the same time helpless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drew, that’s a very sad situation. I think that elderly gentleman needs social services to help him before there’s a crisis in his life. It seems he does have memory problems and could get himself into serious trouble at home or get lost out on the road. There’s a reason why you are the one that spoke to him and realized that he needed help. Independence is only good if the person is responsible for his/her actions. This gentleman is on the brink of trouble. When you speak with him again, I’d ask some questions about how he is doing, and does he have any family nearby. It’s hard, however, brave to do the right thing sometimes! I’m happy that you read the post and had the courage to make your comment. Best Wishes to you! Christine

      Like

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