Monday, January 18, 2010


As a first generation Italian American my mother was the first in her family to go to college which is even more impressive for a female in 1938.  She always intended to be a teacher. While her sisters played "wife" or "mommy", Adelaide always played "teacher".  She reached her goal and lived out her ambition as a much-loved and widely respected educator for more than 40 years before retiring.

Along the way she also married, had three children and was very involved in clubs, organizations, politics and her church.  This was not a woman to be ignored nor to be taken lightly and she never was.  My mother had the gift of what we now call "people skills".


It has been a long, slow and depressingly steady downward progression of symptoms.  I liken the position of caregiver to that of a stay-at-home mom but with a very distinct difference.  It's all in reverse.  We have all the same duties and responsibilities of a soul totally dependent upon us for all of life's essentials.

Parents have the luxury of embracing every day with the knowledge that life is getting easier.  Infants slowly become little people.  They begin to recognize faces, they find language and they get potty trained.  The timeless miracle of life brings the awesome joy of a developing personality.

The caregiver of an Alzheimer's patient has to memorize every moment and be grateful for another day of speech or one more day of being recognized by the woman who gave you life.  We have to witness all the characteristics of adulthood disappearing one at a time.


I have found it most helpful and comforting to remember the woman that my mother has always been.  Adelaide no longer speaks intelligible words although she often tries to communicate in her made-up language of sounds and intonation.  She smiles when she sees people.  I see the remains of the wonderful personality that she had.  I tease her and joke with her and sometimes she rewards me with a belly laugh.  That's the best gift.  

Most importantly is that I talk to her constantly.  I talk about current events.  I reminisce about our many travels.  I gossip about the family and I complain to her.  I also have a TV on for her during waking hours for stimulation.
The point is that no one knows how much she comprehends.  No one knows what she's thinking [except when she gives her disapproving "teacher" face] or what she would like to be saying.  

Evidence has proven that even patients in coma hear and understand some of what the outside world is communicating.   


Nothing annoys me more than ignoring or discounting my mother.  Most of the doctors, nurses and aides that we have dealt with have been terrific.  Then there are the others.  I have witnessed nurses entering her hospital room and proceeding to stick her with needles or poke or move her without even acknowledging her.  They could be tending to a stone for all the humanity they exhibited.  

The best of the home health workers that we have had, and there has been a parade of them over the past 10 years, treat their patients as I do.  That is a gift.  

This failure to acknowledge is not limited to strangers or professionals.  It is most difficult to understand when this behavior is shared by the occasional friend or family member.  I know we all have are own way of handling difficult and uncomfortable circumstance but sometimes I just want to yell 


 Not only only is it the right thing to do but it will make you feel better.  Facing this situation we all need comforting.


  1. i was reading this and annabelle heard the music...she asked what i was reading.
    I read her the whole blog about your mom...she was intrigued.
    Four years old....I'm impressed.
    Beautiful picture of Ad..

  2. i think this is like reliving ALL my adult life AND learning about life before i was a lanni...great fun and touching................b

  3. Cheryl DeLaVallierreJanuary 19, 2010 at 6:51 AM

    Chris, I work as a Home Care Health Provider and have for many years, part-time. I have found over my years of experience that if they do the work, they do it because they truly enjoy the benefits. There is are so many lifes lessons to be learned from an aging senior and you just brought a tear to my eye this morning. I worked for 9 years with a woman called Anne Remis, she wrote a book at the age of 89, you can find a blog about it under Miss Teach. The lessons I learned from her over a period of 9 years truly inspired me to be a better person. Thanks for sharing your story. xo

  4. Well said. The people who are great deserve thanks. Those who are unable to deal, get out of the way!