WHAT is torture to me? Forcing me to watch “The Greatest Love” soap opera and other video on Facebook or television about mothers suffering from dementia or its most common type, Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m glad “The Greatest Love” series on ABS-CBN ended last month because my friends or family members do not have to coax me anymore into watching it. Then there are these videos that pop up on my social media account on a son documenting his mother’s struggle with dementia or a woman with Alzheimer’s trying to figure out what to do next.
Watching these videos would be like torturing myself, bringing back moments when I sat with my mother, Clara B. Cabaero, as she lived with dementia. There were good times like when she readily smiled at people, even strangers, and repeated her exhortation of “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Mama Mary.” There were also times when she forcefully insisted on her ways, only to break down when she felt lost. Mom passed away on January 22, 2015 at the age of 87.
Before her bouts with pneumonia and her inability to communicate with us, I was warned of the effects of dementia or the decline in her mental activity. There was memory loss, lack of focus, depression, and the risk of wandering and becoming lost.
What I learned during those years was how to make moments with my mother count. The challenges were few, and the rewards tremendous.
Jolene Brackey wrote in her book “Creating moments of joy” that when a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments.
“We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with those who have dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create perfectly wonderful moments – moments that put smiles on their face, a twinkle in their eyes or trigger memories. Five minutes later, they won’t remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger.”
I imprint in my mind those moments with my mother when, befuddled by her surroundings and lost in her repetitive questions, I hug her, bring her head to my chest, and assure her she is home and everything is fine.
I was lucky to have lived with my mother and father for several years before they passed on. Those moments made me stronger, gave me opportunities to know myself better.
“Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Mama Mary.” My mother’s exhortation said several times in a day.
My siblings in the United States have participated in activities toward having a better understanding and research on Alzheimer’s. The movement to end Alzheimer’s (information at alz.org) envisions a world without this disease. Every year, a Walk to End Alzheimer’s is held in the United States to bring together families to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
My family joined the walk on Oct. 29 last year. They wore t-shirts that bore our mother’s photo.
Those who have family members struggling with dementia are encouraged to seek medical help for them because there are several stages to the disease and medication might still help.