Mom exhibited the first signs of Alzheimer’s in what I call conversational loops. She would tell the same story or ask the same question three times in five minutes. Unfortunately, I didn’t always respond with kind words. The possibility of losing her to this mind-wasting disease frightened and angered me, and sometimes, I took it out on her. One morning while she and Dad were still living on their own, I stopped by to take her to the doctor, and she was having a bad morning. I guess I was, too. I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but she looked at me with hurt in her eyes and said, “Well, you don’t have to make me feel bad about it.” I don’t have to tell you how small I felt.
Later on, when they were living with me and she was further away mentally, she would come to me in an agitated state. She would struggle with words, trying to express whatever concern she had. More often than not, she was unsuccessful, and her agitation increased. Fortunately, I had mellowed a bit, and most times I responded more kindly. Wrapping her in a big hug, I’d smile and say, “It’s okay, Mom. Why don’t you go back and watch TV with Dad. I’ll be right here, and you can come tell me when you remember what it was.” She would relax and smile, and then she’d go sit down until the next time she needed some kind words.