Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reflections from the Old Folks Home

Two weekends ago, my sister and I had a sleep-over at my parents' home. It was quite an adventure. Several years ago they moved from the house we grew up in into a retirement community. My mother has Alzheimer's and taking care of her, a large house, lawn, and vegetable garden was just too much for my father.

I don't know how my father does it. So far he has shunned all outside help and is doing this all by himself. Taking care of someone with no short-term memory is a challenge. Even when I know it is not her fault, is it hard not to get snappy when she asks, "Where is my purse?" 5 times in the past 5 minutes (no exaggeration). I must seem callous, but until you have been there, you have no idea. As I have mentioned in countless other posts, I struggle with patience. This was quite the learning opportunity for me to gain some. (Once again, I don't know how he does it. I was there less than 48 hours, he is there 24/7.)

People with Alzheimers' disease gradually lose their memory. This includes remembering how to dress, bathe, and other activities of daily living. My tough and manly Dad has had to learn how to pick out Mom's clothes and put on her undergarments. (She's old school. Think girdle.) It's like taking care of a child, but painful. The child is learning to become independent. My mom is becoming more dependent with each passing day. Plus, my parents used to be equals and provide support for each other. Sometimes now she doesn't know who he is.

There were moments of frustration, laughter, and sadness that weekend. But there were two moments that I hope to hold forever in my memory. One was when he was facing her and combing her hair, getting her ready for church. The other was when my sister and I were leaving and they were walking hand-in-hand away from us. Both were endearing beyond words and held me momentarily spellbound.

My weekend at the old folk's home convinced me this disease is the utmost challenge of love. After almost 55 years of marriage, they are putting their vows to the test. In health and in sickness. I am in awe.


  1. All I can say is "Love Bears All Things" - Thank God for it!

  2. Wow, K, I had no idea about your mother! My grandmother lived with us in high school as she was living with Alzheimer's. I've been there, but as a callous teenager, but she wouldn't hurt a fly and now looking back I really cherish those years, but I never really knew the real Isobel Meador Brown and my heart aches for that because ... well, you know, it just does! And I love my dad and his sister so much they are two of the greatest people on the earth and to know their mother would have been really something, but as it turned out I was just a thoughtless kid when all the good get-to-knowing was going on. :-(

    thanks for sharing this amazing entry.

  3. Anonymous10:22 PM CDT

    I could say - been there, done that, and that is very TRUE. My Mom was so very, very special to me, and caring for her during the last 13 years of her life was a real challenge. I was not with her 24/7 like your Dad, but I was with her often. There were funny moments - my favorite being the morning she said to me - "Who is that man in the bed next to me", I replied - ..."that is your husband, Albert M. Hollowsay". Her reply - "Thank God, I am so glad you told me!".

    The first several years of her illness were very difficult for her. She knew what was happening, cried often, and would spend hours staring at the daily Newspaper at the day and date, trying to orient herself. The remaining years were easier for her, tho, of course, very difficult for Dad - particularly Dad.

    I remember praying in Church one Christmas Eve for her, asking God to spare her - all of us, really, her disease - HE answered me loud and clear, "Not in this life, but in the next". That was very comfortoing to me then, and now.

    I wish that your Dad would allow some help with her care - he needs to get out once in awhile, but I know that he has been stobborn.

    I am sorry about your pregancy - have not read your blog as yet, but I will. In the meantime, I will be sending you a great picture of my Dad; your Uncle Albert.

    Love you much,
    Cousin Ginny

  4. i related to this post so much ~ you captured two sweet memories from the weekend amid the hard moments!

  5. Anonymous7:40 PM CDT

    What a touching entry. Dad (and Mom) are grateful for your visit, your help, and especially your love that weekend. -M