During a brief period of lucidity in my mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s, she told my sister, “I think my brain is shrinking.” She had also once asked me if I could tell that her mind was going fast. Interestingly enough, our mother had battled depression and mood swings a great portion of her life, so we were accustomed to wondering what frame of mind she would be in at any given point. After the Alzheimer’s set in, however, we couldn’t believe that we would wish for the earlier days.
An excerpt from the book I wrote about the experience says: “My friend Beverly has been referring to Mom as ‘the new Blanche’ for some time now. When people ask me how Mom is, I say that she lives in another country and speaks another language. I find that when I talk to her and she responds, the answers I give her are like those given to a small child who alone knows what they are talking about. So, I respond with comments such as, ‘Oh, okay. For real? Uh-huh, I see. Was that today?’ This encourages the speaker to continue, but the listener has no clue of the speaker’s train of thought.”
Rather than being condescending, responses such as these are simply a way to take the pressure off a loved one to carry on meaningful conversations when they no longer can. And it takes the pressure off the caregiver to expect them to communicate as they did before, or to even understand what they are talking about. Just travel with them and appreciate who they are today; it will help you both enjoy your time together.