My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. After experiencing her third fall and broken bone we decided she could no longer live alone. Since none of us have suitable accommodations, in our homes, we had to make the tough decision of where to move her to. After recovering from her injury through hospitalization and rehabilitation she was transferred to an Alzheimer’s facility.
Now that she’s settled in we have begun the process of preparing her home and automobile for sale. Before being able to place her home on the market there is a lifetime’s worth of memories and belongings to sift through. The task of tackling her belongings began recently. One by one each door, drawer and closet was opened. Behind and within each area was a surprise waiting to be discovered. Some of the items are those typically found and some are bazaar in nature. When a person’s mind is ravaged by Alzheimer’s it is as if a Mixmaster has been applied to their memory, their personality, to every aspect of their being. This jumbling of brain matter leaves them in a state of confusion. The disorientation brings about strange and often aggressive behavior.
If you’ve ever watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind” then you have seen a sampling of what its like to have Alzheimer’s and to be around someone with the disease. Their sense of reality shifts to the darker side. Anything and every negative characteristic they may have suppressed or secretly harbored rises to the surface. The scales of right and wrong spiral downward.
This shift to confusion and negativity brings about bazaar behavior. Everyday appliances and gadgets are misplaced or hidden. Hand written notes of negative thoughts are written in and on everything. The notes leave a trail of despair, perhaps previously kept private now exposed to anyone that happens to come across it. With the revelations coming forth during our discovery process it is disturbing to realize the level of despair your loved one lives on a daily basis. Alzheimer’s is something I would not wish on my worst enemy.
This process of wading through your loved ones possessions is sad not only because it means saying goodbye to a home you’ve either lived in or visited for decades but also because the lucid connection your relative had to the present is gone. Being lost in a jumbled up sense of reality they are unable to share the history or sentiment layered behind their cherished belongings. There are pieces of the family history that are now gone forever. Pieces that should have been passed on long before now.
As we cleared out each cup, dish, and saucer I was reminded of just how important it is to stay connected to the important people in your life. The things that they leave behind are not as important as their memories. Once their mind is gone those memories fade away and so to important pieces of the family.
Hug your loved ones while they still remember your name. Spend time with them. Glean as many memories from them as you can. If possible keep a journal. When your loved one is gone either through death or a mind ravaging disease like Alzheimer’s all you will have left is a home full of things and your memories. Memories are important, things are not.