Janet Chamberlin

First post: Aug 30, 2017 Latest post: Sep 6, 2017
=================Welcome to our CaringBridge website.  I am using it to keep family and friends updated in one place ======================

     Mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and it has progressed to a point where she is terribly impaired by it.  As a result of the disease, mom slowly lost contact with you, her community of friends and extended family.  She forgot phone numbers, lost addresses, and eventually lost all memory of you.   My purpose in setting up this site is not to restore your communication with her, because she cannot remember you.   My purpose is to let you know what happened to her.  Mom was always so good about sending out letters or emails periodically to communicate with others.  She would want you to know that she didn’t just stop caring about communicating with you.  If you are one of the friends who tried to stay in touch, you probably experienced calling her and finding that she did not know you at all.  Please don’t take this personally; her disease wreaked havoc on her memories.  I hope to give you an update on not only her condition but her life for the past few years.  I know that she would like this information to be shared with you.  So here is her story: 

      Mom has been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for probably about six years now.  I say probably because it came on gradually and subtly, so it is hard to pinpoint exactly when it started. She was living in her own home in Bowling Green, KY, when I first began to notice the changes.  Eventually it became clear that she needed to live close to me (Dubuque, IA) so that I could look after her.  This was about four years ago. Mom didn’t like my old house (1851) too well, with its stairs, uneven floors and chilly winters.  So we moved her into her own apartment in a beautiful senior living facility in Dubuque.  We furnished and decorated it with items from her Bowling Green house, and she said many times how much she loved her apartment.  She was allowed to bring her little dog Gidget with her.

      This facility provided all her meals and housekeeping.  Although this facility offered “assisted living” services, we didn’t utilize them because they were geared to physical needs and mom didn’t need that kind of help at the time.  People who suffer from Alzheimer’s need a certain kind of assistance, which is related to keeping track of things, keeping things straight, both in their living environment and in all the details of their life.  This kind of help was my job; I became her “assisted living”.  My goal was to support her in living as normal a life as possible, while keeping her safe.  She could see her grandchildren, attend activities and there was always soft serve ice cream on tap.  She gradually regained the weight she had lost in Bowling Green when she wasn’t eating well.  She was no longer a target for unscrupulous people who would take advantage of an elderly person living alone.  She had support for coping with her memory loss.          

      The year 2016 was the last year that mom was able to live independently.  She had lost most long term memories of events and people in her life, but she retained recent memories of people and events in her day to day life.  She had a small heart attack, but she recovered completely pretty quickly.  Despite this, last year was a good year for her, and looking back I am amazed at how she was able to live as well as she did with her dementia.  She was not able to remember the names of new people, yet she made friends with them.  She had made a good friend who lived across the hall who was very sweet and always ate breakfast with her.  This lady had some memory issues also, and I told my girls she was a perfect friend for their grandma.  Grandma never remembered how often her friend repeated herself!  I was also surprised when my mom acquired a new boyfriend last year.  When an Alzheimer’s patient acquires a new close friend, it causes a raised eyebrow, I know.  So I got to know the boyfriend, and I was glad to find out that he was just a kind man who had lost his wife, enjoyed my mother's company and did not mind her memory problems.  The companionship of this relationship has been a great blessing for my mom. 

    Sadly, mom started declining much faster right around the beginning of this year.  She shifted from just being confused and forgetful to actually losing some of her grounding in reality.  It quickly became apparent that she needed constant supervision.  We hired caregivers to stay with her at her apartment in a rotation with me. When the Alzheimer's began causing walking problems,  I moved her into an assisted living facility memory care unit.  This was a really nice place that felt homelike, and they provided the care she needed with her walking difficulties.  She had good days and bad days there, just like all of us.  Sometimes she seemed to be content there, playing the piano and singing, and chatting with the other residents.  Other times she was discontent and wanted “to go home".   Other times she seemed to be reliving memories of being happily busy.  She would often tell me about her busy day and her work with the kids or other folks.      

     I wish mom could have stayed at this place, but she eventually stopped walking entirely and stopped being able to stand.  Her needs began to exceed the level of care offered by this facility, and I was forced to move her to a nursing home.  She stayed there a few weeks for physical therapy which did not help.  It was time to find a more permanent place for her, so I moved her one more time to a nursing home that I like better.  That was three days ago. 

      I tried to keep mom out of a nursing home for as long as possible.  Now that her condition has deteriorated so much that I have no other choice, I find myself thankful for the team of caregivers who are willing to care for my mom and others like her.  I am grateful for their skill and patience, and for those who created the technology and tools that help them.  I love to spot the ones who truly love their elderly residents and enjoy serving them.  I also like to hear their surprised reports of how mom spoke Spanish around them.  (Yep, she still remembers some Spanish.)             

      Mom has retained her belief in God, her faith in Christ and her habit of prayer.  However, she has forgotten just about everything in the bible.  She listened with fascination each time I retold her the story of Job and other stories in the Bible.  She smiled each time that I assured her that she would not always be like this….that she would be completely well one day.  I told her that God will heal her here on earth or one day in heaven, and I saw her enjoy this good news every time she heard it from me.

      Lately I don’t talk to her about getting well, because she doesn’t realize any more that she is sick.  At any given moment, she has forgotten that she can’t stand up. If I mention her problem with walking she looks at me with a puzzled expression.  Or I get a “that’s crazy talk, Christy” from her.  I am thankful that mom still remembers me, although I don’t know for how long she will.  When I visit her she always says, “I am so glad you are here.  I love you very much.”  Sometimes she says, “you are such a pretty young lady”.  I thank her and tell her that I don’t know about the young part – that I am 50 years old now.  This always comes as a surprise to her.             

     So that is the story of mom and her illness, at least so far.  I may have glossed over some aspects of the dementia – some things are too painful or too personal.  I miss my mom already, because she is just a shell of the person she was.  This seems like a terrible ending for such a loving person as my mom.  But the MAIN THING I want to say is this:

     It’s not the end.  It’s all about to begin for her!  I am confident that my mom will enter heaven after she dies.  She made her peace with God a long time ago, and she did it His way.  A lot of people think they should make sure their good deeds outnumber their bad stuff so they can be measured as good enough for heaven. This is not God’s way.  God, being a loving God, and a just God, made a way for his justice to be satisfied so his love could be enjoyed.  Jesus is that way.  God said in the bible that Jesus’ death on the cross was the only sacrifice for our sins that He will accept.  The bible teaches that we must not only believe that Jesus died and rose for our sins, but also we must agree with God that He is in charge and repent of our sins.  We must be converted.  My mom believed this and lived it all her life.  I feel a great joy knowing what is in store for her!               




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