There are no words to describe the pain of losing a loved one to Alzheimer's. I know the challenges from personal experience with my mother and years ago my grandmother.
Before my mother passed away last June, my father used to say, "I'm taking each good moment one at a time and squeezing every drop of joy out of it to savor and make it last!" As Mom's Alzheimer's got worse, those moments became fewer and fewer, but there was something we learned that made the hard days easier to handle.
One of the worst things you can do is argue with somebody with Alzheimer's. In the beginning it's really hard to do, because everything else in their behavior seems relatively normal. My wife, Sheila, used to be the best at it. If Mom said the sky was a beautiful shade of green she'd just run with it and agree.
Out of these challenges came some incredibly funny moments, that in turn have actually become pleasant memories.
We were watching a Lakers game one night when Mom looked at me and quite indignantly said, "What exactly do you do for the Lakers?"
My response: "Nothing Mom, they just pay me to watch!'
She came back with: "Well, they lost tonight and they're going to be depressed. Help me make them some pasta. They're still going to be hungry!"
The entire Lakers team was coming home for dinner later that night and nobody was telling Mom otherwise. She was making them pasta, even though she hadn't cooked in a couple of years.
Another time I came into their house only to find Dad in a state of panic. He absolutely didn't know what to do. I walked into the den and Mom was in her favorite chair in pain, doing a series of rapid breathing exercises over and over again.
The problem? Mom had watched "Father of the Bride 2" and the Alzheimer's had locked her into the scene where Diane Keaton was having a baby.
"Mom, what's wrong?"
"Shut up, I'm having a baby!"
"Mom, you're 86 years old. You're not having a baby!" It was all I could do to keep a straight face.
"Don't you tell me I'm not having a baby. Tell your father he's about to have another son!"
I went out to pick up Chinese food that night and by the time I got back, the whole scene was over and Mom was completely back to normal.
My mother always had a wonderful sense of humor and if for one minute she could have stepped outside her mind, she would have been standing there laughing with the two of us.
I don't want to offend anybody, especially since I understand the pain of Alzheimer's first hand. There are moments when the only thing you can do is laugh, because there will always be enough time for tears.
About Skip Cohen
Skip Cohen was introduced to the Friendship Centers early in 2012 when he started attending the Caregiver's Support Group in Sarasota. Since then he's become active in a wide variety of activities for the Friendship Centers including helping with this blog, social media on Facebook and Twitter and doing a podcast with Paula Falk, Ten Minutes With Paula, twice a month.
Outside of the Friendship Centers he has his own blog, an educational resource for photographers, SkipCohenUniversity.com and has co-authored six books on photography.