Friday, June 4, 2010

A Double-Edged Sword

I have just been up to New Plymouth to visit my elderly mother who is in a Rest Home there. She elected to go into the Rest Home herself five years ago when she realised that she could no longer cope living alone in her own home. She has been widowed for nearly fifteen years now.

She has good genes for longevity as her own mother lived to be 100. She herself is 86 and she used to be a very physical, active person playing golf and bowls and swimming in the surf during the summer. But about five years ago she started having these things called by the medical profession, TIAs. This stands for "transient ischaemic attack" which is a kind of "mini stroke". These started affecting her memory, firstly short-term then progressively worse, then her long-term memory and also gradually her mobility. When she went into the home, she could walk and then she needed a Zimmer frame and now she is wheeled everywhere in a wheelchair and has great difficulty standing up.

I love my mother very much. When I was growing up, my mother taught me a lot about caring and compassion and fairness and social justice. She has a good, loving heart and is very empathetic. Living far away, I don't get the chance to see her as often as I would like so I cherish the time I spend with her.

But I always feel sad after a visit to see her because I guess I yearn for the mother who could drive and walk and play sport and travel to see her grandchildren. Now even sustaining conversation is difficult because she has nothing much to talk about. Her days are spent having meals and sitting around and she seems to do very little else. She was once a voracious reader, but I don't think she reads at all any more because she lacks the concentration.

She does not have dementia to the extent that she doesn't recognise anyone. She knows who everybody is and knows her grandchildren when she sees them. She luckily has her faculties reasonably intact, but she cannot remember what happened ten minutes ago.

I don't know if she will deteriorate to the point where she no longer recognises me. I hope not, but seeing my mother is bittersweet. I am pleased she is content and well cared for, but I miss the mother I used to know.

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