Earlier this month my mother died.
This was not completely unexpected. She had been deteriorating from the effects of frontotemporal lobe dementia for years. She had already beaten the odds by lasting so long, but the speed of her decline in the last few days was shocking. It is undeniably sad to have now lost her completely, forever.
Since 2010, the course of her disease was that she would suffer a sudden decline of ability that would stop and level out for a few months, perhaps even gaining back some of what was lost, then there would be another rapid decline. In this way over the last few years Mom lost her memory of my sister and niece and nephew. Then she lost her memory of me and then she forgot Dad. Though for a while after she forgot who Dad was, she would still look outside for his car, waiting for “him” to come visit. But in time that faded too along with what was left of her personality, vitality, and all those traits that made her who she was to us and to herself. In very real ways, Mom died inch by inch over the last few years.
That was a hard thing to watch happen to her… to Dad.
When she declined this Autumn we expected things to stabilize for a few months as it always had before, but that wasn’t to be the case. She developed some trouble walking. So I got her a wheelchair, but over the next weeks she kept declining. So I arranged for a hospice service to come to the assisted care facility where she lived to provide additional expertise and equipment as needed to maximize her quality of life. Hospice got Mom into a reclining wheelchair which was more comfortable. Next she began to have trouble eating, sometimes forgetting how as she became less and less engaged with the world around her. Mom’s last couple of days were spent in a hospital type bed.
Dementia had taken so much from her, but it also took away her ability to understand, to fear, to suffer. She died peacefully in the early afternoon of December 2nd.