Love in the Time of Alzheimer’s

Posted on February 3, 2013


Sid sent me this article about the reaction of a person living with dementia to an old photograph. The man in this article seems to be in the middle stages of dementia. When he looked at an old photograph of himself with his girlfriend from decades ago, he recognized that the woman in the picture loved him. He did not know that the woman in the picture was standing in front of him, or who she was (in relation to the picture), yet he remembered the love.

This reminds me of something related to mom. Losing mom to Alzheimer’s was very confusing for me, a mere teenager. At times I wanted her to be my mother – hug me, comfort me, love me. Of course these were unrealistic expectations. The incident that I am about to narrate, dates back to the time when my mom was way past the middle stages. She, who could speak 4 languages, was no longer speaking more than a few words. She, who used to take children trekking, was no longer able to walk without assistance. She, who loved food, was no longer able to chew or swallow. She would sleep when we made her, and she would sit when we made her. She must weight around 29 kgs or about 63 lbs.

A rare smile, unaffected by Alzheimer’s – Middle Stages – Feb 1998

During this phase, it was terribly overwhelming at times to be her daughter-mother. There were tears I cried that no one saw. But she did. I would break down and put my head in her emaciated lap. And without any prodding, she would start stroking my hair and humming, “Aaa, aaa, aaa”, you know the sound that Indian mothers use to soothe their babies…that very same one. And in those moments, she was a mother again. Without her knowledge. I am not saying she was my mother, but she was A mother. If this is not love, I don’t know what is.

Posted in: love