1. Get a diagnosis. See a dementia diagnostic specialist or a neurologist.
2. Find a dementia home care specialist and hire them right away to help you navigate this journey.
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Nasturtiums in red and yellow spotted at Kalaloch Lodge on the morning of her birthday remind me of my mom's beloved hummingbird feeders.
Today is my mother's birthday.
I sent her flowers and a card with a drawing of a hummingbird. Inside, I wrote her a note about the hummingbirds that would swarm around the feeders on her deck at home. She used to love to watch them.
I didn't know what else to get her.
Place mats and cloth napkins.
Pretty baking dishes.
A big red Fiestaware bowl.
Books. Anything by John Grisham or Jodi Picoult.
Jigsaw puzzles galore.
These are the kinds of gifts I used to buy her.
Her life has moved beyond those needs.
My mom has advanced Lewy Body Dementia. Most days, she gets out of bed. She still enjoys a chocolate milkshake or an ice cream bar. A Heath Klondike is her favorite.
Her memory is surprisingly sound.
When we talk, she remembers me, my daughters, my dog. She remembers her old students and her teaching buddies. Her world travels. Her college days and high school days and a few sweet stories from her childhood. She listens attentively while I spin out the memories, and she responds to me. I know she understands. I know she loves to hear those stories.
She usually drifts off to sleep within ten or fifteen minutes.
I wish I knew more about what this life is like for her.
She's always been a smart, busy, resourceful person, flitting from project to project and working tirelessly from morning till night. And she's always been an emotionally complex person, with deep feelings and powerful hurts that she has locked up deep inside for a lifetime. Her dementia intensified all of these traits, and the past decade has been frantic, frenzied, furious, like the beating of a hummingbird's wings against a hurricane.
Now, the storm seems to have passed.
All things considered, she seems surprisingly at peace.
Though I still wish I could give her a perfect birthday present, it seems that somehow, she has found the best gift of all.
And now she rests.