You spend this journey wrapped up in the Alzheimer’s, but the Alzheimer’s is not the only problem. In January of 2020, mom could still speak well enough to let us know things like “My knee hurts,” so we were able to address discomforts and problems effectively, for the most part.

Mom certainly had more than Alzheimer’s to battle. She had dental hardware mishaps that needed attending, trouble with her hearing aids, dry eyes, and the left knee. Add to that the emotional baggage that comes with the disease: loneliness, depression, anger, frustrations, fear, …

As mom’s ability to communicate jammed up in the disease, I’m grateful we were familiar her “regular” problems. I’m sure we didn’t always sort out every little ache and pain, but knowing the patient helps. Later, when we had sitters, nurses, and nurse’s aides, we were able to communicate the kinds of things that might come up.

The Alzheimer’s will take over, but it’s not the only problem. Older problems may persist, and new ones will manifest. Even though they lose cognitive and communicative skills as the disease progresses, trust them if they act like they are in pain. They probably are.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023
A cane

Mom comes over sporting a cane today.

What’s wrong?
My knee.
The right one?
No, this one, pausing to wave the cane at the left knee. I wish they would finish what they’re doing.

She’s holding the cane in her right hand, which is correct, but she’s moving it with the right knee, which is wrong.

What they’re doing?
Yeah. You know . . .

Thinking . . . I don’t really know.

You mean, the exercises? The PT?

Physical Therapy

Today is Thursday, and it’s been gray, cloudy, humid, and foggy since we took a short road trip on Monday. I took her for PT on Wednesday. All my joints feel achy from this gray weather. Could that be the problem?

When you go back Friday, you need to tell them . . .
I don’t think I’m going back. My knee hurts.
But you’re going because your knee hurts. They’re supposed to help make it better.
Well, I don’t know, as she almost trips over an ant bed.
You need to tell them in case something you did there yesterday . . .
Oh, I won’t remember . . .

This is how our conversation goes from my house to hers, as she shuffles, her feet barely clearly the tired winter grass. This feels like downhill. I try to be careful with my words.

In case you don’t remember, I’ll tell dad to be sure they know your knee was hurting today.

Wasn’t it just yesterday, I leaned on her?

You need help with ____ [fill in the blank with the move, painting, cutting down the tree, taking down the pool, refinishing the cabinets, the kids, the wedding, school, a dress, the story, your buttons, your nap . . . lullaby, say goodnight . . .]?

Just yesterday.

Today she leans on the cane, on me, and most heavily on dad.

Today is downhill. I liked the hike uphill better.

Maybe tomorrow the clouds will break and, when we walk up the hill to her house, she won’t need the cane.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020