While presenting the stages of dementia this November at Oak Park Place, I drew from family happenings as we celebrated Christmas with my mother.
In the early stages she participated in all holiday celebrations--giving and receiving presents, reveling in the family gatherings. Often four generations were present.
During the middle stages Mom did better with smaller, quieter groups. At family Christmas gatherings Mom often let the conversations flow around her and only had eyes for the young great-grandchildren as they played and opened presents.
One year my sister brought her two angels. I also had purchased a trio of small ceramic angels that glowed red, green and blue for the grand-kids to play with. Mom latched onto my ceramic angels and demanded I give them to her.
At first, I resisted--after all, she was in her 80's and should have been beyond having to have what caught her eye. At that time, I had little comprehension of how dementia had affected my mother, but I quickly realized if it made her happy, that was the important point. After the season Mom's angels were boxed up with her other Christmas decorations.
During the last year of her life I brought her Christmas box to Sienna Crest shortly after Thanksgiving. When she was not in her room, I set out the decorations: a mini-manger scene snow globe; foot tall Christmas tree with ribbons and her angel collection. Once the room was ready and the ceramic angels were glowing red, green, and blue, I set about finding where she could be.
Mom was in the back living room with several other residents watching a classic movie. I knew she could not really hear the words with her hearing aids long gone and encouraged her to walk to her room. As we walked there at her slow pace, I anticipated her delight at seeing her room decorated for Christmas.
She entered the room and headed straight for her recliner. Looking exhausted, she perched on the edge of the chair and stared. "Mom," I said, "look, it's Christmas." I pointed out her manger scene and swept my arms past the angels on her bookcase and the ceramic angels on her nightstand.
Mom's eyes tracked my movements. Her face remained a rigid mask (common in the later stages) and rested on me. "That's nice," she said flatly.
I sat on the bed demoralized and in despair, not understanding the concept of Christmas had become too abstract for my mother to grasp. I recalled she had been slowly decoupling herself from the world--visiting her favorite restaurants confused and upset her, and she had lost all interest in shopping and attending church.
When our loved ones cannot relate to Christmas we know, more than ever, God is holding them in his hands. That day I sensed she was not lost; God was with her. She loved Jesus and I knew he would never let her go. This had to be good enough for me.
Our grief ekes out, little by little, with small happenings as the life we used to share with them morphs and changes. She was still my mother, but I knew I had to reach her in her world--she could no longer join me in mine. Each loss we accept is another step to releasing our loved one to God. When they pass on we know we will join them again one day.
Welcome to the blog page for Biblical Dementia Caregiving. It is a resource to come alongside as you walk the dementia journey with your loved one. My name is Dorothy Gable and I wish to help, encourage and share the lessons we learned caring for my mother with dementia. For more of my story, please see the About page in this website.