To us, she was Mom. Mother of 5, school nurse, professional band aid applier to her 300 “other” children. Wife of over 30 years, 56 years young when Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) began to set in – taking away her ability to read, write, talk and eventually walk and swallow. But that’s the disease. This is her…
I went to college 2.5 hours away from home. Not exactly a convenient distance for a quick “pop in.”
But Mom seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to all of us “kids.” She just knew when my job and school balance was “normal” stress and I just needed a good night’s sleep and to push through versus when I was hitting my limit and needed a hug. And without fail, she would be knocking on my apartment door, ready to take me for ice cream at the Penn State Creamery, give me the much needed “Mom Squeeze” and tell me I was doing great before she would drive 2.5 hours back home.
Who knows, maybe I was just an excuse for her to have some “Peachy Paterno” but those visits exemplified, Mom and her relentless love.
Paying Forward to new caregivers:
Music. As FTD impacts our loved one’s perception as well communication skills. Mom went through a phase where getting in the shower was a fear stricken event and our happy, calm mother would transform into a screaming and determined woman – clasping at anything she could to avoid stepping under that water.
The solution did not happen overnight but our family discovered that while her words were slipping away, her ability to sing was not. And sang we did, during every shower episode. Her nerves would immediately calm, her smile would timidly re-appear and the color in her knuckles return as she released her death grip on the bathroom sink.
As time went on, music stayed and increased in her life. It became almost a nightly routine for my dad to sit with her and play “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.” There is nothing easy about watching dementia take Mom away. But in those five years of battle, her eyes found peace in music.