As I look back on an earlier time when my mother was experiencing the onset of dementia, I have come to realize her greatest suffering might not have been her failing memory but the feelings of being useless, unappreciated, and possibly at times unloved.
I grieve to think about her frustrations of not being able to keep up with her bills, losing things. She was too proud to talk about it. My brother gradually assumed more reponsibility for helping her with her record keeping and check writing. I remember her frustration and anger.
Our mother, finally unable to safely live independently, divided her time between my home and my brother's home. I remember how she tried to be of help to me in the house. My sewing basket was a haphazard conglomeration of needles, tangled thread, and odd buttons and fasteners. One day when I needed to sew on a snap to a pair of slacks, I discovered a sewing basket beautifully appointed with every spool of thread neatly lined up and needles and fasteners carefully stored on the sides.
My mother, as long as she could, would set our table for supper and cook a few things. In her time she was a wonderful cook, who could set a lovely table for guests on short notice. As time went on, living with us in Ohio, her cooking came down to one dish - potato salad - that she could still remember how to make. There were a few ingredients added that were a bit different from the past, such as carrot bits, but overall it still had that flavor that I loved. To this day I have not attempted to make potato salad, since I know I can't come close to my mother's.
My mom's sister, who is in her early 90s, is now experiencing signs of dementia. My aunt and her daughter have shared a home for years, so my aunt has had the good fortune to be able to remain in her own home in familiar surroundings, enjoying the routine of homemaking activities of a lifetime.
But the day inevitably came for her too, like her sister, forgetting how to cook as she used to. However, in comparison to our mother who was unable to remain in her home, my aunt has had the comfort and ease of staying put . Few elders anymore are blessed that way.