My Mom

I used to speak with her every night. There are no more conversations.

To the best of my ability what’s written on my blog is the truth. I readily admit it’s not the whole truth. There are uncomfortable facts I leave out. That’s why I haven’t told you about my mom. Around a year and a half ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Today I asked my dad if he minded me talking about it on the blog, so here we go.

Often times Stef has commented my parents don’t act like old people. They have always looked and acted younger than their contemporaries. Under those circumstances it was easy to believe they had dodged aging.

For my mom it began with her forgetting things. Less short term memory goes with getting older, but this was worse. Some of her friends contacted my sister and me to make sure we knew. That’s why we spent a weekend in Florida late this summer.

Things have progressed rapidly from there.

Trudi and I tried our best to recommend my dad get help with the house and with my mom. They’re not eating as healthy as they once did. It’s tough for my dad to see well enough to keep the house as it once was. Little things.

He is reticent to get help. We understand. But in solely caring for my mom, his wife of 63 years, he has taken on a job that’s taxing him more than he’ll admit… maybe more than he knows.

Within the last few months my mom has increasingly withdrawn from the outside world. Until a few weeks ago she spoke on the phone, but her answers became single words–usually single syllables.

I used to speak with her every night. There are no more conversations.

There are things that can be done, drugs that can be taken, but the truth is in 2011 Alzheimer’s can’t be stopped. Even if its progress is slowed my mom won’t come back from where she is.

A week ago she began to complain of dental pain. The dentist found nothing. An MRI followed. The neurologist found nothing.

It’s probably neuralgia, a pain caused by irritation or damage to nerve endings. Is the diagnosis important? My mom’s in pain on a steady basis and there’s little that can be done. She is moving deeper into her cocoon.

Our family has been very involved trying to do the best for her. That’s all we can do.

My mom’s still with us and we’re hopeful she’ll be able to join four generations of our family in Milwaukee over Thanksgiving. It doesn’t seem likely right now.

Here’s a video I made for my parents five years ago. This is what I want to think of when I think of my mom.

74 thoughts on “My Mom”

  1. Very sorry to hear, Geoff. We went through this with my grandfather. It’s very difficult, much harder to deal with emotionally than any other disease.

    Good thoughts to you and your family. Hopefully your dad eventually allows some outside help.

  2. Oh, Geoff. I am so very sorry you and your family are going through this. As a nurse, it is one of the most frustrating illnesses patients and families experience together. You have a beautiful family and strong ties. I will keep you all in my prayers and know that you have our support. I’m glad you shared this personal story with us, your blog family. Your parents are such favorites of ours and that lovely video is a perfect reminder of who Betty and Harold are! Evi

  3. Geoff, As an individual who just recently went thru this with my dad and who has since recently passed away, I know first hand what you and your family is going thru. As I work for a large health ins company in the medicare area I have access to some information and resources that might be of some help to your family. As someone who also had to deal with his cross country (AZ-CT)the issue also seems bigger to you because of the distance and not being physically there for them. If there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to contact me. My best wishes to your family.

  4. Geoff, you and your family will be in my prayers. It is one of the toughest things a family can go through. I feel your pain and know what you are going through. Think of your video often and all the laughter you shared throughout the years. It wont be the same but, it will help. God will bless you all and keep you in his care.

  5. Geoff, Our sympathies and prayers are with you. I’ve been there. I do understand. Life is tough. Keep your strength up.

  6. Geoff, I am so very sorry. I know how difficult this must be. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and it was truly heartbreaking to watch his decline. My grandmother refused help too (at first), but accepted a little later, after they sold their home and downsized to an apartment in an age-restricted community. I hope you and your Dad can come to the best solutions to do what is best for him and your Mom. Your video is lovely and tender. How very glad you must be that you made it. My thoughts are with you and your family during this most difficult journey.


  7. Geoff,
    I know this must have been difficult to share, let alone experience. I am at a loss for words to express how I feel, and can only say I will pray for you and your wonderful family.

  8. As always they are in our thoughts and prayers. We have lost several relatives over the years to Alzheimers. What can you say be strong and be patient. I will cherish the memories of being neighbors with your parents for 11 years. Being newly married ourselves (22 years now) and just out on our own,they were terrific to be around. Oh the stories and lessons. We talked for hours by the pool. So proud of their loving family. Happy to have had the honor of sharing your family. Love to all.

  9. I am so sorry you have to go through this. It is especially hard from a distance. Please find a way to get your dad to accept help. My dad tried for so long to do it on his own. As a result his health was compromised and we lost him sooner than we should have. My prayers and wishes for strength are with you.

  10. Thanks for sharing that Geoff. I’m very sorry to hear about your mother…how sad for you and your family. I lost my husband to ALS (Lou Gehrigs) 2 years ago so I understand your loss. Good wishes and prayers being sent your way.

  11. Geoff,
    What a heartfilled story you tell. Your a brave man. It is so good to see that you have such a wonderfully edited video to remember her by. Prayers go out to your mother but also to your father and yourself as you no doubt are preparing to deal with the inevitable. Very touching.

  12. What a lovely tribute to your parents! Your family isin our thoughts and prayers as you head through this journey with your Mom. – Donna

  13. Geoff: I had an inkling of something like this when you mentioned the quick trip to Florida this summer. I’m so sorry to hear about your beloved mom. It’s easy to see that she has a very loving family. I wish you all the strength to accompany her along this most difficult path, patience when it gets tough and know that your many friends and fans will be thinking of you and sending good wishes your way throughout this journey.

  14. So sorry Geoff. My mom and dad will have been married 65 years next month and I count my blessings every day that they are still here at age 86 and 89 and they are still okay. Well, sort of okay. As I write this my mom is lying in a nursing home recuperating from a broken pelvis…since heart surgery in the 80’s she has moved her bedroom downstairs where the bathroom is, while dad still sleeps holed away upstairs. He is quite deaf and he did not hear her at 3 A.M. when she fell, and she lay there for an hour. We had begged my mom, with her poor balance and trouble walking, to get an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button, but she wouldn’t. Now big changes will have to be made. It is obvious that as non-“old people” acting as they are, they are old. But Alzheimer’s has to be the cruelest, cruelest disease known to mankind – I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (or their family) and I hope for the best for your wonderful mom and dad.

  15. Geoff, You have received many helpful suggestions. I have had experience with Alzheimer’s also, many have. You are not alone. Your video is such a precious gift to you and your family, it will be a treasure. My prayers are with you and your family that God will lift you all and give you the strength and healing that you need.


  17. Your blog was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. You’re clearly a loving son and your parents are very lucky, indeed.

  18. Geoff, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. We went through the same thing with my mom, but fortunately my dad got legal and medical assistance right away. He also researched nursing homes for the inevitable move to one. It was hard though his preparation made it a bit easier when the time came since he had power of attorney, moved her into a nursing home, etc. Is there an adult day care in their area so your dad can get a break during the week? Would an assisted living place be the right solution for them? I will keep you and your family in my prayers. It’s a difficult journey and my heart goes out to you.

  19. I am so sorry Geoff. My dad went into the Army Air Corp the same year as your dad went into the Navy. This must be a terrible time for you and your family. I have lost both of my parents. I understand you sadness. Know that my heartfelt condolences are sent your way Geoff.

  20. Geoff, my husband’s father had Alzheimer’s. It was a long, slow descent and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. I’m so sorry that you have to go through it too. One note, his mom thought she could do the caretaking too, but ended up with in health crisis herself. We had to step in and get them both in the Masonic Home, his mom in an assisted living situation and his dad in the Alzheimer’s ward. They lived out their lives there. None of this was easy, but trying to make your parents do anything they didn’t want to do and the guilt afterward seemed the hardest part.

  21. Geoff,

    So sorry about your difficult news. We went through this with my grandmother– it was truly heartbreaking, you end up mourning before they are gone. Please insist that your Dad gets whatever help he needs. My grandfather refused help and was so stressed out with the care giving that he actually passed away first. What a great video you have of them. Your family will be glad you did it.

  22. This story canbe a generic template for so many families to just fill in the names of their family members. So often the spouse will say no no no to help, then there is the emergency that will cause all hell to break out and then things are just so much worse. It is probably worse on the families than on the patient, they do end up in the “happy place”. I have worked with the elderly a long time and this disease….it robs more from families than most. I think it is the waiting, the unknown, the inability to DO something to make it better. My heart goes out to you and your family Geoff. Use the supports available to you there are so many wonderful sites, and then there is the Alzehimers Resource Center in Southington. A wonderful place! BTW you soooo look like your dad! Thank you for sharing.

  23. Geoff, so many of us are upset about the loss of Steve Jobs, who none of us knew. We ALL are upset about this turn for your family, and for your mother who we all feel like we know. Our prayers are with you all.

  24. Dear Geoff,

    It is difficult to know what to say. Your video is wonderful, and a treasure which you will cherish always.
    Your Mom is beautiful and will forever be that way in your family’s memory.
    I’m sure you know we will all be praying for your Dad and everyone of you in the difficult time ahead.

  25. Geoff, I commend you for having the courage to share this part of your life with us. I watched my grandmother (who lived with us) go from a funny, witty, Italian-speaking, card playing and loving woman to someone who became a shell of what she once was – no communication, no recognition of her child and grandchildren, angry, and sometimes physically violent. While this isn’t always the course for everyone with Alzheimer’s, it is nonetheless very difficult to watch and get reports about. My grandmother lived with us my entire life until one day, my mother had to put her in a nursing home in Glastonbury. That was the hardest day of our lives and I never thought my mom would stop crying. Unbelievably, despite her diabetes and other medical problems along with the Alzheimer’s, my grandmother lived until 3 weeks shy of her 90th birthday. Though I still remember how she was after being diagnosed and through it’s rapid progression, I often think about the memories we forged in the many years before her diagnosis. Stay strong, Geoff, the road is bumpy and the decisions are difficult but know that you are trying to do what is best for both your mother AND your father. Thinking of you and your family…

  26. Geoff,

    Love and hugs to the entire family. Sharing something like this is always hard, but can mean so much. In the efforts to take care of your family, don’t forget that you’ll need comforting and care too. All the best.

  27. What a priceless video. I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s 5 years ago. It is hard but you have to embrace your memories of who you mom was. I feel for you with your dad. My dad was the same way. Alzheimer’s is the long good bye. There is a book, The 36 Hour Day, by Nancy L. Mace that was very helpful in preparing me for what to expect with the disease. Just remember you mom will alway loves you and will never forget you. You and your family are in my prayers.

  28. Dear Geoff, I understand what you are experiencing right now as I have gone through this with my mom recently. My dad died many years before her with the same illness. It is horrible and it is a constant stress for the entire family not only worrying about your beloved mom who does not realize what is happening but your dear dad. Stay strong and please get help for your dad. There are many programs that can help him. He will fight it in the beginning but it will relieve so much stress for all. It must be very hard for you to live so far away. Stay strong and my prayers are with your entire family.

  29. geoff a wonderful video you’ve made for your children and siblings to share mom and heart aches for you all especially your dad having him see his best friend and soul mate retreat into a world he cant get into. the memories are not promised to us all, but the ones who hold them and share with others make it all the much sweeter..thank you for making us all here in connecticut are part of your life, and rest assured you are a part of ours. she may not remember you at times but she will feel the love you have for her and when it seems overwhelming , remember you are a part of her that goes on..strength and love to you geoff and to echo so many, yes you DO look so much like your dad.

  30. Geoff, I truly understand – my father-in-law was diagnosed both with Parkinsons and Alzheimers. It’s a bit easier on us because they are in the same town. It must be really hard trying to cope with this long distance.

  31. So sorry to hear this, Geoff. I know how difficult it is to see your parent slipping away. My prayers are with you and your family.

  32. Hi Geoff,
    I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while now: My grandfather who passed away in 1991 at the age of 91 referred to you as Goofy Fox. And that was because he liked you. On the subject at hand though….my Mom and Dad were both diagnosed this year with Alzheimer’s. Mom is 87, Dad is 86. They will celebrate their 64th anniversary Nov. 7th. I live just up the street from them. I moved here 3 years ago, knowing they would need me in their later years, but never dreaming this would happen to them and our family. They’re still pretty “with-it”, though they had a really rough time at the beginning. We got Mom on Xanax after she was so distressed, she picked at her face until it bled. Seems our parents are so much alike. I can’t say I know what you are going through, because we all go through things differently. The advice I gave to my brother was don’t think of them how they were in the past, don’t think of how they’ll be tomorrow. Deal with the way they are today. Just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone. If you like, we could correspond and compare frustrations and successes. Oh man, now I sound like a psycho. Anyway, hang in there, and just love them!

  33. Geoff, having a brother with “Dementia”, I feel your pain and frustration! It might make it a little easier to accept if you remember this: My brother(now 83)forgets whatever happened 10 minutes ago, but remembers very well when we were young kids & teenagers. When we all(6 of us now living & 3 in heaven)get together, he is delighted & loves to talk about the good-old-days. In response to a phone call asking him how he is, he says he is just great! He seems quite comfortable in his own little world, and still remembers us his siblings, as well as his wife, who fears the day they wake up and he asks who she is. I hope your Dad has some help, as the caregiver is the one to feel sorry for. He needs regular times away from this situation. May God bless him, as well as all your family.

  34. Geoff–What heartbreaking news. So sorry all of you are going through this. You might want to read the book by Jane Gross (she did ) called A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents–and Ourselves. It addresses situations like yours and give lots of help, pitfalls to avoid, and resources. Such a difficult journey you’ve begun..I hope you all get through it as well as possible, supporting one another.

  35. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. There are no words…
    Make certain that your Dad gets some respite time. It will be hard for him to leave your Mom, but he has to have some time away. So often the caregiver is overlooked. Just hold on to the good thoughts and memories.

  36. My Mom lost it all mentally & more than you want to know just four months ago at age 76. Doesn’t recognize family…nursing homes lost her dentures… diapers…pureed under-seasoned food… there is no dignity in old age anymore.
    Started smoking again because I do not want to out-live my functional life.
    Nursing homes are prisons.

  37. I so miss my Mom. Even when we just talked about the difference in the weather between where she lived and where I do. (150 miles)
    “Do I have your phone number?” Yes Mommy, it’s in your address book.

  38. Geoff,

    I wish I had, had the foresight to record my parents what a special gift you have given yourself. As difficult as it may be I am sure your father would not have it any other way. To try and make life easier for him would only give him time to think about what was happening to his life. Not that he isn’t aware of what is happening, but keeping busy keeps him from dwelling. And who else on Gods green earth could care better for his wife than him?, who else would love her more dearly or care about her comfort? Why would he wander too far away and chance missing a brief moment or two where she may recognize her true love. It may only be a moment to you and I but it would carry him through till eternity. So what if the house falls down around them, who cares if she speaks less, the heart still beats for the love and the memories that Dad still is able to talk about and the memories that Mom may still have but can’t express are theirs alone. The time he spends caring for her is taxing no doubt but it it his time, his responsibility, his last true ability to show he cares. There is no reason to part them, there are many reasons to keep them together the first and foremost, would be “Till death do us part” the whole premise for your lovely movie. Don’t worry about them, they will make it through this as they have the last 60 + yrs. together. It may not be what we consider intact but love transcends all time and space. Great video, great parents, great son.

  39. Geoff, my heart aches for you and your family. You are lucky to have this wonderful video to help you remember the good times. My thoughts are with you.

  40. Geoff, I’m so sorry this illness had to happen to your beautiful mom. I always appreciate all you share, but am deeply touched with your sharing this with us. My best thoughts for you and your family.

  41. Geoff,
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so sorry to hear about your Mother. Bless your Dad’s heart for working so hard to care for his soulmate. You’d do the same for Helene. Thoughts & prayers for you and your family.

  42. We have been going through the same thing with my grandfather. It’s without a doubt the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced in my young life. He was a part of my wedding day, but he doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t recognize my wife, doesn’t realize I’m married, and doesn’t realize he’s about to become a great-grandfather. The man was such a giant in our family – it’s so sad to see him reduced to a child. That said, I agree with the other posters – remember the person they were, and always know it was the disease that took them early.

  43. Geoff, you have received a lot of wonderful responses to your message from your friends here. Some are helpful, others just want you to know they care and wish they could be in the helpful category. I fall into that latter part. Your parents are lucky they have you and your sister. Even though you don’t live near them, you can advise and use whatever connections and knowledge you have to help them. And your love.

  44. Geoff: Thank you for sharing your parents with us. Mine have been gone for a long time now. I see a lot of your father in you, in your voice patterns and your humor. God bless you all.

  45. Geoff

    Like so many of your Blog readers have noted, I too am so sorry to learn of your Mother’s plight. As one whom saw my own mother succumb to that dreaded disease, I sorta understand your situation?

  46. Geoff— so sorry to hear about your mom. I totally understand. My beloved dad passed away in 2002 after an Alzheimer diagnosis just one and a half years prior. It is such a cruel disease! My dad was such an amazing man— a jack of all trades and master of all he touched and he was robbed of all of that. I wish for you great strength as you journey through this difficult time in your life.

  47. Geoff, I’m so sorry. I lost my mom to dementia in December 2008. My father was getting to the point where he knew he would need more help (way past it, but it was tough to convince him to accept help) when my mom uncharacteristically wandered out of the house on a frigid night and we lost her to hypothermia. Dad did everything he could, and did everything right, taking care of the love of his life, but there’s always something unexpected and out of one’s hands with dementia and Alzheimer patients. If you could encourage your dad to get help, even if it’s an aide who comes in a couple of hours per day to help with meals and cleaning, it would make his life a little easier and a little saner and help keep him healthy enough to cope. Alzheimer’s is an end-of-life diagnosis and as such there are resources available from the state — you can check with the Alzheimer’s Association for help with this or check with your mom’s social worker (where my mom lived, in Michigan, she was eligible for respite care and in-home nursing — we were getting that into place but, alas … )

    It took me quite a while to be able to blog about my mom, too. She had frontotemporal dementia, which affects a different area of the brain than Alzheimer, but it has the same devastating effect. I couldn’t write about it because I would start to weep. I can tell you that the private online forum (devoted to FTD, but there are ones out there for Alzheimer as well) I was a member of gave me strength and hope and helped me be a better support for my dad when I couldn’t be in Michigan.

    I am so sorry you and your family have to go through this.

  48. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother and thank you for sharing it with all of us. It’s so hard having to become the parents to your parents and everyone will resist at first – there’s alot of denial at the beginning. But even when you’re heart is telling you to that “oh maybe dad can do it, it’ll be ok” listen to your head and push for all the help that can be found to make it easier for them! I didn’t have to deal with Alzheimer’s but mini strokes and a whole lot of stubbornness!
    My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

  49. I am so sorry to hear about your Mom. It is a terrible disease that is devastating to the whole family. My Dad passed away after suffering with alzheimers. It was the most painful thing to watch him withdraw and know that there was not a thing we could do to “pull” him back to us. My Mom kept him at home caring for him with the help of a visiting nurse. God bless her….I don’t know how she managed it. As an only child, I would make the trip at least once a week to check on my parents and do what I could. My Mom would not hear of any alternatives to keeping my Dad anyplace but at home or having anyone but the VNA assist. It was truly her ultimate gift of love,after 53 years,to see him through this. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  50. Geoff, Reading all of the comments from your followers reminds me of what a beautiful couple our parents are and how much their love for each other and for us has molded us into the adults we are today. Hopefully Dad will read some of the comments and think again about accepting some help and respite. Thanks again for posting the video. It’s a bit hard to watch it without tearing up.

  51. Geoff (and your family),
    It doesn’t help to say you are not alone – this happens way too often and each of us have been touched by someone in our lives. Hubby’s 2 aunts here as well. We send our thoughts, prayers and love. The illness might take her memories, but not her love for all of you. Love endures forever… as do families.

  52. Trudi, your comments are so special. We’ve known what a close family you all are, and it is good to hear from you to verify it. My thoughts are with you, as well as with Geoff and your parents. I’ve been thinking more since my last comment. I am sure your father will hit a point where he really needs help. Probably is there already, but being the man he is, he isn’t ready to admit it yet. I hope they already have a housekeeper. But soon a nurse’s aide to help with routine care of your mother could be a big help, to start. There are many organizations that can help, especially in Florida. I am sure you can find the best. Geoff is almost family to many of us; therefore, so are you and your parents. Hugs!

  53. Hold on to those good memories, Geoff. My parents were married in 1946 and last year I put together family photos into DVDs for Christmas. Mom is a widow now, 84, and alzheimer’s is her biggest fear, as she saw her sister go through it. Take every good moment of every good day and cherish it….Best wishes….

  54. Geoff,
    My heart goes out to you and your family. You gotta know that if you need to get anything off your chest or to vent. You know my e-mail and if you want, I will give you my number. Anything I can do for you I will do, even if it’s only a coffee at Dunkin donuts. Please don’t be shy, we will be here for you.

  55. Geoff, there are no words. My heart is breaking for your family. And once again I am reminded, though my folks are both 80 something and drive me crazy, I am so blessed to have them. They both have breathing problems (smoking is that generation’s bane) and my dad has a bad leg, but they still manage to live in their house. I will be sure to keep your mom in my prayers. I know it must be very difficult dealing with this long distance. Please know we are all with you during this time. Thank you so much for sharing.

  56. Geoff, my heart goes out to you and your entire family. While my parents did not die from Alzheimers, the dementia progressed so rapidly, it broke my heart. Losing the personality of loved ones before they actually pass on is painful. Be strong, insist your Dad get some help, I finally had to for my mother, who was no longer safe at home at 93 years old. Hated to do it, but it was more than I could handle. Blessings to all of you.

  57. Geoff, I envy the wonderful, loving video you produced. Both my parents are gone now, and we have photos and movies of them, but nothing as special as your beautiful video memory. I would give anything and everything I have to be able to be with them for one more day, hour, minute….cherish your parents …be there as much as you can either in person, by phone or skype…..we never know what the future will bring…. I live in Florida now and know you from our 14 years in Connecticut. I am a Hospice RN and know the kind, caring, helpful assistance hospice personnel provide….it is a huge step for your Dad to accept any help and I know many people have extreme misconceptions regarding hospice, but they are always there for your family. I have no idea where in Florida your parents reside. Mat Laurer from TV is a Champion of the Palm Beach Hospice and perhaps you have a connection with him to get a better perspective of hospice care. If there is any way I can help you I am here for you….I live just North of West Palm Beach. I do not have any affiliation with their hospice. My prayers are with you and yours.

  58. Geoff,
    I am so sorry for you and your family. Your dad is reacting, typically, of his generation. They don’t want outsiders in, telling them what to do. I am a home care nurse, and see it all the time. But then, when they finally do relent, they learn that they can get out of the house for a while, or take a nap and not worry, and just find a little peace. Generally, it takes a family member to be with them and set things up for them. I believe that many hospice agencies are now taking on Alzheimer’s cases. Do a web search of their area. Also, talk to their rabbi down there, or even their doctor, for feasible references. What your dad doesn’t realize (and it is tough to bring this up) is —IF something happens to HIM like a heart attack or a stroke—who knows them enough to get immediate help. Your mom can’t call for help. We had a similar case in town recently, and it was some days before a neighbor called.
    In some cases, family members can move in with them, but in today’s economy, that is not always feasible. If they were still living in Hamden, it would be easier. but who do they have down there with them. I hope my thoughts can help you work out a safety net for them. My prayers are with all of you.

  59. Geoff, this is very sad news. My family went through this with my Mother 2 yers ago. In 16 months she went from living alone, driving and taking care of herself to the heaven. Her Alzheimer’s was very quick, not typical, but it happens. A few weeks after she passed I attended a wake for the father of a close friend. He also passed from Alzheimer’s. He had been diagnosed 25 years aerlier ! Speaking with my friend, we discovered the trends in the desease were the same, her Father’s was in slo motion, my Mother was on the fast track ! In the end, we were greatful for this……It is an awful process to watch. I have a Niece that is a NYC Photographer….maybe tyou saw the article in your paper a few weeks back……. god speed!,0,5157717.story

  60. Geoff, there are no words. I went through the same thing with my mom. It is utterly heartbreaking and my heart breaks for you to have to go through this too. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *