When you are caring for a person suffering from dementia (after a certain point I don't know how much they suffer but I do know that the care giver begins to suffer more!), the day to day tasks begin to make you some what introspective (if you have the time).
As we began to approach the Christmas season my husband and I entered into a strange sense of deja vu. Though it is a futile exercise to try and figure out or predict which mental powers a person with dementia retains or has lost it is extremely interesting to observe them in action. While preparing for the upcoming Christmas celebration we naturally assumed that my mother would retain some knowledge, understanding, something to do with the season and its meaning since she was born and raised a practicing Catholic. WRONG! When quizzed about what Christmas was my mother had no reply. When the nativity scene was pointed out to her he only reaction was a comment about how pretty it was.
Enter the deja vu!!!!!! All we could do was harken back to when our children were young and didn't know yet what Christmas was all about. Each evening before the recitation of the rosary we began what had once ben a very familiar routine sitting before he nativity and telling the story of the birth of Jesus. There are those who would call this a humbling experience, humbling it may be, but heartbreaking is more the way to describe it. While my children slowly learned and understood what they were being taught, to my mother everything was new each night. At each retelling my children would remember more and more and would be able to fill in the blanks themselves, the same cannot nor will ever be the same for my mother. Each evening's telling of the Christmas story was a new experience for her. Asking questions of her, no matter how leading they were, became an exercise in futility. Then one evening something occurred to me, this exercise had nothing to do with my mother, I could quit or not it would all be the same to her. The person to whom it mattered, Jesus Christ, desperately wanted me to continue.
Christmas for my mother was confusing and troubling. She couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Why the lights, garlands, tree, and the music? What were all the packages about? Having to open presents was almost enough to send her over the edge. (she is so OCD that the thought of ripping the paper nearly paralyzed her). Is this the face of a woman who is full of the Christmas spirit? Her greatest angst that day was the fact that I made her wear a skirt instead of pants. (Touche' dear mothe!)
Dementia is a strange master. Now that the season is over and all the lights, garland, and ornament have been taken down and put away mom is much improved. She is less tense and confused on a daily basis. She looks around the house as if to say, "What is going on around here?" She has always been a creature of routine, order, and habit and that is the one predictable thing about this disease, it makes these traits more intense. So we are back to order, routine, and habit, at least until the next celebration comes along!