One week ago today my Mother died. I had seen her for the last time two days before, just before I left on a trip. She was in a good deal of discomfort, and her breathing was labored. Despite being in the terminal stages of Alzheimer's there seemed to be flashes of recognition when she looked into my eyes. She tried to speak. She tried to smile. Then her eyes would roll back and she would drift away. I told her I loved her and kissed her for what might be the final time. Recently every visit has become an wrenching experience for me, as it was for my two Brothers, and everyone else in the family. This one turned out to be the last goodbye in a long process of saying our goodbyes to my Mother over a number of years since she was diagnosed with Dementia. It was something that will remain a vivid image as long as I retain my memory. Retaining one's memory is something children of Alzheimer's sufferers can never take for granted.
We were very fortunate she was the kind of woman she was. She was good natured and sweet to the very end. The staff (who did an excellent job of managing her her care) took a liking to her sweet personality as well.
Mother was the daughter of Swedish immigrants who met in Montana, married and moved to Seattle where some of my grandmother's siblings already were living in the 1920s. When her Father came over from Sweden he booked passage on the newest fastest steamship of the time, the Titanic. Luckily his connecting ship from Sweden arrived in Britain too late, and he missed the boat.
My Mother and Father met when they were both students at the University of Washington. She would tell us kids about how it was to grow up during the depression in Seattle. My Mother was a liberal Democrat in contrast to my Father who was a staunch Republican. I have no doubt she was the main reason I'm a Liberal Democrat too. She was 78.
Last Saturday I was on the second day of a 378 mile bicycle tour around the Selkirk Mountains. Before I set out for the days ride from Bonner's Ferry Idaho I called my Brother to ask how Mom was, and he said that she was doing so-so. Later when I was just about to cross the Canadian border I called my Brother and got the sad news. I crossed the border and spent that night in a town near the border, and headed back the way I'd come the next day.
Here's one of the latest developments in Alzheimer's research:
Doctors, scientists adopt new approach to Alzheimer's care
With recent gains in identifying risks and links to the disease, treatment will change
There is evidence that the Alzheimer's disease process begins perhaps more than 10 years before it is diagnosed, scientists said at a news briefing, stressing the importance of identifying people at risk as soon as possible for interventions.
"We're thinking of the development of Alzheimer's disease much like other diseases, as an elaborate process over a long period," said Dr. Marilyn Albert of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.