My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when she was just 60 years old. Today, she is 76 and in the late stage of the disease. She lives in a dementia care facility in Los Angeles near my sister’s home, but I live in Chicago and fly out to visit her for three days every month.
Holidays like Mother’s Day are difficult for me, but instead of getting upset or worried that she won’t recognize me every time I see her, I just close my eyes and remember a meaningful interaction that I had with her during one of my recent visits:
I know all of my mother’s favorite songs, which I play for her during my visits. Once in awhile she’ll start to sing along, demonstrating the power of music and how important it is for those living with Alzheimer’s. It’s like the clouds and fog in her brain clear while listening to the music.
My mother does not talk any more, which makes communication very difficult. During my last visit, while playing Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life,” my mother looked me in the eye and squeezed both of my hands and said, “You are my baby!”
I was in total shock – she hadn’t spoken a complete sentence to me in several years, but through the power of music, she recognized and connected with me.
I started crying tears of joy. Although my mom saw my tears, she started wiping under her own eyes. She doesn’t know how to wipe my tears any more, but she understood that I was crying.
Somehow, despite her Alzheimer’s, we still share that special mother/daughter bond and I know she is and will always be with me.
Karen Segal is a devoted daughter and one of the 15.5 million Alzheimer’s disease caregivers. She transforms her pain into action by working with UsAgainstAlzheimer’s with the goal of finding a treatment or cure by 2020 through research and clinical trials.