Happy birthday to Cristina! The 22nd of February is Cristina’s birthday. Sadly, she no longer understands the significance of her birthday but she still enjoyed wearing the party hat and laughed when it was put on her. Regardless of what stage the disease is in she can always enjoy her birthday.
Not all days are good days with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes getting ready to leave the house is a chore in itself. Cristina’s eldest son is a hair dresser, so he will brush her hair for her so that it’s not messy when she leaves the house. This day was a not as good as other days. She had a doctors appointment and needed to get read for it. Brushing her hair kept upsetting her and she cried just like a child who doesn’t want you to touch their hair would do. Little things like this can upset someone with Alzheimer’s and they don’t even know why. Cristina used to love doing her hair from dying it, to curls, to what ever she was in the mood for. Funny enough, she still sits and plays with her hair; sometimes trying to braid it.
Magazines are something that seem to help keep Cristina busy. Sometimes she’ll look through the pages, but, for the most part, she loves just ripping them apart, page by page. She always makes a mess when she does this but it’s okay, it’s an easy clean up. We have had a bunch of magazines donated to her just so she could enjoy destroying them. Whatever makes her happy.
When Cristina sits and watches TV she’ll also braid her hair. Something in her brain remembers how and it keeps her hands busy. People at this stage of Alzheimer’s needs to be kept busy at all times. This is also a good thing because her hair is a part of her and she can’t throw it on the floor like she does with everything else she puts in her hands. She has gone downhill so much this year and we are pretty sure it won’t be much longer before she finally forgets how to braid her own hair.
One of the hardest parts of Alzheimer’s is diaper changing. Our mother was so clean and proper that she would never have wanted to be like this. Her mental state now, however, is that of a bratty toddler. Sometimes she will soil herself and take her diaper off before we even have a chance to get to her. She’ll often smear the mess everywhere including her body before throwing her diaper. She doesn’t even know why she shouldn’t do this. This is were all the cleaning necessities come in. Attempting to get her into the shower also takes considerable effort because she fights like a toddler, not wanting to get in. She’ll also throw punches and kicks which makes it harder for us: her children, her caregivers. She even screams and cries just like a toddler who doesn’t want a diaper change or get cleaned up. Some mornings she’ll wake up and take her diaper off just to rip it apart and make a mess with it. It’s so heartbreaking to have to watch our mother go through this.
Lately Cristina has been doing this thing where she bites her nails. She has always been a nail biter, but since her Alzheimer’s disease has progressed she hadn’t been doing it, until now. She’s returned to biting her nails, but now she’ll bite her nails to the point of making them bleed. Due to the excessive heat in the summer, we can only put a band aid on it. Once the weather cools down we’ll be getting her some gloves she can wear that will keep her hands warm but also keep her from biting her nails.
When Cristina’s mother had Alzheimer’s she would have to call her mom to speak to her until her mother could no longer speak, which was difficult mentally because her mother lived in another state. The best thing about today’s technology is the option to use Facetime on mobile phones. So the days of just hearing a voice is long gone for some patients with Alzheimer’s. One of Cristina’s daughters lives in another state and will Facetime on Cristina’s older son’s phone on occasion so they can see each other and talk. Cristina can no longer form words but she will babble to her daughter on Facetime. Her attention span is short, of course, and she sometimes doesn’t recognize her daughter and just gives a blank stare at the phone before looking away at anything else that catches her eye. It’s hard watching her leave us day by day. Each day is something else lost from her and something new for us to adapt to.