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Nursing home musings

If you haven’t read Ted Sutton’s heartbreaking, beautiful story about his mother on Huffington Post, entitled “Final Curtain: A Mother’s Day Love Story”, you should, but make sure to have the tissues handy.

There are several points in his piece that I’m sure most of us that have dealt with Alzheimer’s or dementia in our family can relate to. For example, I related to the difficulty of finding your loved one at the nursing home. So often, residents end up being dressed in clothes that are not their own, and so often many are heavily medicated and slumped over in chairs. On my visits, I could usually find Dad because he was ambling about instead of just sitting down like most of the residents. This of course was good and bad, because while it was good he was ambulatory his unsteady gait led to several falls. Sutton’s piece touches upon this sad reality as well.

The last photograph of dad and I together, July 2011, just before he attempted to sing "Happy Birthday" to me.

The difficult of phone communication with Alzheimer’s patients also struck a chord with me. This was so true with my father. I hated calling the nursing home and trying to talk to him because it seemed like a difficult task for him and that he didn’t enjoy it. My mom insisted on calling him almost every night, which was more for her well-being than his, though I do hope the sound of a familiar voice gave him some comfort. But my mom would often comment that she would “lose connection” with Dad, as he would drop the phone and wander off, or just forget that he was supposed to talk into the receiver.

And the touching part where Sutton sings with his mother is absolutely beautiful. It makes me think of my father’s last pitiful attempt at singing “Happy Birthday” to me, and how he was barely awake as he moved his lips along with my mom, who tried to fill in for him. My parents would always make a big production out of singing “Happy Birthday” to me over the phone, since as an adult, I never had the chance to spend my birthday with them.

So thanks to Ted Sutton for sharing such an amazing, heart-wrenching, and beautifully-written piece with the world. I’m sure it will resonate loudly with many caregivers throughout the world. Sutton is also working on a book about his mother. I can’t wait to read it.

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