Betwixt & Between

I began this journey with an absolute: mom will never move to a care home. As months turn to years and mild dementia transforms into moderate stages, I learn there are no absolutes with Alzheimer’s.

Mom is a “tween” – in stage, not age.

She’s in limbo, and I live it with her every day. I stay with her in the home of my childhood, for long periods at a time: cooking, entertaining, watching and waiting. This summer I visited dementia care homes. Mom’s name is on five waiting lists now. Guilt mingles with relief.

When I go home to recharge my batteries, our paid caregiver takes over, a transition as anxiety-ridden for mom as a simple change from orange to apple juice. The caregiver comes every day; this time I’ve added one overnight a week.

Rule #1: Never say never.

The Great Depression

Watching the snowball of daily changes roll into an Alzheimer’s avalanche has rocketed me into depression, a place I never wanted to visit.

Although I didn’t need a quiz to confirm it, I took the depression assessment recently released by Google/National Alliance on Mental Illness. I passed with flying colors, like the alcoholism questionnaire I nervously took twenty years ago. Today, I face the same emotions: able to admit, difficult to accept.

Joining the ranks of Prozac Nation terrifies me almost more than the rapid-fire progression of Alzheimer’s and Mom’s upcoming move to a dementia care home.

I’ve chosen a different solution: counseling. My counselor runs a holistic dementia care home, based on the Eden Alternative. She’s energetic and compassionate. Outdoorsy and nurturing. She helps heal my soul.

Depression continues. Yet joy — often more elusive than accessible – returns, if only for an hour.


My mother is an artist. She may no longer wield a paintbrush, but even through the haze of dementia, she still sees things through an artist’s eyes. The backyard tiger lilies in their marmalade-hued splendor. How the sun glitters on the cove. The texture of the acorn along the wooded path where we walk. Her observation skills are finely honed in certain areas but frustratingly elusive in others.

In her narrow tunnel of Alzheimer’s World, things disappear. Memories. Objects. Motor skills. Words. Time. And, most maddeningly of all, herself.

Ever concerned with appearance, she tries to portray herself to the outside world in picture perfect form. “She’s so sharp,” a neighbor commented after a brief visit. Afterward, she fell apart, the exhaustion of denial overloading the tangled brain wires.

And as I watch her slip away, part of me disappears.

Sketch by my mother, c. 1975