Son to A Mother's with Alzheimer's
How has Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease changed my family’s dynamics? That’s the topic that I’m describing as I think about the “silver linings” that have emerged over the past 15 months since Mom’s diagnosis.
The past two blogs have looked at the impact on my father. Now it’s time to turn the spotlight on my brother, Steve.
My brother is the youngest in our family and currently lives the farthest away in Colorado. He also is the person with the most experience in dealing with dementia. He was a youngster when Mom took care of her mother, who suffered from this disease. Steve often accompanied Mom to the nursing home at meal times so they could encourage Grandma to eat. And unfortunately, Steve also has the most experience in our immediate family of taking care of someone whose health is failing since he was involved in the hospice care of his wife during her losing battle with cancer.
Mom’s diagnosis, although not totally unexpected, definitely stunned my brother. Perhaps it was the distance or the too recent memory of taking care of his wife as her health deteriorated, but Steve was visibly distraught when he first saw Mom after the diagnosis. It had been over a year since he had been back to Texas, and when he last spent time with Mom, she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Thus, her rapid mental deterioration was disconcerting to Steve.
Since then, the tables in our sibling relationship have turned. Where I was always the oldest child who “knew everything” (or at least thought I did), Steve now has the upper hand based on all of his experiences. He’s one of the first people that I call when I need feedback on Mom’s issues. If he doesn’t have advice (which is rare), he makes the time to listen. And he actually has developed into a really good compassionate listener.
I’ve also found that Steve is very responsive if I ask him for help with Mom. Steve brought his teenage daughter to see Mom twice during the 2005 holiday season; they made every attempt to provide a respite for me by visiting Mom often and squiring her between the nursing home and my house for holiday dinners. And Steve willingly changed his October schedule at the last minute in order to come back to Texas to “supervise” Mom’s second move to another room in the nursing home.
Therefore, one of the “silver linings” in all of this craziness has been watching Steve assume a leading role in our family. Before, he always carried the mantle of being the little brother. Although we still have our moments of sibling teasing, Steve is no longer the little brother; instead, he’s the big supporter.
Published On: November 22, 2006