2-3 Years to Live?

my demented mom

When dad said mom has maybe 2-3 years to live, I didn’t feel much. I knew how I was supposed to react—at least when I’m around people other than my dad—with a degree of horror and sadness. People, I suppose have an emotional expectation of you—they expect you (or need you) to exhibit a particular range of feeling, regardless if you actually feel it……….. and if you don’t, you must be some beastly human.

I’ve just learned that sometimes you have to give people what they want………………….. I know what is “appropriate,” and sometimes in this vile game of life, you have to put out, so others will feel better.

Dementia is not for the faint of heart.

Confession time…………….. so hearing that my mom possibly-maybe-no-one-really-knows-for-sure has 2-3 years I’ll tell you what I really felt……………………………….RELIEF. Relief because in my mind, I had been thinking 5-10 years and I could deal with that. I accepted that time frame; digested, accepted, knew that I was in it for the long haul. Knew that a part of my life would be defined by my mother. I knew this. I was cool with this (or as cool as one can be)…………………………………………….

Learning that we’re maybe looking at 2-3 years, well, I felt hopeful. My mom lives a very sheltered life. The toll of her disease seems to be slowly destroying my dad. My mom is not the woman she once was. She is a child. Her vocabulary has been reduced to two words (give or take), “la fruta” and “Despierta America.” Her favorite Spanish TV show……. well, her favorite Spanish morning show…. “Despierta America” is new thing, but still………… try talking to a person who speaks only in “Despierta America” with “la fruta” woven in for good measure.

The disease has taken away my mom. It has made mush of her brain. She can’t function without adult supervision. She can’t leave the house unless she is accompanied by myself or my dad. She can’t drive. She can’t cook. She can’t read. She can’t write. She can’t work. She lives in a void. She does not remember you. She does not know that she has a sister or a gaggle of nieces, nephews, great-nieces-and-nephews and now a great-great nephew.

We have been told that we shouldn’t take her out too much because new places (new to her) can cause her to become anxious and ultimately became even more unruly. The excitement of Fry’s supermarket is just too much for her. Unfortunately, this includes her highlight of the week: Church. Mom becomes incredibly anxious to see the priest……….. She yells, she runs into the aisle, she disrupts Communion………….. I have felt her heart rate skyrocket as a result of just trying to get his attention in the middle of mass. I think mine does the same……….. holding back a flailing demented woman is just not easy—especially when she’s stronger than you are.

Another 5-10 years of this versus another 2-3 years………………….

Soak that in for a moment.


>>Flickr pic by Stuck in Customs



My cousin described my mom to me as, “funny and generous.” I don’t remember that person, but I believe her. People love  (or loved) my mom.


  1. I’ve been following your blog for a while now, my mom had dementia, her suffering ended 2 days ago. I wanted it to happen for her so bad, and now I am a wreck. I look at it like she was this 4 year long project for me, flying back and forth to canada every 3 months (where she was in a nursing home), trying to have a relationship with her, emotional roller coaster, she made me laugh, and she made me cry, and now my most important project is done, over. She passed away peacefully with my brother at her side the day after Christmas, the nurses said she was “unresponsive”, from what my brother said, she understood and she responded to him, she couldn’t talk, hadn’t in a while, but my brother told her it was ok to go now, we loved her, a tear rolled down her cheek, she blinked and closed her eyes and slowly stopped breathing, she responded to him and she held on until he got there so she didn’t die alone.

    One day in a small church service they had at the nursing home that I was there for, she saw the cloth that was over the pulpet, it had embroidery on it in script that said “Sing to the Lord”, she saw it and yelled out over and over “Going to the Lord”, “Going to the Lord” and would not stop until I held a cup of water up to her to drink. She thought that is what it said.

    I am so relieved, but I have never been this sad. I know your pain, and I totally understand you, it will be a relief, it will also be so hard. My mom went to her Lord.

  2. i know it probably doesn’t feel good – but you put one foot in front of the other for another whole year. now that one is done. you are a survivor! To 2011 and whatever it decides to toss our way…have at it.

  3. thanks for your comment. i know you’re right. i left my mom today and she was upset so much like a child and all i could think about was what if something happens to her….. i left like this…… and i just thought how sad i would be; how much i would miss; that i havent done enough……. it makes me very sad when i dwell and think on it. thank you

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