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Karen Dalton-Beninato Headshot

Mother Falling

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My mother has fallen and is in the hospital again, mostly because she has forgotten how to sit. Late stage Alzheimer's Disease has made any extreme measures too confusing, too painful to expose her to in the long term so our family has decided on hospice treatment. No daily pain, no lifesaving measures. As hopeless as it feels, it's the best option for her.

She wrestles iv's, and I've seen her in shouting matches with eye exam equipment. My dad was an eye doctor and she was a teacher, so maybe it's some extended fight years after he was also lost to Alzheimer's Disease. I've always been sure no matter the fight, she would win.

You end up parenting your parent at some point during this process. I was there for my father at the end of his life, by the fluke of a years-long evacuation. For my mother I get occasional visits, so there's the guilt along with knowing we're making the last few memories. Her head on my shoulder. Her telling me she's afraid. Her excitement because I'm here, saying I'm her mother or her daughter. You can yell "Chinatown" as much as you want, but that stopped being funny a long time ago.

Losing a second parent to Alzherimer's, if you don't find some humor you won't make it. My mom has gone from shouting "I'm dying!" as code for This Isn't Working Out for Me to shouting, "I'm dead!" Leave it to an English teacher to find a way to make you pay attention.

I now know what "You should visit sooner rather than later," means. There's a mountain of letters my mother wrote, when I'm ready to read through them again. Her writing became illegible years ago but try telling a writer she can't write. To this day she won't believe you, whoever you are.

The loss is more and more common, Alzheimer's Disease is now the fifth leading cause of death in women.

It's a gift, having this last bit of time with my mother. And it's hell because her mind is gone. I'll never know if she still knows it's me but whoever she thinks I am, there's one constant refrain.

She lays her head on my shoulder and says, "I've just loved you for so, so long."