Dementia: Like a Thief in the Night

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July 19, 2021

My Mother’s Dementia:  A One Year Snapshot! 

A Poem: Our Mother’s Eyes        
To: Ola Van Hoorebeke, my Mother, from Gail Hagler Fleming, your oldest daughter,

Fall, 2020

 The Mother takes care of the child.
Time passes.
The child takes care of the Mother

Over the years, I watched our Mother’s eyes sparkling with a shining light:
looking loving, looking kind, looking trusting and innocent, looking alert, looking happy and smiling, looking pretty, and looking proud.

Time passes. I watched our Mother’s eyes beginning to impart a hint of concern as if peeking through shadows and secrets and spying a foreboding of the tragedy to come, looking afraid, looking worried, looking pained, looking lost, looking shocked, looking devastated by the loss of loved ones, shedding tears like torrents of falling rain.

Time passes. I watched our Mother’s eyes blinking away the tears, looking bittersweet, wise, and worn, slowly conveying a look of hope while surviving the past. I watched her eyes looking full of determination and the strength to go forward.

Time passes. I watched our Mother’s eyes expressing a reflection of her heartaches, trials, and troubles and still radiating a measured happiness, still looking kind, looking loving, looking happy. I watched our Mother’s eyes appearing to shine with the realization of a new life chapter, as if manifesting a long-awaited dream. I watched our Mother’s eyes looking satisfied, content, and proud of her own accomplishments
as well as those of her children.

Time passes, I watched our Mother’s eyes revealing a slight hint of sadness, looking a little tired and weary and war-torn, looking as if she’s been battered from weathering storms of injury and illness, watching as her spark and zest for life slowly fade, looking with a lack of understanding, focusing on something or someone far away, looking without knowing or responding, looking at nothing, staring nowhere.
The light is gradually going out, like the flickering flame of a candle gently blowing in the wind……….”the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”
Goodnight, Mother. Goodnight, Moon.

The child takes care of the Mother.
Mother, I miss watching the sparkling and shining light in your eyes.

Fall, 2021:

The Mother takes care of the child.
Time passes.
The child takes care of the Mother.

I now watch my Mother losing not only the sparkle and light in her eyes, but also intermittently, losing her cognitive grip on reality. (She seems to go in and out of lucidity.)

Time passes. I watch as my Mother speaks a little about memories of her childhood, enjoying reminiscing, looking and smiling at pictures of my granddaughter (her great granddaughter), appearing happy to see her great granddaughter and grateful for my visits to her home. My brother, Steve and I, visit and play and sing familiar songs for her.

Time passes. (Maybe, just only a day)  I am called at my own home by the current caregiver; it’s early evening (maybe sundowners’ time); the caregiver says that my Mother has become delusional/paranoid/and combative, refusing to take her medication, accusing the caregiver and my father of trying to hurt her. I go to her home (a five-minute drive away); my Mothers looks at me with intense anger and says that she won’t do anything that I tell her to do. (She acts combative.)

(The Dangling Conversation…..)
(Mother: Don’t try to force me to take that medicine. You just want me to take it so you can hurt me; I want the doctor to tell me what medicine I need to take.

Me: Mom, the medicine is in prescription bottles; the doctor saw you, diagnosed your condition, and prescribed this medicine to help you feel better.

Mother: I don’t believe you; you’re lying to me. You’ve always lied to me. (She appears to be in an intense state of confusion and agitation.)

Me: What about your son, Steve? He carefully puts the medicine in the pill containers for you each day. He comes to see you several times a week.

Mother: He doesn’t come to see me, and I don’t trust him either. You’re all trying to get me to do what you want, not what I want. You want me to die; I don’t want to die.)

Time passes: I watch my Mother travel in and out of these episodes: sometimes lucid, sometimes smiling/sometimes delusional, in a state of paranoia and terror.
She seems exhausted. I feel sad and drained……….
Just a song before I go, A lesson to be learned”…” Goodnight, my someone”……..



  1. Debby Cox says:

    This is so heartbreakingly real & well-written. It’s as if you are talking about my very own Mom! 💔

  2. Jim says:

    This is so sad Gail. There are many forms of dementia, and they all manifest in their own way. I didn’t know Ola very well, but I remember a young vibrant woman so full of life, but that was so long ago. She looks so alert in the recent pictures you have shared of the 4 generations of your family and then I remember my dad when he was nearing the end. The times of lucidity that he seemed to be able to will into existence when he needed them, and the blank stares when he wasn’t paying attention. Just remember that you have many friends, and we are all here for you when you need us.

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