The Dementia Chronicles #16 – What's Up Buttercup?

Blossom: developing a play about Alzheimer’s from Spencer Lott on Vimeo.

Every morning brings a different scenario, doesn’t it? Over the past couple of days, I have had to take over mom’s life completely. Up to now, it’s been a slow progress.

When mom got here, she was semi-capable of feeding herself. Although, hamburgers, pizza and ice cream doesn’t sound like complete nutritional diet to me. Nowadays, she barely makes it to the refrigerator or cupboard to pull out something ready-to-eat. Mom’s go-to foods are yogurt, ice cream bars, breakfast cookies, and pudding. Fifty-percent of those foods are good for her. I guess that’s something. Mostly, mom lays in bed all day long and watches Westerns.

I have to make her get up to sit in a chair when she eats. I prepare all of her meals and get refreshments for her. I dispense all of her medications. I bathe her, clean her dentures, wash her (nearly daily) when she is incontinent–and that doesn’t mean she’s left the country. I brush and wash her hair–how she used to mine when I was a child.

I stroll her around in the transport chair with her grossly-obese dog, Teddy. And, so we come to the subject matter of this post. A while ago, I decided that I would dispense the pets’ food for Teddy and Timmy, her cat, but that I would still leave their food available in her apartment. Now, I’ve taken over feeding mom’s pets entirely. Because she feeds them by dumping kibbles and wet food directly onto the floor. She does it because she’s so encumbered by the COPD and has very little energy to feed them properly. She simply opens packets of food and lets gravity do the rest. Easy peasy.

But, it creates a huge mess. At first, I balked at. It made me crazy thinking how my used-to-be-overly-tidy mother had become this little whirlwind of filth. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and would get upset. But I should’ve expected it because she had been throwing food on the floor the same way in her own home before we moved her in.

Her old house sits empty and still dirty from the way she was living when she was alone. We’ll get around to cleaning it when we have time but we’re going to need three donkeys, a three-ringed circus and a clown’s broom just to get the job done.

So, I’ve learned some things over these past fourteen months and this is one of the things I’ve learned: that this type of behavior–these complete flips in personality–are common with Alzheimer’s patients. However, coupled with the COPD these changes become exacerbated. I end up doing a balancing act between those two illnesses but, then, must make sure mom’s schizophrenia doesn’t raise its ugly head.

Is it the worst decision we’ve ever made? Maybe so. But what else could we do? Neither Bob nor I expected mom was so debilitated. We thought she was feeding herself, cleaning herself at least a couple of times during the month and we assumed she was taking her meds. None of which were true. She was simply getting to the refrigerator, going poddy, washing her hands (maybe), and throwing food and treats around for her pets.

It’s a game of “catch-up” every day, but, every day, I work my spirits up by quoting Phillipians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I have memorized Psalm 23 when I feel myself unwind.

Then, afterward, I say, “What’s up buttercup?” When I walk in to her studio.

These shots are of mom as a capable but fragile young woman…

momdadlizzsusiMom and Dad at Luke

This is mom in recent days…
Mom in bed with TeddyMom in the Hospital - JanuaryTo learn more about the following diseases, go to the following links:






  1. Lois Mushro LaBarre on December 19, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    I remember your Mom when she was younger & married to your Dad my cousin Jimmy (as we called him). God Bless you for taking care of her. Sometimes we have to take the role of parent & it isn’t easy. I always quote Psalm 23 no matter what everyday. Have a very Merry Christmas a Happy New Year.

    • Susan Wingate on December 19, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much for the note and your memory of my mom. She and dad were the best parents–a little off and a lot of fun! They loved us so much. God bless you, Lois. Merry Christmas! xoxo

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