You Don't Get What You Pay For

One thing we’ve learned about Alzheimer’s care is that you don’t get what you pay for. Quality of care doesn’t correlate to cost of care. For instance, my Mom was getting excellent care in the assisted living wing of the retirement village she lived in, a few buildings away from my Dad’s apartment. The facilities were lovely: she had a spacious, private room with an elegant seating area composed of Aunt Opal’s Queen Anne furniture. The staff was friendly and […]

Are You My Mother?

This photo was taken in October 2013, the last time I saw my mother. She looks just like herself, doesn’t she? That’s because I had just washed and styled her hair for her. (Although Dad had been reminding her to take showers, I’m not sure if or with what she’d been washing her hair.) I also picked out her outfit and helped her put it on in the right order. (She’d put on the wool cardigan without a blouse under […]

Basement Elegy

My dad and siblings are cleaning out my parents’ basement this weekend. I get occasional texts from my sister with a photo of an Irish wool sweater, or the nurse’s costume Nana made me one Halloween, so tiny it looks like it was made for a doll: “Do you want this?” No, to the wool sweater (I’m allergic). Yes, to the nurse costume (I’m nostalgic). But I really don’t want anything that’s in the basement; I want the basement. The […]

The Strange, New World of Alzheimer’s

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost two years ago, and her cognitive functions have declined steadily ever since. The disease is relentless, incurable, and inscrutable, but—as my friend Kelly Chaston said of the nonsmoker’s lung cancer that took her life when she was only 48—her illness is not a tragedy. More than 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, and my mother is one of the lucky few who, like Kelly, has excellent health care, […]