Last week I wrote the first post sharing about the day my mother had her stroke and then when she woke up after two and a half days how she had memory loss. If you haven’t read it yet you can here. Today is my mother’s 52nd Birthday and I am so thankful and happy that she is alive and even though she has some minor health issues currently is doing well.
Happy Birthday Mammy, I hope you have a great one!
I stopped off when my mom woke up in a new hospital and we were just finding out the damage the stroke had done. She couldn’t swallow on her own so she had to have a feeding tube inserted, her whole left side was weak and she had no feeling on that side of her body. She lost vision in her left eye, there was still a blood clot in her brain and she didn’t regain her memory. When I saw my mom awake again she was tired and weak, she could barely talk but she kept asking about her sister. We finally realized that my mom didn’t remember anything after her 18th birthday. My parents had celebrated 30 years of marriage that year and she didn’t even remember my father. What she did remember was she use to tease him when she was younger. So whenever the nurse or doctor would come in and call her Mrs. Charles she would say that’s not my name and we had to continue to say mammy you are Mrs. Charles and this is your husband. She called my father, her husband of 30 years Mr. Charles for three months. She didn’t stop calling him Mr. Charles until she finally saw their marriage certificate and he begged her to call him by his first name.
Thanksgiving was fast approaching and slowly depression started to set in because even though we were with her every day and we constantly reminded her that we were her family, she constantly asked why were we always with her and how come her family never came to visit it. Our family is from Trinidad and most of my mother’s family is still there, all the people she remembered were in Trinidad or they had already passed so getting someone she remembered to visit wasn’t going to happen easily. We applied for an emergency VISA for her sister and brother but my aunt’s was denied and she didn’t want my uncle to come without my aunt. She cried for a week constantly wondering why her family wasn’t there. Even though we were there all the time, my father never left her in the hospital, and when he finally did we had to beg him to go home and get some rest and come back later on that day. We took pictures to her, videos, but nothing seemed to work and it just seemed to become very clear that we were not going to get her to recall any old memories. None from her wedding day, none of children, or her grandchildren. It was all gone and it just didn’t seem to be returning.
We finally realized it was time to make new memories and forget about the old ones. They were just gone and finally the doctors just suggested that they wouldn’t return ever so we should just focus on teaching her new things. So since she only remembered what we told her after the stroke we just started from there. We gathered up photos of all her children and grandchildren and taught her all our names and birth dates. We taught her about her birthday and her friends. We showed her pictures of the house so she would be familiar with it when she was finally released to come home. She had to relearn how to count money, her address, phone number and everything else in between. She would get upset and frustrated because she just couldn’t recall the old stuff and we would just remind her that she was sick and that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t do it on purpose. As hard as it was for us I couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult it was for her.
A stroke took our mother’s memories but there are so many ways that someone could end up with memory loss. Here are some tips to preserve important memories.
Take lots of pictures, you can never have enough. If you have family internationally like I do, be sure to get up to date photos of them as well. Make family albums and photos books.
Video tape special occasions. Label them with the name of the event and the date and keep them in a safe place.
Make notes on index cards so that they can read at their own pace.
Keep a few historic magazines or newspapers with great articles that capture certain moments in time.
Most importantly be patient. As frustrating as it may be for you it can be just as frustrating for them as well. As a mother myself I couldn’t imagine waking up one day and not knowing my husband and children. As a child I know how hard it was to swallow the truth that my mother didn’t know who I was. Even today she knows I am her daughter because I told her and she believes me but she never remember being pregnant with me, she doesn’t remember giving birth to me, she can’t recall my first steps or my first words, my first hospital trip or my first day of school. Thankfully my mom shared stories with us when we were going up and when we were adults so we just retell her the stories she told us. It has been one of the best ways we get to re-share lost memories with her. So my final tip is to share stories of all the things you want to always remember because you just never know if they will be forgotten.