Is Alzheimers a Meditative State?

February 1, 2013 · 2 comments

Today I paid a visit to my mother, who has been living with Alzheimers for twelve years. It takes me three hours to drive to her nursing home. I try not to go with expectations, but that’s hard, since the drive itself is a commitment (kind of like sitting down to meditate) and I want my visits to go well.

But it’s hard to define “well” when my mother doesn’t know who I am, and when she seems to deteriorate in between my visits. I try to slip into a zen state when I interact with her.
Sometimes (as with my meditation practice) I fear that I have made a mistake. I fear that I’m veering out of a meditative state. It’s challenging to make conversation with my mother. After complimenting her on her haircut, kissing her hand, and noting that her cough didn’t seem too bad, today I found myself asking “What are you thinking about?”

Oops.

That’s certainly a question I try not to ask myself when I’m meditating. I’d slipped out of my zen state, but my mother stayed right where she was. “It’s hard to tell,” she answered. Closing her eyes, she drifted, or meditated, or noted the thoughts passing through her mind.

Or not.

It’s hard to tell.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda Durant Finman February 2, 2013 at 6:15 am

Your Mom looks blissful, peaceful, safe and content. Is that possible with different stages of dementia or Alzheimers? Ninety-six year old, Nikki was peaceful Thursday when I called to say, “Hi Mom, how ya doing?”……with me on the east coast & her out west. Two months ago she was not peaceful. She was raging at me and everyone around her because two of my sisters and I were insisting that she needed 24/7 caregivers in that resort condo where she and our other sister decided to move her out of assisted living to last February. For whatever reason, neither Mom nor other sister felt it was inappropriate to leave her “home alone” in that 3 story condo, on the cliff by Lake Tahoe for a few hours, while sister & husband went off to swim at the Club……even though Mom herself had written several times between Feb-Aug 2012 saying that she now needed “constant supervision” because she knew her mind was going. Good news today…….Mama does not even remember the raging from last November that landed her in the hospital for two days. Nor the fall in the Club’s parking lot when she was left alone to “negotiate the pavement” (as our sister described it). Not so great news……Nikki’s thirty-something, alcoholic grandson is now a ‘constant caregiver’, due to the ankle bracelet and house arrest that keeps him at the resort condo night and day, because that was the only way our sister could get him home from jail for Christmas (from his 3rd DUI). Not sure if he is still ranting on Facebook about the pawn shop who refused to return his gun……because we ‘unfriended’ him last September to protect our ten-year-old son from seeing his R-rated page. And we fear for his seven year old daughter who lives downstairs from Gramma Nikki as all of this goes on.
I think your Mom looks marvelously peaceful and safe. Namaste & Blessings…..I’m going to go remember how to breathe…..again!! :) xoxoxo

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Betsy Small February 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hi, Priscilla –

I left this message on your blog but thought I’d copy it to your website as well.

When my mother had Alzheimers and finally forgot who I was it felt like such a great loss. I began reading books on Alzheimers, and one that particularly struck me was “The Forgetting: Alzheimers: Portrait of an Epidemic”, which, though the title sounds pretty grim, was encouraging, helping me to see the disease in a new light. It goes into some depth about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Alzheimer’s (also Jonathan Swift’s and William deKooning’s), and it is viewed by the author as like a meditative state, of living in the present. It was either this book or another that said that although words become less meaningful and are often forgotten, the language that is never dies is the language of love. Knowing that my mother could feel my love through touch and other means of expression was immensely comforting.

By the way, I love your book, which I keep near my bedside, and often come back to reading parts of it. So thank you for it!

Peace and comfort to you,
Betsy

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