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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2004 Gregory J. Rummo
650 words


By: Gregory J. Rummo


Ronald Reagan finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, and those of us who lost a loved one after a long and similar battle can empathize with those closest to him.

My mom was a woman very much like America’s fortieth president. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She could find something funny in almost anything — a trait that was a little annoying to my father who had to work hard at it to laugh at even the funniest jokes.

But over the last seven years of her life that sense of humor disappeared along with just about everything else that was mom. It was slowly eaten away by Alzheimer's disease — that insidious degeneration of the portion of the brain that makes us who we are.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older people. Its onset usually occurs after age 65. Approximately 4 million people are afflicted.

In mom's case, it started shortly after she suffered the first of several transient ischemic attacks or mini-strokes.

The first occurred as my parents were sitting together in the kitchen, having a cup of tea together. Suddenly mom began acting irrationally, trying to remove her clothing because she said she felt hot. Her speech became slurred and soon she began to babble incoherently.

After a short stay in the hospital, she improved and went home. But she never recovered completely and bouts with depression, or “sundowning,” started shortly thereafter.

She then had cataract surgery and after her eyes had healed, the doctors were dumbfounded over her inability to read the words on the eye chart. The onset of Alzheimer's had slowly been eating away at her mental faculties, robbing her brain of the ability to comprehend the message her eyes were sending to it.

I remember one July fourth my dad calling me on the telephone, sobbing because mom was having a particularly bad day. “She's depressed because she says you didn't come and visit her today. She is sitting in front of the mirror, crying. I think she has finally realized what is happening to her.”

It was to be one of the last, lucid realizations she would have.

Dementia began shortly thereafter. When it finally became too much for dad to take care of mom by himself, he sold their home in Westchester County in New York State and moved to Bald Eagle Commons, a retirement village in West Milford.

On Christmas morning in 1996, my dad slipped while putting on a pair of trousers, breaking his neck on the marble saddle between the bedroom and the bathroom. He died two days later at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson from cardiac arrest during surgery to brace his spine.

My wife and I were left with the unpleasant task of placing mom in a nursing home as there was no other way she could receive the constant attention she required.

The disease continued its slow and steady destruction of my mother. Time was now the enemy — each week ripping another piece of the very fabric of her being away until eventually she became unrecognizable.

She spent the last 4 months of her life staring into space from a fetal position in her bed. The closest thing to a response from her came one September afternoon when I kissed her goodbye and she smiled.

Then in late October, the nursing home called to tell me she was no longer eating or drinking.

My last visit with mom on this earth was on Monday, October 25, 1999. My pastor met me at the nursing home. I whispered a quiet prayer in her ear, told her I loved her and kissed her goodbye for the last time. She went quietly, two days later to a better place, where “the street of the city is pure gold” and there's no Alzheimer's disease.

Until we meet again, I miss you mom.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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