I’ve been thinking about Mom a lot today. If I had one piece of advice for those traveling the Alzheimer’s journey with someone they love, I would tell them to treasure every moment. Of course no one would choose this path, but for all of the misery and sadness, there are also moments of utter joy, as well as an opportunity to connect with your loved one like never before.

The Mother/Daughter Bond

Prior to her illness, my mom and I had a very close relationship. Sure, we had our moments of mother/daughter strife, but she was my biggest cheerleader and I always knew that no matter what else happened, she would be by my side. There was a mutual love, and even though we probably didn’t say it enough, we both knew it was stronger than any disagreement or conflict we had.

The early years of her illness were probably our most contentious.  Sadly, I don’t think either of us knew how to process our fears and emotions, and I’ll always regret that. But, as the disease progressed, I began to accept it – at least to the extent possible, and our bond strengthened.

Frustration, Laughter, and Love

Although she lost language fairly early, it seems we always managed to communicate. While I hated seeing her upset and acting out, I never did take it personally. Make no mistake, it hurt; however, I knew it wasn’t intentionally directed at me, but rather was a function of the pain and frustration she was experiencing. Yelling and lashing out were her only means of expressing her displeasure.  She couldn’t tell us what was bothering her, and one can only imagine how maddening that must have been.

But for all the difficult moments we experienced, we also shared laughter and a connection the depth of which I never knew possible. Mom had her own language of love that I’ll never forget; the way her eyes would light up when she saw me come in the door, the funny faces she was forever entertaining us with, and the sweet expression on her face when she was able to find those three precious words, “I love you.” And there were those rare and treasured moments when it seemed as though her maternal instinct kicked in for a brief instant as she stroked my face or patted my leg with the gentleness of a mother. For a split second, I was once again the daughter, and she was my mom.

“Hello, Are You In There?”

One of the things I find most upsetting is this crazy notion that people with Alzheimer’s are nothing more than an empty shell of what they once were. Put in the simplest of terms, that is a load of rubbish. Right up until the very end, I saw things in my mom that assured me she was still very much “in there.” She never lost her sense of humor, stubbornness, or spunk, and I truly believe she often understood more than one might have thought.

As you travel this journey with your own parent, sibling, spouse, or friend, just be there with them. Follow their lead. If they want to laugh and be silly, do it right along with them. And if you sense they just want to sit quietly, hold their hand and let them feel your love. Remember that while the disease has changed them drastically, they are still the people you have always known and loved. They have feelings and emotions, and they continue to love and need you very much.






  1. Leah

    Very uplifting Ann!

  2. Beverly

    Beautiful and inspiring! Thanks.

  3. Beverly

    Beautiful and inspiring. Thanks!

  4. Alex Matthews

    This article gives me a lot of hope with my granddad. He has recently started losing my memory. We are not sure if it will lead to Alzheimer’s but it has gotten to the point where he puts salt on his food every 10 seconds. I appreciate your attitude and willingness to share your situation.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thank you for the kind feedback, Alex. Blessings to you and your family. ~Ann

  5. Robin

    Words you have shared are everything I’ve experienced and you are so right thank you for sharing…keep sharing. It has been difficult but I will always cherish the precious momments we have and are sharing now. I love my mom so much. Life is a gift to be shared.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Absolutely, Robin. You’ll have those memories forever, and you’ll be able to look back with no regrets. Best to you. ~Ann

  6. Diane Jackson

    Great article. It is so true I see my mom slipping away daily but there are the moments that she still expresses in her way that she loves me so much. I am taking one day at a time and enjoying those good moments.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Diane – you have the right attitude. One day at a time; it’s all there is. Down the road, you’ll be so glad you enjoyed those special moments with your mom. Best to you. ~Ann

  7. Melissa

    Wow, I could have written this….! My Mom passed almost a year ago. She too lost her speech (aphasia) after her 3rd TIA but as you said, she KNEW exactly what was going on around her, and being said! It drove me crazy that some of the staff would talk as if she were a block of wood, just because she couldn’t answer them in a complete sentence! But once I told & should them all they had to do was phrase any question they needed answered in a “Yes or No” format and she would readily nod or reply “yes” or “no”! She confused names of people a lot. I KNEW she knew me when I entered her room always but my name rarely came out of her mouth! Some days I’d decide to try and work with with her on that! Saying, now Mom, you know I’m not “Shirley” right!? She would get a funny confused look on her face as if to say, Um, YEA , you are my only daughter…of course I know you! Then I’d say, but you called me Shirley again! She shake her head NO, like she couldn’t believe me!! So I ask Who am I? “SHIRLEY” again! I’d say don’t you “hear” the word you say when you said it? Try again, I’d prompt her Mel…iss…a! Over and over she’d get it going on a roll then, begin to shout it out loud! I’d smile, stop her and calm her down. Yea, Mom you did it!
    A few minutes later, she’d call me Shirley again! :). I’d smile and say you said it again. Then she look at me, shake her head in disbelief and say “oh Shirley isn’t that just awful Shirley!?” We both burst out laughing together!!!
    So as SAD as it was, and she understood there was something not working…. Yes, there were days we cried together and other days we would laugh and laugh!
    I also tried to sing with her! I’d seen the Gaby Giffords special with Diane Sawyer and how her Speech Therapists first were able to get her to just verbalize by singing with her! I dug back in my childhood for those songs we sang in car on trips, or ones she liked to play on the piano. I printed them out in large fonts on paper so she could also SEE them. We found she could read way better than she could talk, or respond in speech! Every day was different, some better and worse than others. But I will treasure those memories too along with the rest of my lifetime memories. My regret or if I could have a do-over? I’d go back maybe 5 yrs and move her into the Assisted Living – Indepentent (also) place sooner! She knew where she wanted to go, she just kept putting it off, WANTING SO BADLY to hang onto her ‘independence’. But by the time she’d had a couple TIA’s (mini strokes). She was not really even able to ENJOY the benefits, activities, make friends, once I did make her move, but she was already too far ‘gone’ to be able to do any of those things! I believe had she gone there earlier, the added stimulation of more people and activities may have prolonged her more lucid lifetime! Just my thoughts….sorry to write too much!

    • Ann Napoletan

      Ah, I completely understand. I wish we would have moved my mom sooner, also, but the fact is, she just wouldn’t go. I was so afraid she would give up on life if we took her out of her house – I couldn’t force it, so I waited… so heartbreaking. It sounds like you did an amazing job with your mother and should have no regrets. Best to you and your family, and thanks for sharing your experience… ~Ann

  8. Kathy Minter

    WOW, GREAT ARTICLE….so true, so true….. this disease is so hard ! What makes it harder is having two older siblings who see things differently ! I am truly learning during this most difficult process. I appreciate your up-lifting article ! Thank you, thank you !

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thanks for your kind words, Kathy. I’m so glad you found the article helpful. You’re so right – this disease is very, very hard – for everyone involved. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves to stop and savor the precious, joyful moments. Blessings to your family. ~Ann

  9. Jan

    Thank you for your insight. My father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my mom with “stress/depression related memory loss”. Mom’s memory is nearly as challenged as Dad’s. Having this happen at the same time is so very difficult and to make it worse, I live over 1000 miles away! My brother and I are so overwhelmed. We are starting with their finances and have arranged to have everything paid on line. We are looking into assisted care, but finances are a problem. We are trusting God and taking it one day at a time.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Jan, taking it all one day at a time is all you can do. Your parents are very fortunate to have you. Sending blessings. ~Ann

  10. Teresa

    Thank you Ann for sharing your life with your mom. This has helped my so much. I do have trouble at times with the emotional roller coaster…..loosing my patience and feeling guilty about it and asking God to forgive me and help me to do better…..I work twice a week, care for my two younger grandchldren 8 and 9, a husband working odd hrs etc etc. and feel guilty when I go on trips without her. I make sure we do things together with her and she has fun but we get home and it starts up all over like she forgets about all the happy times we had and starts in on different stuff like someone was driving her car, it wasn’t there yet it hasn’t been moved, wants the keys and then in the morning, doesn’t remember anything….BUT I DO the emotional roller coaster, reading this article has shown me that I have come along way. And I don’t know what the future will bring but the one day at a time is how I look at life asking God daily to help me and help my mom….Thank you and don’t stop writing these articles, what a great help for me.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Ah, Teresa, so much of this sounds familiar. When my mom still had her speech, I would visit her at the AL facility and even if I’d just been there the day before, she would cry and say, “I haven’t seen you for so long.” It always broke my heart because I knew that in her mind, she really HADN’T seen me in what must have felt like forever to her. So tragic, so very sad. And yet, it’s impossible not to lose your patience with them, which leads to those all too familiar feelings of guilt. It’s a vicious cycle that no one can understand unless they’ve been through it. I’m glad you find the Caregivers blog helpful. Hope to hear more from you in the future. Rest assured that you’re not alone. Blessings to you and your family. ~Ann

  11. Mary Katherine Martin

    My Mom is fighting me all the way. I can’t afford assisted living and she refuses to leave her home for fear she will be put in a nursing home. I can’t stand to see her cry and it lis heartbreaking. We caregivers are learning to prepare better for what age will dish out to us in the near future. I am an only child and must make the hard decisions alone. I have visited nursing facilities and I can’t bear to send her without her permission. Thanks for your article. I will continue reading and learning.

    • Ann Napoletan

      I can definitely empathize, Mary Katherine. I, too, am an only child, and it’s tough being the sole decision maker. On the flip side, there is no one to disagree or second guess you, so like everything, it has its pros and cons. You are so right about seeing them cry; right up until the very end, seeing my mom cry was beyond heartbreaking, especially since she had no way of telling me what was really bothering her. I think at times I had to subconsciously detach myself to a certain degree to avoid breaking down myself. Making the move to assisted living or skilled nursing is never easy. My mom was fiercely independent her entire life; when it came time, she was adamant about not leaving her house. For that reason, I put it off as long as possible – probably too long. Follow your heart. Try to get her to focus on the positive; having activities to participate in and people to socialize with… I wish I could say something to make it all easier. Sending you blessings. ~Ann

  12. Ella

    Ann, thank you for this writing, your words are so true. As this disease does what it does, progressing with a fury, I find it is easier for me, hopefully for my Brother, to adapt to what he may be feeling. I am so grateful for his good days or moments, cherish them, and make it a point to share in his enthusiasm. I know this is an opportunity to connect as siblings and grasp it. When there are bad days or moments ( I know he’s entitled to them) I watch what I say and do, somehow sensing when I must. He values his privacy, always did, but more so these days and I respect it. I remember to feel my emotions privately, to walk away talking to myself, but feel it seems the right thing to do, perhaps my coping skills. I see his independent and controlling personality still, his fury at me at times (as I remember as his little sister) and lovingly accept it. I believe he’s trying to be brave and strong, as he was (sometimes almost tough, as brothers tend to be). I rely on professionals when I feel I’m in over my head and seek out knowledge. What a life change this has been for him, for all, retreating isn’t an option yet. We do because we care and love. God Bless All Caregivers

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