going down, a day at a time
January 3, 2010 2 Comments
For example, over those months, my mother’s walking worsened gradually, such that by late September, she was not really walking–she was being dragged along as we ‘walked’ her to the toilet.
The problem was, she could not remember that she was supposed to lift her legs and place them on the floor again for each step. Sometimes she would not lift any leg, just gape at us when we asked her to. Sometimes she would lift the left leg, take a step, and then lift the same leg again. I would keep talking to her, keep cueing her by patting first the left leg, then the right. There was no improvement, and then came the day when it took two persons to make her ‘walk’ to the bathroom, and we accepted the fact that she was not walking.
I had been told by a caregiver whose mother had Alzheimer’s, that one day, her mother just stopped walking. Another caregiver, again with a mother with dementia, said something similar. I remember that day when I sat next to my mother, in a state of shock, finally registering that my mother had stopped walking – probably because she forgot how to.
It took another month for me to understand that her ‘forgetting how to walk’ was probably not easy to reverse. When I tried to study the act of walking from the perspective of someone whose brain is affected by disease, I began to appreciate how very complex the activity of walking is, the multiplicity of tasks it involves, and the degree of coordination it requires. Strange how much we take for granted regarding what we do with our bodies and minds.
My mother has not walked a step since October beginning, and is on the bed all the time, except for the times we lift her and place her on a chair for variety.
Now I am happy enough if she wiggles her toes when I ask her to. How standards change 🙂
Resources to understand late stage care are available here: Late-stage dementia care page of Dementia Care Notes
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