What they don’t tell you about Alzheimer’s

So, everyone is well aware of the forgetting, but less mentioned is the tendencies of collecting or hoarding.

This is something that we are all too familiar with in my family–just look in my mom’s handbag and you’ll see the things that she especially likes to collect. Generally, it’s yarn or crocheting needles (before the disease advanced to where it is now, she was incredibly crafty and a few years ago, she was able to still at least make little doily-like circles. Now she just twirls the crocheting needle around a piece of tangled yarn). For whatever reason, a newer obsession has been toothbrushes. Leave one in plain sight and leave the area and consider it as good as gone. I’ve made this mistake many times, most recently last weekend.

There is no rhyme to her reason, but at least she’s consistent with it.

There are other things that end up going missing with little or no warning. I left my purse out in the downstairs kitchen and, thinking it was hers, she raided it, sorting my things and scattering them throughout the room/redistributing them to other bags/areas. This happened 2 weekends ago. When I came home this past weekend, my dad handed me a pack of Sudafed, saying he found it stuff in one of the cabinets and assumed it was mine.

There’s really no use arguing with my mom about this habit, especially because it’s not one she can control. The best you can do is simply hide things and stay vigilant.

The most recent item to go completely missing in my parent’s house is my hair straightener. I must have left it there in the midst of trying to re-pack/collect all my things from spending the night a couple weeks back for Jon Stewart. Stupidly, I figured it would be in/around the bathroom where I left it. It wasn’t. I searched the cabinets, the nearby closets. Places that made sense and the most illogical ones I could surmise. The past week had been filled with scarves and headbands. I knew this could not continue and so I doggedly kept up the search, to no avail.

I’m sure in some textbook (maybe one of the books sitting on my shelf?) I could gather a legitimate explaination for this phenomenon. Maybe a part of me doesn’t want to completely understand–maybe it’s too difficult to find clinical explainations for what my mother is going through because it drives home the point that she is a statistic. Maybe it’s a way to deny this is a part of the larger disease that already has a name and does not have a cure. Maybe a part of me likes to believe that in a poetically ironic way, my mother collects these things in order to replace the memories that she continues to lose. Each toothbrush signifies a lovely thought that she’s salvaged from the darkness and stored in her bag for safe keeping; each tangled bit of thread the fibers from which she can re-spin the stories that make up her existence.

Or maybe my mother is making us all the fools: maybe she purposely hid my hair straightener, just so I know what it might be like to stumble around stupidly looking for something I know was just here in the most familiar place, but somehow has gone missing…

2 thoughts on “What they don’t tell you about Alzheimer’s

  1. “Maybe a part of me likes to believe that in a poetically ironic way, my mother collects these things in order to replace the memories that she continues to lose. Each toothbrush signifies a lovely thought that she’s salvaged from the darkness and stored in her bag for safe keeping; each tangled bit of thread the fibers from which she can re-spin the stories that make up her existence.

    Or maybe my mother is making us all the fools: maybe she purposely hid my hair straightener, just so I know what it might be like to stumble around stupidly looking for something I know was just here in the most familiar place, but somehow has gone missing…”

    A poignantly poetic reading of your mom’s sad behavior!
    Awesome and beautiful. Brings tears to my eyes.

  2. I really know next to nothing about Alzheimer’s (most of what I learn about it comes from stuff you write), but it also sounds like maybe it’s something your mom can control. Especially if she does it consistently. Maybe it happens because it’s something she can recognise as an action or object or connection. Almost like a way of fighting back against the disease. Which in a way is a kind of comforting thought.

Comments are closed.