Why does someone living with Memory Loss remember one thing but not Another?

September 28, 2018

 

So, my daughter was married just a few weeks ago, and we were absolutely delighted that my mum - now aged 91, and living with Alzheimer's Dementia - was able to be there.

 

And not only that, she looked GORGEOUS!!

 

She was the only one of the three  remaining Grandies to be able to be there, which made it all the more special for everyone.

 

 

 

We “get” her memory loss – we live with it daily.

 

What I don’t think you can ever be prepared for is what someone living with memory loss will, or will not remember.

 

As you can imagine the build-up to the wedding was huge!

 

For months we were getting sorted out with what to wear, accommodation, wedding presents, all sorts of arrangements.

 

On a pretty much daily basis in the lead-up, there would be the inevitable questions from mum – what are we wearing, are we staying over, is it just one night, where are we staying, how many people will be there – and so on and so on.

 

All good.

 

However, what I guess we hadn’t QUITE realised is the level of stress on her of the whole thing - and the price to pay, especially for her.

 

First we stayed in a strange place - deeply stressful because she simply couldn’t get hold of the layout of the place.

 

Then there were drinks at an essentially stand-up function the night before with about 50 people she’d never seen before.

 

Then it was the day of the wedding – hair, makeup, bubbly on an empty

tummy, and a house full of people - most of whom she didn't know - and then there were photos.

 

Then it was the Ceremony. 

 

This time 80 people – most of whom she didn’t know, some of whom she knew - but sadly couldn’t remember.

 

Then it was the Reception – the dinner didn’t come until after 8pm.

 

Not only that, no-one was keeping an eye on how much wine mum was consuming. 

 

What we have learned is that a couple of glasses too many seems to push the angry button, so there was a time where we thought there might go off the rails.

 

Thankfully that was nipped in the bud, and everything went beautifully – PHEW!

 

Then of course it was about 10:30, having had a day full of stimulation, stress, strangers and general chaos, it was time to go home, and of course she was exhausted!

 

My gorgeous husband was charged with taking mum home the next morning, and whilst we had told her, we didn’t really expect her to remember.

 

The next morning as we stood around in the kitchen, she arrived out with her bags packed and ready to go!

 

 

 

Clearly, and sadly, there had been little if any enjoyment for her, and the truth was, she couldn’t wait to get home.

 

About 3 days later, I had a call from her saying she was panicking about paying the accommodation. 

 

I asked if she meant the Body Corporate at her Retirement Village or the wedding. 

 

“No, no, the wedding, have I paid?”  

 

“Yes” said I, “you’re totally clear, all good.” 

 

“What about the present?” 

 

“Nope, all good” said I, “all paid for, you’re good. Everything is done. There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

THEN she said. 

 

“Well, what am I going to wear, what are you wearing – have you bought something yet?”

 

My heart sank, but still I hoped that she was still coming down from the stress, and that ultimately, it would come back.

 

When we got the photos a couple of weeks later, to be honest, I just don’t know if she ACTUALLY remembers or not.

 

As you can imagine, it's hard to get your head round the fact that this hugely important occasion in her life - this is her first and much-adored grandchild getting married - seems to have not stayed in her memory.

 

Move on 3 weeks and my dear friend Tessa announces that she’s thinking of moving to Bali in the new year – exciting right? 

 

Whilst I’ll miss her awfully, I’m just SO HAPPY for her – what an adventure!!

 

Mum has become very fond of Tessa, and probably in some respects, a bit dependent in the sense that she is part of our family, comes for Family Dinner on Saturday night and is just around – so all very familiar and reliable.

 

On top of a VERY clear and negative response to this proposed move, for days, every time we spoke with mum she said “I just don’t understand why anyone would want to move to Bali.  Is Tessa really going?”

 

So, go figure!!

 

Her grandchild gets married and it doesn’t seem to stick.

 

A friend is going away on an adventure, and it stays firmly in the front of her mind.

 

I wonder whether the reason for not remembering the wedding is the stressful nature of the time around it - a bit like when someone has a head injury they don't remember the events around the accident.

 

Certainly, she was out of her element, so whilst we were there with her, she was clearly feeling uncertain, afraid even, and simply couldn't retain the information about what was going on.

 

The moral of the story for us is that whilst in principal it was just wonderful for her to be part of it all, in truth, for her, it was quite simply too much.

 

And that’s the call from now on - not what we think she will enjoy or value, but what she will ACTUALLY enjoy.

 

About a year or so ago, she said that she remembers her own mother saying when she was in her 80s and 90s that she just had to be quiet now, and I guess that’s it for mum now too.

 

Still, we have photos to treasure, and I think even if she really actually doesn’t remember, she can still look at them and treasure the moments too.

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