Jun 25, 2021

Making moments count: Navigating Alzheimer’s with love 

Meet my mum, her name is the Rev Dr Cath Holt.  

Alzheimer’s struck early for her, she had not even hit 70. She was still working part time as a Parish priest when she heard the words ‘you have Alzheimer’s disease and will be living in a nursing home within two to three years’.

We couldn’t believe it at the time. But it was true, and my mum is following the textbook Alzheimer’s disease trajectory.

This is a woman who raised four children, completed numerous degrees, including a PhD. All while supporting her communities in far-west Queensland and South Australia.

And now, less than six years later, she is blissfully unaware of anything remotely resembling reality. 

They call it the long goodbye, something I know to be true. With each visit, another small piece of my mother, a sister, an aunt and a friend disappears.

But she still surprises us and brings us joy.

The Rev, as my mum is affectionately called, and my little boy Ollie were recently reading a gardening book. Ollie laboriously sounding out each gardening term, when his Grandma casually leaned over and started to read fluently, upside down, but still with no understanding of what the words meant.

Perhaps her lifelong love of gardening did the trick.

And even though her memory is failing, and her body endures the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, she still has a wicked sense of humour.

My husband Paul and I visit most weeks, we look at the garden, have a coffee and enjoy the moments. 

There is no memory, just moments. Moments we focus on, moments to laugh, moments to just be happy.

Gone are the days of reminiscing, of talking about the ‘good old days’. My mum can no longer process and understand the words being spoken.

Of course, we chat and talk about mum’s life, the places she has been, where she lived and grew up.

For us, the trick is to let mum think and believe what she says to be true. Who cares if she tells me she went to the university yesterday and was working on some sort of project?

My thoughts on this are simple. It is mum’s moment, not mine. Let her enjoy it. Let her have as much of what life can give her in that small second of time. 

It doesn’t matter that I know it’s not true or the facts are all mixed up.

All we have are these moments in time.

The lesson here for us all, is to love the moments, to have gratitude and love for our loved ones who can no longer do this alone.

My mum can no longer understand the word ‘Smile’ but when I joke around, and laugh, she laughs along with me. You can see that in the picture here.

Love your moments people, tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

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  1. Bron,, I agree with you 100%. I am so happy that you are stating loud & proud that these moments are mom’s. My adult daughter & I are my mom’s caregivers. She lives with me. She is late stage. She can no longer walk or do any of her own personal hygiene. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. Physically, yes. It’s the emotional toll that is the hardest. It’s constant grieving. The other night she said to me very clear, thank you for all that you do. You take good care of me. What a joyous moment. I love her so much.

  2. I love your story. Thank u for sharing.
    Your description of the moment is so true. I work in Aged Care, and reading your words confirms that what I do in my interactions with my residents works too. It’s not about the actual words, it’s the physical engaging, facial expressions, body language, and understanding it is their moment. A lot has to do with lifes experiences, and taking from the environment what may enhance the moment. I find it so fulfilling to be the recipient of their interaction with me.
    I am so glad you are able to enjoy your mum/Rev. moments…. special memories… thank you.

  3. I’m feeling every every moment with you Bronny. I spoke to Mum today on Messenger as I do every Thursday and each time we have a laugh and I just enjoy her company. Saw her a few weeks ago and it’s getting harder each time.

    These are your words but I feel like I wrote them.

    Your big brother

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