Yesterday’s Fairy Tale

“Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived with her family in a big house on a tree lined street. She spent lazy afternoons sitting on the porch swing listening to music and waving to the passing neighbors who all seemed to know her name.

“My daughter always wears that pretty ruffled apron when she cooks and she keeps the house real clean. One day I heard her talking to her friend in the kitchen. “Mom’s pretty senile now and needs constant care. I have to really watch her because sometimes she wanders away and gets lost. Occasionally she helps with the cookie baking and the kids seem to keep her occupied, but most of the time she doesn’t know who we are. We’re making the best of it.  We’re just grateful she’s still with us.”

A man just came in the door. He seems to know everyone and the children jump into his arms. He kisses my daughter, gives me a hug calling me “Granny”. I guess he belongs here. 

It’s dinner, I’m really hungry and one of the children helps me to eat. I can’t seem to figure out how to use the fork. I think I used to know. Everyone is talking about the holidays but I’m not sure what holiday they mean. Sometimes I try to join in but I forget what I’m saying so don’t say anything. No one seems to mind.”

…And she lived happily ever after. 

Today’s Reality

“When my daughter got a divorce, she had to go back to work. She hated her job. It was hard for her paying bills and raising kids alone. They’re all grown now and moved away.  Don’t see them anymore.

When my husband died. I lived alone. Memory got really bad. I’d get lost and another time forgot I was cooking and started a fire. I moved in with my daughter. Most times don’t remember where I am. I even forgot her name.

Today I woke up in a place full of people I don’t know. I tried to ask where I was but the words came out all jumbled. I’m pretty scared most of the time. Someone showered me; so embarrassing, naked in front of a stranger. This must be the dining room it is so big.  I’m really hungry but don’t remember how to use the fork. Maybe the lady helping that man will help me. Can’t remember when I ate last. Can’t remember much of anything for that matter. Where’s my daughter? Just want to go home.”

…And she lived after.

The days of the extended family and the stay at home moms are disappearing. Taking care of an aging loved one at home usually falls on one family member and its exhausting not to mention financially draining; especially if their loved one has progressing dementia. 

Nowadays, eventual placement in eldercare is often where the story ends. 

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