When your mother struggles to recognize you, as in she knows that she should know you but is not exactly sure why, that is a tough day. Even knowing the day would come does not make it much easier. Since this part of the story last appeared, Mary has moved to a nursing home. Nice place, ridiculously clean, perpetually cheerful. If you have to put a parent into such a facility, this one is as good as it gets. She is well-fed (it may sound bad but any time a group of Southern black women are in a kitchen, good things are coming out), clean, and never allowed to wallow in bed. But.....
Dementia is a nasty condition. Some want to see it as an alternate form of Alzheimer's, but it is far more insidious. It not only robs memory, it robs cognitive ability in general along with motor skills. And, there is not a damn thing that modern medicine can do about it. In a sense, it is like watching a cancer patient slowly waste away, with one cruel difference - the cancer patient remains mentally aware, able to converse and reminisce, recognize hunger and thirst, and to a limited degree, participate in life. The dementia patient does not really even observe life; more likely, he or she endures it. Or, at least, the rest of the family does.
My wife and I have been through numerous books, websites, and blogs dealing with dementia. None tells a pretty tale - no patient ever recovers, no family gets through it without some scars, no one really cries when the end finally comes. It is something one must see and experience to understand, yet it is not a fate I would wish on anyone. The confounding thing is that there is no trace of anything like this that I can find in either side of the family. Two grandmothers lived into their 90s, one grandfather to near 90, the other past 70. The first three died of the obvious, being 90+ or near it, and the fourth I am not sure of, though no mention of anything like mental deterioration was ever made. Seems doubtful something like that could be kept secret.
We visit a couple of times a week; some trips are better than before. On occasion, there is a moment of lucidity but invariably, it serves to raise the question of, why. Why is this going on? How long will it last? When your mom, out of the blue, breaks from a string of incoherence and in perfect English says "this isn't very good for anyone", there is little mistaking what she is talking about. And so we go on, visiting, trying to make the best of it, occasionally asking dad why he never clued us in about this. Probably didn't want us to worry, through it would have made some decision-making after his death a lot easier and much less traumatic. We'll see what Tuesday holds.