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Mummy I love you

I will pretty much do whatever it takes, short of physical violence, to make the medicine go down my mom's throat. A lot of the other stuff I let fall to the side. She recently received the final notice on her gas bill. But, we're in Southern California so she doesn't really need the heat and she can still cook with electricity. It slipped past me because she had gotten all riled up in the past when I tried to look through her mail, so I took a break. And then she called me when the gas was shut off and I came over, paid the bill and now she doesn't complain nearly as much when I ask to see her bills. 

But when it comes to her medication things get closer to life or death.She mentions that often when I call to remind her to take her pills. She'll say, "I don't know why you try so hard to keep me alive. Why don't you just want to let me die since your life would be so much easier?" Then I say, "Mom, your social security benefits are pretty good; you're worth more to me alive than dead." And we both laugh, which is the key. And then she takes her pills. 

We've probably had that exact conversation about 20 times. One of the cool things about dealing with somebody with memory loss is that you can tell the same joke over and over and they'll still love it. I used to go visit my friend's father and we would walk his dog and I would tell him about the cartoon I saw where a dog on a leash was sniffing a fire hydrant and saying to the owner, "Just a second; I need to check my messages." Bless him, that sweet man would crack up every time. 

I love telling stories (the checkers in my local grocery store might say I love it a bit too much), and I LOVE nailing the punchline. If I weren't a total recluse whose idea of hell is talking in front of even a handful of people, my dream job would be performing as a standup comic. Probably, talking to my elderly mom is as close to that as I'm going to get. 

I tell her all the time that if she feels sick, she needs to call me so I can immediately book a flight to Houston (where she owns a burial plot) because transporting a living person is far cheaper than shipping human remains.She in turn, threatens to turn me in for elder abuse any time I try to get her to let me clean up some of the dishes in her kitchen. Once, in the name of getting her to exercise, I told her I was having a guy come out to replace our fence and if she needed, he could do hers at a very good price, But I needed her to go to the backyard and check the condition of the fence.She went out and wiggled the fence on the north side of her lot, then, with me still on the phone and urging her on, she checked the fence on the east side, and finally went and checked the south side. I tried to make up a story about why she needed to go around and check again, but then she was on to me and I confessed. But she'd gotten more exercise than she had in days. And we laughed. 

Reputable scientific studies have shown that laughter is healthy. And it is the single thing that makes watching my brilliant mother's decline bearable for me. And maybe also for her. So every day the curtain opens and I perform for my audience of one. 

This article was written by Stephanie, a stay at home mother, who is married with three thriving children, and her mother who is living with the beginning stage of Alzheimers. 

She is a selfless human who usually finds time to help others. She also finds time to accommodate her neighbor kids after school, at times when there is need for child supervision, as well as taking care of her mother's activities of daily living. 

Stephanie is absolutely an awesome woman.


She is part of the shrinking community of people who live in the city where they were born, which in her case is Los Angeles, California. But she has lived in Portland, Oregon where she graduated from Reed College. She then moved on to New York, Arizona and Utah where she held a variety of jobs including auto mechanic, counselor at a rehab clinic, wildfire fighter and airport baggage handler. She believes that one of the biggest things she has gained from those varied experiences is how to be flexible, which is one of the most important skills to have when it comes to caring for someone with Dementia/ Alzheimer's 

Other tools are required to do the job of caregiving: clarity, faith, inner strength, unconditional love and empathy. Living the experience teaches you these things (plenty of on the job training occurs!), as it also draws out qualities that you never knew you had.

Stephanie Balikos, Los Angeles, Ca 
For Quilted Shield, Dementia Living LLC / 07/23/17 
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