Sunday, April 18, 2010


Several months ago, Mummy tried to do her own laundry. It didn't turn out well.

We discovered when Mummy tried to help herself with her laundry, that she no longer knew which machine did what. Where we come from, clothes are generally dried on a clothes line, out in the backyard. There are terrific breezes and plenty of hot sun and in the rainy season (about 6 months of the year) there is usually plenty of warning when the rain is coming, so you can run out and pull things down should it come to that. I say all that to say that we are therefore, very familiar with washing machines but far less so with dryers. The consequence of this is that the memory of the dryer is a recently acquired one and therefore, one of the first to be lost. As a result, Mummy looks at these two pieces of equipment sitting side by side, and to her, they are both washers.

In an effort to be helpful, Mummy tossed her clothing into the 'machine' and threw the soap in and shut the door. I can't say whether she actually turned the machine on, I doubt it, but in her mind, she had put her laundry in the machine. The trouble was of course, that she had put her dirty laundry in the dryer. With soap.

Several hours later, my sister went to use the dryer only to find clothing and a handful of soap sitting in there. Well she wasn't happy about the requisite clean up but hey, what do you do? This was fairly early on in the process so I still thought (and sometimes still do), that a conversation, an explanation would suffice. It didn't. Weeks later, the same thing occurred again. This time, instead of offering an explanation, I came to the computer and printed two signs: Washer & Dryer and affixed them to the two items in question. This seemed preferable to having to go through the cleanup a third time.

My efforts might have been useful at an early stage of the disease but not anymore. Nowadays, Mummy doesn't make any attempt to wash her clothing at all. Part of that is a consequence of the disease. Since there is no sense of time, there is no sense of having worn the same piece of clothing for days. There is no sense of needing to wash clothing at all. Beyond that, there is something else. Mummy doesn't like to be wrong. Once you've had to tell her about something and require her to adjust her behavior, she checks out. In her mind, she's been 'corrected' about the use of the washing machine, so now she doesn't use the washing machine. At all. Many months ago, she and I argued about her using my toothbrush, she recalled it as me arguing with her about using my toothpaste. So now, she doesn't use any toothpaste to brush her teeth unless advised to do so. There are other examples of this in everyday life....the dish washing for example. Because we often ask her not to wash (she doesn't see well so the dishes tend not to be perfectly clean when she's finished), she will come to the full sink and wash only the dishes she has used.

These behaviors are completely new for my mother. When we were young, she would shout and carry on if any of us went in to the kitchen and washed only the utensils we had used. And yet, here we are with her doing precisely that. She would carry on, if we talked about my this or my that in reference to items that were common property. And yet, here she is now, not using my toothpaste. When the caregivers for Alzheimer's and Dementia patients say that the personality of the patient changes, it is so very true. We're seeing it now. Fortunately for us, the changes are manageable thus far. Lord only knows what's around the next corner. I don't imagine it will be as simple as dealing with soap in the dryer or toothpaste.

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