Tag Archives: dementia

What’s On Your Mind?

dunes, grass, Lake Michigan, sky, path

What’s On Your Mind? 6×9″ pastel on sanded paper. ©2018 Marie Marfia

Today I brought my mother-in-law to my gallery. I was going to take her to the Ludington Area Center for the Arts to look at an art show there but she said, “Are your paintings there?” and I said, no, they weren’t. “I want to look at your paintings,” she said. So we ended up going to my studio.

I brought her in, helped her sit in one of my cafe chairs and she watched me paint a larger version of the painting above.

Afterward, I tried to get her to help me fill out a questionnaire from the American Cancer Society (she had lung cancer a number of years ago and the ACS sends out these forms for research purposes), but she was more interested in telling me what had happened to her this morning.

“They got me up and dressed me and then they said I could sit in my rocker chair or go back to bed. But they didn’t talk to me, just to each other! I got mad and said some things before I could stop my mind.”

She doesn’t care for it when the aides come into her room and act as though she’s not there, talking among themselves and not including her. It’s de-humanizing. Makes you feel like a worthless lump.

Diana can talk pretty well still and she understands a lot of what’s going on around her. If she feels pressure to perform she stumbles when searching for the words she wants. But she’s definitely all in there.

I get how it can be a lot easier to talk to someone who you work with every day than some poor old woman that you don’t know very well. But no one likes to be treated like a dummy. Especially not Diana.

On the way back to the memory care unit I thanked her for visiting my studio. “I’d like to come back again in two months,” she said. “Maybe next time I can paint, too.”

I’ll definitely do my best to make it so.

This painting is on ebay as of 9pm tonight. Bidding starts at 99¢.

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Dark Over Light

pastel painting of a landscape, trees, road, lake, sky

Dark Over Light, 6×9″ pastel on sanded paper. ©2018 Marie Marfia

On Saturdays I visit my mother-in-law. We moved her to Ludington not very long ago to have her closer to us. It used to be a 3 hour drive to go see her and now it’s a half hour or less. She’s only been in the memory care unit for a few weeks and she’s still trying to adjust.

Sometimes she’s feeling pretty good about things. But a lot of times she’s depressed. She knows her memory is failing and she doesn’t know anyone in the new place. It’s hard on her. Steve and I come see her 3-4 times a week.

Last Saturday I took her for a drive. We went to the beach and then to the boat landing by the river. Then we went back to the memory care place and worked on a jigsaw puzzle for a while. She got sleepy and decided to take a nap.

I sat on the floor in her room, waiting for her to nod off. She said, “You’ll be gone when I wake up.” I explained that I would be back again soon, that her son would be coming to visit in two days.

“You guys sure take good care of me,” she said.

“That’s because we love you,” I said.

“I love you, too.” she said.

“I know.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because you tell me all the time.”

“How do you know I’m telling the truth?”

“You have an honest face.”

That seemed to satisfy her. She leaned back and closed her eyes. I waited until I knew she was asleep and then left.

This painting is on ebay as of 9pm tonight. Bidding starts at 99¢.

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pastel study of a man and his mother

Giving comfort

pastel study of a man and his mother

Steve and Diana, 5×7″ pastel study by Marie Marfia

This study is done from a photo that I took last Christmas of Steve and his mom, Diana, on the couch at my daughter’s place. She was just resting on his chest while watching some movie on TV. I wonder if she was pretending he was someone else.

Diana has dementia. She’s living in an assisted living facility. She has her own apartment, a two bedroom with a kitchenette, although she doesn’t cook anymore. She walks down to the dining room for her meals. When she’s walking back to her apartment she always says she lives in outer Mongolia because it’s such a long way away.

Diana doesn’t always remember who we are when we come to visit, so we always tell her as we’re coming through her door. “I’m your favorite daughter-in-law, Marie.” “I’m your oldest son, Steve.” That way, she doesn’t have to scramble to come up with names right off the bat. She’s pretty good at covering up her memory lapses right now, but that skill is slipping away, too, like everything else.

This is a hard thing to watch. She’s always prided herself on her intelligence. She got all As in school growing up and got a Masters of Library Science. She still speaks French sometimes and likes to play Duolingo on my iPad.

The place where she lives just called this week to tell Steve that she needs more care now, help with dressing herself, taking showers, doing laundry. It’s fine. Steve’s Dad made good investments and saved all his life before he died. She’s got plenty to cover the extra costs. It’s just that it’s another step down the road that you hate to have to take. We all gotta die. I get that. I wish it didn’t have to be like this, that’s all.

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