Jan 2, 2014
09:33 AMHealth & Science
A Photojournalistic Memoir of a Mother's Alzheimer's by Connecticut Author
“Ay bendito,” a Puerto Rican saying meaning “I feel your pain,” was something that Celia Pomerantz learned from her mother and what she held on to through long days taking care of her mother when she had Alzheimer’s disease.
Ms. Pomerantz’s mother passed away four years ago. About four years before she died, Ms. Pomerantz started noticing that her mother was having difficulty processing information. Sometimes she would call her daughter and become confused while leaving a voicemail message, or set meatloaf and mashed potato out to feed the birds, or express anger toward her local bank personnel, who, she claimed, couldn’t understand her banking questions.
“I knew there was something wrong,” Ms. Pomerantz said, “because she wasn’t an angry person.”
In her book, “Alzheimer’s: A Mother-Daughter Journey,” Ms. Pomerantz wrote, “At some point in the spring of 2006, which was the mid-point in our one-year agreement of independent living, I noticed that she never left her condo anymore, not even to take her garbage out. I think she was afraid to walk down to the dumpster because she wasn’t sure whether she’d remember how to return home. On my bi-weekly visits, I took out her garbage. She always thanked me and told me that she didn’t have time to take it out herself. I knew better, but I didn’t say a word. I only whispered, ‘Ay bendito.’”
Even though she lived in New Milford and her mother resided in New Jersey at that time, Ms. Pomerantz traveled three days a week to see her. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older and it worsens over time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million will have the disease in 2050. (Celia Pomerantz, above, photographed by Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times.)
Ms. Pomerantz described her mother as a happy person, a dancer, and said “she saw the world as her way of helping people.” The biggest thing she learned from her mother was how to love.
In the unsent letter that Ms. Pomerantz wrote to her mother in 2007, she said: “I was frustrated with my new role. I didn’t have the emotional resources or intellectual horsepower to become your caregiver. I read as much as I could about Alzheimer’s disease, but I had no idea how I was going to handle this responsibility. I felt isolated. I felt incompetent. I felt like a total klutz. I complained to anyone who’d listen. And you—you were the one losing your mind but not once did I ever hear you complain.”
Ms. Pomerantz said it was a very difficult decision to put her mother into an assisted living facility in Southbury. But as more and more symptoms manifested, she realized her mother couldn’t live by herself.
Ms. Pomerantz said even now she can still feel the pain of that decision as, especially in the Latin culture in which she grew up, strong family values and multigenerational households are valued.