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Sense of humor helped as mom battled Alzheimer's

Karen Meyer said as her mother Violet Magadanz's Alzheimer's started getting worse, she had to move to Preferred Senior Living where she could get more help. Pictured (from left) Magadanz, Tiffany Meyer (Karen's granddaughter) and Karen Meyer. Submitted photo

Watching as a parent gets older and struggles with day-to-day living can be difficult, but watching as that parent suffers from the added stress of Alzheimer's can be even worse.

Karen Meyer, of Ellsworth, watched as her mom, Violet Magadanz, also from Ellsworth, showed signs of memory loss. Meyer said her mom was able to hide her memory issues from most.

"People with Alzheimer's, [like] in case of my mom, can conceal it [Alzheimer's] so well," Meyer said. "They tried to do memory tests at the [doctor's] office and [she] said why are you wasting my time with games."

Meyer said she began to notice some things were changing with her mom, such as her having problems with numbers. When Meyer used to get her mom's groceries, her mom would find out how much she owed get her the money; however, as time progressed her mom would just tell her where her purse was and Meyer would have to get the money herself. Also, Magadanz was no longer able to keep her checkbook balanced; previously she balanced her checkbook to the penny.

Sometimes, when Meyer would take her mom grocery shopping her mom would always want two of every item and she wasn't sure why that was. Meyer thought maybe it was because her mom thought it was the Depression and food would be scarce, so she wanted to get extra if she could.

Meyer said there were other noticeable changes. Magadanz had always been an avid reader. When her mom started rereading the same books, she knew something was wrong. Also, simple tasks were beginning to be difficult for Magadanz.

"She was just trying to make coffee and couldn't remember steps," Meyer said.

Meyer lived next door to her mother and would help her mom as much as she could, but it got difficult to always be there for her.

"I was checking on her, sorting her pills, but she was still messing them up," Meyer said.

Eventually it got to the point where Magadanz couldn't be at home anymore. Meyer said she and her family didn't have to be the ones who told her mother she couldn't remain in her home.

"In my mom's case we had her doctor be the bad guy," Meyer said. "He transitioned her to [Preferred] Senior Living."

Since her mom's Alzheimer's had already progressed, Meyer felt her mom couldn't fully enjoy everything Preferred Senior Living had to offer.

"I think if my mom had moved to Preferred Senior Living sooner to the assisted living part she would have enjoyed the social part of it," Meyer said.

Meyer had to come to terms with the fact that Alzheimer's changes a loved one.

"She was just becoming more and more difficult, irritated," Meyer said. "It wasn't that she was difficult, it was the disease."

Meyer learned that sometimes she just has to go with what her mom was saying.

"It doesn't pay to argue with someone with Alzheimer's," Meyer said. "That's their reality at the time."

As more people learn about dementia and Alzheimer's, communities can be supportive of those who have the disease.

"I'm glad the community is getting to be more dementia friendly," Meyer said. "Benefit of a small town; we went to the grocery store and [the workers] knew she had memory problems, they would just smile."

Through her experience, Meyer said she has come to a realization about a person's body.

"I've come to think the body is only a vessel and sometimes a person slips away long before the body gives out," Meyer said.

Meyer is willing to pass along her thoughts to anyone else in a similar situation.

"Surround yourself with friends and family," Meyer said about anyone who has a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's. "And maintain a sense of humor. You have to."