Last weekend was my first time to visit my 85-year-old mother in four months. For the past five years or so, I’ve visited her about twice a month from Memphis. (She’s in a nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi.) I was a little anxious about going so long without seeing her, even though she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t know how long it’s been. The nurses call me frequently, about every little thing that’s going on with her, so it’s not her medical care that I was concerned about. It’s the fact that she had to go four months without seeing the only person in her family she might still have some recognition of.
My fears were confirmed when her face didn’t light up as much when I approached her and said, “Hi, Mommy!” And later, as we were sitting with her on the patio and I tried to straighten her sweater and hug on her a bit and play with her hair, she would say, “Don’t touch me!” This was a new development, and it made me sad.
This afternoon I’m stopping in for another visit before returning to Memphis from my weekend in Fairhope. I’ve brought scissors to trim her hair and a manicure kit to work on her nails, if she will let me. I haven’t had time to read up on this new aversion she has developed to be being touched. Is it just part of the process that Alzheimer’s works on her psyche? Should I ignore her protests and hug her and rub lotion on her hands, and brush her hair—all actions that I’ve thought would bring her comfort? Human touch is so important, isn’t it? Okay, here’s one article that encourages “gentle touching,” so I think I’m going to continue that when I see her this afternoon.
I’ll let you know how it goes….