Mom, Alzheimers and Imago Dei

I have been absent from this blog for over a month – and what a month it has been. I started back to school teaching at a classical homeschool tutorial. I love my job and teach two classes: rhetoric and omnibus at high school level. These are the smallest classes I have taught and sometimes I have to work hard at the discussion but it has been great getting to know them.

About the same time that school started Mom had an incident which later we realized was a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and we visited her Alzheimer’s doctor. Her doctor explained about the stroke-like symptoms and scheduled mom for some occupational therapy. We were told that she could have more TIAs.

Within a week, Mom was not feeling well and wouldn’t get out of bed. The next day I got my sister and her son to come and help me get mom up and moving. Mom was responsive and we got her up, dressed and off to visit my other sister. We arrived there and Mom seemed really out of it again though communicating with us. The next morning mom was not talking right and we called an ambulance. She was admitted to the hospital.

They thought it might be a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or a stroke but wouldn’t give her any medication. Mom was incoherent and we explained she had Alzheimers. They took blood and then more blood. After about three hours a doctor came in and explained in broken English, the situation to us – they knew nothing.

But then, she stretched her arms out over mom and shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, she is old and what are you going to do?” There was silence. The impression given was, why don’t you go ahead and buy the coffin and throw her in the ground. It was like she wanted us to take mom home and let her die, though we had no idea what was causing her problem. Someone said we want to know what is going on, if it is UTI let’s give her an antibiotic, if not do the tests to determine if she had a stroke.

You see, we value life and though mom is old and sometimes has trouble communicating clearly she is still a human. She enjoys good food, she tells stories – majority which make absolute sense, she laughs, she sings, she gives great hugs and encourages people. Yes, sometimes she gets agitated, she doesn’t always remember my name or recognize me. These past five years that I have been her primary caregiver have not been without difficulty but I would not trade them. I love her, more today than I ever had.

We stayed at the hospital for five days and she had tests but the result was inconclusive. She was put on an antibiotic and tests were preformed to determine if she had a stroke. She has a pacemaker, so she can’t have an MRI, but other tests showed she had no blood clots or blood on the brain.

Mom was sent to a home that specializes  in dementia patients for rehab. Therapists are working to bring Mom back to the baseline she had before this incident. Her family loves her and we are committed to having her back at home. As this is Alzheimers month, I read an article, The “Toxic Lie” of Dementia about the view that loss of rational thought means loss of self. Christine Bryden who wrote a book called Who Will I Be When I Die? in 1998 had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and was asking of questions from a Christian perspective about identity, about how people were now viewing her. This quote from Bryden resonated with me given how some, including medical personal view those with Alzheimers:

—I believe that I am much more than just my brain structure and function, which is declining daily. My creation in the divine image is as a soul capable of love, sacrifice and hope, not as a perfect human being, in mind or body. I want you to relate to me in that way, seeing me as God sees me. I am confident that even if the continuing damage to my temporal lobe might diminish the intensity of my God-experience, there will be other ways in which I can maintain my relationship with God.

My students have learned about Imago Dei, the Christian doctrine that humans uniquely represent the image and likeness of God. Yes, at the fall that was marred but it was not destroyed. We have dignity as His image bearers and our value is not dependent on utility or function. May we always value human life.

Imago Dei
Mom smiling, being silly and making her family laugh.

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5 Responses to Mom, Alzheimers and Imago Dei

  1. Collen says:

    For me, such a time was my grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, a struggle that she lost in December 2009.

  2. Pingback: Alzheimer’s and Caregiver Month | Drawing the Line Somewhere

  3. Glad to meet you, Janice, and share this Alzheimer’s journey. My husband has had UTIs and I have blogged about them and other issues on (maintained since Dec. of 2008).

    We use cranberry juice and watch for those UTI signs and get him to the doctor right away for an antibiotic. He turned 76 last December. In June he will se a neurologist to assess his current state of Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia. The decline has been evident this past year.

    Hugs and prayers,

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