“What day is it tomorrow?” Mom asks.
“Saturday,” I reply.
“Oh, good. That means I don’t have to go to work.”
Hmmm. People have been telling me I shouldn’t correct my mom when she says something that’s not real. “Live in her world,” they say. So I decide this time to play along.
“Where do you work?”
“I don’t know, but I go every day,” she says, a mixture of wonder and dread in her voice, as well as a little laughter. “It worries me, because I don’t know how to get there.”
“Don’t worry; I’m sure they’ll come and get you.”
“My bosses will come and get me?”
“No, the people who work in your facility.”
“Uh … no.” This conversation isn’t going so well, so I try to redirect it. “Who are your bosses, mom?”
“I don’t know,” she says.
“Well, what kind of work do they make you do?”
“I don’t know, sweetie. The brain’s not working. I don’t know what my job is, who my bosses are, or how to get there.”
“Are you getting paid?”
“Oh dear,” she laughs. “I don’t think so!”
I laugh, too. And I realize I can’t keep this up. Almost every word my mom says is tinged with irony, as if she knows it isn’t true, as if she realizes her imagination is filling in where her memory is blank. Which part of my mom do I support — the one making up stories or the one that knows they’re not real?
“You know, you really don’t work anymore, mom,” I say.
“I don’t? Well then, what am I doing here?” she asks, and we both laugh. I don’t think she really expects an answer, so I don’t offer one.
I completely understand why people think caregivers and loved ones should try to live in the world of the Alzheimer’s patient, to affirm the person’s experiences and beliefs. But I don’t think it works for my mom and me. Or maybe I’m just not willing to accept what the disease is doing to us. I’m not ready to relinquish my mom to Alzheimer’s world; I want her to stay in my world.