Dementia Patients and Who They Leave Behind, the Grieving Process

Mom-babyme     1946-graduate

It’s been a week since Mom passed away of her diseases and the house is feeling very empty. I’ve paid a lot of attention in my earlier posts to the struggles of both the afflicted and the caretaker. Now, I am learning about the dementia patient and who they leave behind, in this case me. It’s been a long week and I am feeling like it will also be a long journey to work through the grieving process.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would have had my mother with dementia living with me, I would have laughed at them. Now here I sit after having her in this house for 6 years while taking care of her needs, wondering how I will ever get used to the void she’s left behind. In her older years, she didn’t live a huge life, but she filled a very special space in this house which will be forever missed. Even with Vladimir here, along with all the commotion that surrounds him, the void is obvious, hitting me in the face the minute I walk in at the end of the day.

m0m-b0at-profile   Mom-Tonya

The above photos are of: (1) Mom holding me, (2) Mom’s graduation photo, (3) Mom on a boat on the left looking very young and at peace on the water, (4) Mom and Tonya in August 2014, one month before her death.

We have found Tonya the dog, laying at the end of where her bed had been, leaving me to believe that she is very depressed as well. I put one of my mother’s blankets and a piece of her clothing down for her to lay on until she works her way through it. I rescued Tonya about a year and a half ago and they hit it off nicely. Tonya had grown to love her and my mother loved her back. That in itself was unique since my mother wasn’t a dog person. In the past few years she had forgotten that she had OCD, so having a dog became a non-issue. She loved having company in the house and Tonya used to follow her all over the house during the day while she was still able to walk around. Tonya almost seemed to protect her…knowing her routine and would instinctively know when she was off course.

Mom was cremated yesterday and the process felt very long although is was only 6 days. I will be leaving work early tomorrow to go and pick her up. Even though I am not Russian, it’s Vladimir’s tradition to have a little private ceremony honoring the person on the 9th day, which is tomorrow. We will do that, displaying a few photos and sit to talk about the fun times that we have spent with her. According to tradition, we will do that once again on the 40th day. It is believed that she is still in the house for 40 days before she goes on to her journey.

From my experience, this first week after is filled with sadness and denial…the do you thinks and the I wishes thought pattern going around and around. Along the journey, I sense that there will be a lot of reflection and deep thinking which will bring up a lot of emotion. Let’s see how it progresses.

Hopefully my path will help someone else in their grieving process.

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Mom’s Parents, My grandparents…we miss them!

GG_20s     GG_Lil_Ele_44  GG_older


It’s been 35 years since Mom’s parents passed away…my grandparents. They were large in my life and I can see they were also large in Mom’s life as well.

Mom came from a stable family with a sister Lillian and 2 parents who were happily married for more years than I can remember. I spent most of my younger life at their house and loved every minute of it.

Mom’s father suffered with Dementia with the final stages in a wheelchair, with complete void in his eyes, In my heart, I know that’s where my mother is going as I can see the similar progression every day. There is nothing that can stop it, even with the modern technologies that her father didn’t have access to at that time. Once diagnosed, it’s inevitable, like a train staring you in the eye as it comes down the track. Nothing will stop it.

Lillian, Mom’s mother was a shy and private woman with translucent blue eyes like the skies above. When she looked at you, you knew exactly if she was angry or happy with you as she would get those frown lines on her forehead, with the smaller ice blue cornea and very small pupils, her eyes told us the temperature of the situation. She loved to bake and she did it well. She made the best cakes, cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies ever. She didn’t go out to socialize but people did come to the house occasionally to visit. Looking back, she appeared very reclusive, so I know that I come by that trait quite honestly. My grandfather Bruno was very social and the adult man in my life. He loved to be in the basement in his workshop to make toys and furniture. He loved to tinker with wood and make his ideas come to life in what he built. He loved children…They were the traditional old-fashioned parents and grandparents and were the stabilizing force in my life. I am grateful for their presence in my life.

Above are a few photos of Mom’s parents…my grandparents!

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Can Music Therapy Help Soothe Dementia Patients…it did for my Mom.


Mom at a very young age sitting on the
stoop at the family house.


We work all week long, getting up on Monday wishing our lives away for it to be Friday, only to have a hard weekend dealing with dementia attacks from Mom over the weekend. This weekend however, has been quiet and normal thanks to music therapy. She had a wonderful Saturday listening to Pavarotti cds all afternoon, which I can honestly say is her favorite thing to listen to. I actually feel it makes her normal, calm and puts her into a completely different head set making her thoughts clear. She can sit and listen to him all day and never tire of it, just sitting there as if in a trans, swaying back and forth to the music. She came to live with me with a love for Pavarotti’s music and in her mental void, that has held true.

Today, she is passing the time going through all of her papers, which of course, she loves to do. I know it makes her feel like she is in the office, which is her second love to Pavarotti. I enjoy seeing her involved in the things that she loves and although it’s not what we would choose to do for ourselves necessarily, it works for her life. Helping to make a dementia patient engaged and involved is helpful in that, they are not stressed, leading them away from dementia attacks. That helps both the patient and the caretaker to have a better day. Keeping a person with dementia engaged is key to helping to slow down the progression of the disease.

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Photos Above: (1) Mom as a little girl sitting on her front steps, (2) Mom out in California sitting at her home typerwritter.

She also has a lot of games and puzzles, but she much prefers the paperwork and music therapy. I have recently been given some brochures and information about people coming in to the house to give her music therapy during the work week when Cardine, her home aide is here. I think that would be a wonderful idea and would help to keep her mind moving during the day, while also give her something to look forward to. With spring coming on, it would be a good idea to start new things which will engage and stimulate her in different ways. There are probably organizations that would come in for arts and crafts as well. I think that Cardine would love that tool….she loves to color!

So, it’s a sunny and tranquil Sunday, and I find myself appreciating the day knowing that Mom is having a good day. Bring on Spring!

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