Sweet Boo Boo Bunny – Caregiver memories of Alzheimer’s

My recent walks through my childhood have reminded me of so many good memories but they have also twanged that emotional spot that is oh so very tender – how much I still miss my parents.  Holidays are difficult times for some people because of where they may be (us away from both sides of our families), the loss of a loved one be it recent or long ago, health issues, problems with finances or relationships – or the lack of a relationship – and on and on.  Sad and lonely stands in the shadows of the lights, bells, and colorful bows.  I look forward to calling friends and family on Christmas and celebrating the day with DH.   This post was written some time ago but I never could get myself to put it up.  Now I want to…..

My mother was never the cuddly warm and fuzzy type – at least not while I was growing up with her.  She was what they used to call ‘a tough old broad’ in her day.  The closest I ever saw her get warm and fuzzy was when she would hold her new born grandchildren.  Even then she was a bit different; there was obvious love just not mushy lovey dovey baby talk kind of love.  I will never forget her holding the girl child for me while I went into a store in the mall.  When I came out I flipped because both of them were gone!  It turned out that mom was busy walking up and down the mall showing off baby girl child to anyone she could stop. That was her kind of love and pride.

She went through a lot of behavioral changes after Alzheimer’s began to take her away from us.  She really did become cuddly wuddly there for awhile, wanting to hug and kiss anyone who got near her. For years I was angry and jealous because she was never that way with me growing up and here now as this hideous disease was consuming her bit by bit,  she was all smiley faced at total strangers.  Drove me nuts for a long time until I finally accepted things that I had no freaking control over and just went with it.  I wanted my mom to be my mom, but that person was going, going, gone.

For some reason, the activity department would give out little stuffed animals to the residents in her nursing home.  I never did ask them why and could see in some instances that the residents rather enjoyed having a soft thing to hold onto.  Maybe it was a bit of a throw back to a better time in their lives – reminded them of their children or of their own childhood –  or it offered them some sense of security in their now frightening world.  Mom had all kinds of stuffies given to her that just decorated her room.  She never paid them any mind; partially due to the disease and partially because her sight was almost gone.  They were meant to cheer up the “medical” surroundings of the residence is another hypothesis I supposed.  I remember two women in particular in the home that had their rooms covered in stuffies.  One lady even had them hanging from her wheelchair.  I preferred to decorate her room with pictures of all of us or drawings the kids made or balloons for special occasions.  Those were the things that I knew she would’ve liked had she been well.  I wanted some semblance of normality and ‘home’ in her room more so for me than her; most caregivers do.  Once she entered the nursing home she was too far gone to pay attention to those types of things but we did them anyway.  I really wish she could have noticed the pictures of all of her grand and great grand kids growing up even if she couldn’t remember who they were.  The grandmother and the grandchildren lost one another; that very precious relationship between the two generations.  The grands had better memories of mom than the great grands.  All they saw if they saw her at all, was just a very old sick woman.  Some children can handle the surroundings of a nursing home and those who may be sick while others (and some adults) cannot.

When she went on hospice the Rev. P., who came to visit her often, gave her this adorable floppy bunny as a comfort lovey.  I think it was around Easter.  He was purple and I named him Boo Boo Bunny.  Boo Boo was with her constantly. He had Velcro paws and I would hang him on her wheelchair or sit him near her pillow when she would sleep.  The only time Boo Boo wasn’t with her was when they washed him and two other times when he was missing and I just went medieval on the staff about him not being where he should be.  I was extremely protective of my mother and her belongings.  Sadly, in far too many nursing homes things do turn up missing or they get destroyed by other residents who are ill and even on occasion the person themselves.  I had to deal with this with mom from the day she entered till the end.  You see, Boo Boo was special because he was prayed over and given to mom to comfort her.  We also spritzed him with an aromatherapy spray to help with pain and to soothe her when she needed it, so when he went missing I went off!

Every time I came to visit mom I checked her out thoroughly and then looked for Boo Boo.  One day a new staff member put Boo Boo on her roomies bed.  I marched over there and snatched Boo Boo back and told them this was hers and not communal property!  Another time when he was AWOL,   I had the poor shift nurse look high and low for him.  He was gone for a few days and I was not happy about it and trust me everyone in the building knew it and gave me a wide berth when I walked in.  The hospice Rev. said she would try and find a replacement for him…I was still angry.  How could they be so careless about him when they knew what he meant to me for her.  Notice I said what he meant to ME for her.  She had no concept of his existence in all probability.  Finally Boo Boo surfaced and all was right again (as right as it could be considering) in the world.  I wrote in big block letters on the bottom of one of his feet mom’s name and let it be known that this was hers and hers alone and you better make sure he doesn’t go missing ever again.  All of my turmoil over mom was outwardly vented at the staff.  In hind site I could’ve been nicer to some of them but this was a difficult time and I had thrown out the manual on how to play nice with others.  Screw it, screw them, screw everything…my mother was in the final final stages and I didn’t care about anything but her and my inner pain.

Her hospice nurse and I would take turns playing with Boo Boo and mom; nuzzling it against her cheek or rubbing her arm with him.  He really did do his job when she would have times of distress and we would spritz him royally with the aromatherapy spray and lay him next to her face.  Her breathing would actually calm down when we did that.  By now everyone who had any regular contact with mom knew his name was Boo Boo and to make sure he was near or next to mom.  Short of bathing time, the two of them had become inseparable.  He never complained about his job, hours, handling, or pay.  He was faithful in his duties to the very end.  The day that mom passed when we got to her room, what was once her lay there peacefully under her blanket.  I held back the tears for awhile as my mind tried to work out what I had to do next.  Out of habit I looked around for Boo Boo.  I was not in the mood to have him missing on this of all days, but he was there still doing his job.  He was hidden by the blanket – held in the crook of her arm.

Boo Boo came home with me that day and now has a place of honor sitting in one bedroom.  I gave away all of the other stuffies she had in her room except for Boo Boo and his cousin, Floppsy.  He was just a decoration bunny, Boo Boo did all the work.  Sometimes I look at him when I  go in that bedroom and smile and other times I cry. Sometimes I can pick him up – sometimes I can’t.  He’s a good bunny;  everyone should have a Boo Boo bunny to call their own.  I highly recommend it.

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  1. #1 by dhphotosite on December 20, 2011 - 12:03 pm

    Tears…no other words…

    • #2 by imagesbytdashfield on December 20, 2011 - 12:36 pm

      Sorry about being a debbie downer. The dark within creeps out once in awhile and has to speak it’s mind before going back into hibernation.

  2. #3 by morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer on December 20, 2011 - 12:14 pm

    Sad, heartbreaking and beautifully told story. I related so much; my mom’s stroke left her unable to speak or walk.
    I never could be sure whether she understood what I was telling her, except that she laughed at the right places. But then again, she always laughed, even if she didn’t understand the joke. Sometimes it wasn’t a joke, but she’d laugh anyway. That was my mom…

    Ronnie

    • #4 by imagesbytdashfield on December 20, 2011 - 10:22 pm

      I firmly believe that we as caregivers and family members are so devastated by our loved one no longer being as they were that we go to all sorts of lengths to see what we hope for and need in any action from them. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story as well.

  3. #5 by ChgoJohn on December 20, 2011 - 6:39 pm

    I’m so sorry that you and your family had to endure this. The day they find the cure for this dreadful disease will not come soon enough.

    • #6 by imagesbytdashfield on December 20, 2011 - 10:16 pm

      Every time I forget or cannot recall something I panic for a moment. Thanks for reading.

  4. #7 by tedgriffith on December 21, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    Big sigh, bigger hug! I know of the loss and pain. While it diminishes, it never goes away altogether. I think the pain we feel is in direct proportion the the love we have. I’m glad that your had Boo Boo and the prayers that went with him.

    • #8 by imagesbytdashfield on December 21, 2011 - 7:28 pm

      Thank you so much, Ted. I miss them both still but happy they are together again. Sigh…

  5. #9 by Steve on December 22, 2011 - 12:06 am

    Wow! I’m sorry you had to face your Mom being ‘stolen’ from you this way. It seems such a contradiction to see a healthy (relatively-speaking) adult diminished by Alzheimer’s or dementia to the point they don’t know what’s happening around them (my grandfather has dementia and does not recognize anyone now). While the memories created by that time of illness are not pleasant, the best we can do is remember good times when they weren’t affected by their disease. I know, sometimes easier said than done. Thank you for sharing this story, which must have taken great courage to write. Best wishes, Teri!

    • #10 by imagesbytdashfield on December 22, 2011 - 9:03 am

      As I “like” to say it, mom left me 14 years ago, her body just caught up with her last year. Looking back I try to find some good times to remember, but it takes effort. I find writing about it now is like a therapy; just not sure how many people can take the tales. Thanks, Steve.

  6. #11 by promenadeplantings on December 29, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    Hi, I came to you via thekitchensgarden., and I just want to say what a powerful story to share, and thank you.

    • #12 by imagesbytdashfield on December 29, 2011 - 6:16 pm

      Thank you for stopping by. That journey with mom was something else to say the least.

  7. #13 by kathryningrid on December 31, 2011 - 10:59 pm

    Incredibly tough, all of that. Alzheimers is so cruel and ugly. With my grandma I had none of the burden to shoulder myself but I saw how hard it was for the whole family to come to terms with losing her once, then losing her very verrrry slowly again, and finally, when she died, losing her the last time. Only much later did we really ‘get her back’, in the memories we could relish (even, afterward, of a few charming and funny episodes during her long decline) of the grandma we’d once known and loved. Even Alzheimers finally failed to conquer that. What you did for your mother is an astonishing gift of love and commitment. Peace to you!

    • #14 by imagesbytdashfield on January 1, 2012 - 11:17 am

      Thanks. I always tell people I ‘had’ to take care of her, not because I wanted to but because if I didn’t not only would I not have been able to look myself in the mirror ever again but there was no one else who would’ve done what was needed like I did. We are both free of the disease now (and I pray it never comes near me!) but there are still ghosts that need to be exorcised.

  8. #15 by C.D. Beatrice Clay on September 25, 2012 - 12:28 am

    ***tears*** no words. I can’t even imagine all those years of courage, caring, loving all the while losing. Alzheimer SUCKS; it’s cruel. You’re a BEAUTIFUL survivor Teri and incredibly selfless for sharing these heartbreaking raw bits of your story. Thank you.

    • #16 by imagesbytdashfield on September 25, 2012 - 8:44 am

      I’ve still got scars but I’m moving onward and upward (I hope lol ) Yes, it is a cruel disease and slowly I am letting the stories come out of me. Thanks, BC.

  9. #17 by imagesbytdashfield on February 15, 2015 - 10:05 am

    Reblogged this on A Caregivers Memoirs and commented:

    I found this while looking for a different post…I wanted to share it with you. Hope it’s not too much of a downer for you but it is part of life.

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