Finding strength in tough conversations

January 2, 2018

Not sure the reason, but the day after holiday decorations are taken down, something tugs at my heartstrings.  I miss my mom, always do, but when the holidays have come and gone I miss her more.

She would’ve enjoyed being with us.  She always did.

I miss our talks.  Well, most of them.  There were some really difficult ones.  She was a strong and determined Norwegian, who taught me well how to put up a fight.  Our mutual stubbornness brought on many heated discussions.  The best ones were when we both won the conversation.

My heart goes out to the families who have struggled with difficult decisions and conversations during the holiday season.  I know each year as mom’s dementia changed, I struggled.  May you find the strength you need in difficult times.

In special memory of my mom, I’m re-sharing an article I wrote for Queen of the Castle Magazine in April of 2015.  (The link is expired, so…I guess I can share it again?).  

Strength in the Journey

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Knock, knock, “Mom, it’s me.  I’m on lunch break.  You didn’t show up for your appointment, so I thought I’d stop by to see you.” 

She sat there slumped in the chair, with a bowl of half eaten cereal, still not dressed for the day.

With little enthusiasm, she said, “Oh, Hi dear, how are you?” 

“Mom, are you okay? Your face looks a little droopy on the left side.”

Her speech slurry, “I’m fine, I just think I have the flu bug.  I just woke up I must have slept on that side.”  She points to a bouquet of daisies in a yellow coffee cup on the table, “I bought you an anniversary gift. I’m sorry I didn’t get it to you yet.” 

“That’s okay Mom, thank you, I love it.  Are you sure you’re okay?  Can I get you anything?” 

“Well, I do have a pain in my back, can you make me an appointment with Dr. Joe?” 

“Sure, I called, they can get you in tomorrow, I’ll take you.” 

“Okay, thanks, I’ll rest until then, I’ll be fine.” 

“Okay, you sure?  I’ll be back tomorrow.”

I didn’t know the signs…

Morning came and I called her; no answer…the phone kept ringing. 

Her neighbor checked in; called me to say, “She was still sleeping.” 

“Okay, I’m on my way.” 

No answer when I knocked.  I rushed in, found her, naked in bed, very disoriented, talking about her father and her brother, both who had passed away years before.  She refused to get dressed, she refused to move. 

I glanced around the room, clothes all over, papers were strewn about, medications not taken for days, the phone off the hook in another room…

No wonder I couldn’t reach her…had she tried to call me?? 

I called 911.  They took her to the emergency room. 

She was very pleasant, lying there quietly as everyone moved around her.  Strange, she normally complains about being with doctors. 

Had I made the wrong call? 

The doctor knocked and walked in to share the news. “We’re admitting your mom, she has had a stroke, has a UTI and acute renal failure.  Her pleasant demeanor indicated to her primary physician a possible stroke which was confirmed by MRI’s.” 

I didn’t know the signs…

So began our memory care journey together.  Mom had to live the rest of her life living with vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia MID) causing memory loss, thinking, language, judgment and behavioral issues and moment by moment struggles.  

“Mom, let’s go on an adventure.” 

“Okay, where are we going?” 

“Since you had a fall, and because it’s winter and icy, we’re going to find a nice place for you to stay until you get stronger.” 


“I want to go home.” 

“I know, but let’s do what the doctor said, at least until the snow melts.” 


“Mom, this is the place you picked out with me, remember?” 

“No!  I don’t want to stay here, I want to go home!”  She cried and screamed, “You ungrateful daughter, I hate you.” 

I had to stay strong!  I had to keep her safe.  I kneeled down in front of her on the floor, held her hands and said, “Mom, you’re right, I failed you, you are here because of me, I’m sorry.  I love you.”

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A short 5 years later…watching her sleep and thinking, I’ve held these hands all my life, many happy memories, “Thank you for being the best mom ever. We’ll be okay.  It’s okay, you can go now.” 

“Oh, my, her eyes are open, she’s looking at me…Mom, I love you…goodbye.”  She took her last breath as I held her hands.  It was a beautiful end to our journey together.  We were finally at peace. 

My journey continues on in her memory. 

How does one learn to adapt to change when it is out of your control?  A brain affected by vascular dementia responds differently depending upon where the damage occurs.  A person then lives moment by moment.  Their brain and body will gradually shut down.  There will be moments of peace for the person. 

The caregiver gets to learn while their loved one’s brain no longer can. You learn about being a Power of Attorney for Health Care and Finance.  You learn to adjust to the fact that disease will eventually take your loved one from you.  You learn to be their voice throughout the journey, making choices for them when they can’t.  Often times against what they would have wanted had they had the chance to live without dementia. 

You overcome obstacles for them and with them.  You get stronger in the process. While I lost my mom, I’ll never regret the journey we shared.  I learned I am meant to help others in need find strength in their unique memory care journeys.

Daily Post Prompt:  Conversation




By Shelley

Letting my quirk out one post at a time.


  1. Reply

    Success Inspirers' World

    Your post touches my heart. It is very well narrated. And very enjoyable to read. A great journey you shared with your mum. Happy New Year to you!

    1. Reply

      Aw, thank you, very much. I appreciate your words of encouragement. Yes, it was a great journey. Happy New Year, to you, too!

      1. Reply

        Success Inspirers' World

        You are most welcome!

  2. Reply


    Aw, those conversations are precious. I am going through similar things with my mom now, no stroke but dimentia setting. Here is the kicker, I am over 3000 miles away. Lucky she has my sister there

    1. Reply

      Thank you for reading the post and for sharing your thoughts. Yes, they are precious. Sorry to hear you’re far away from your mom for your family’s long journey with dementia. Glad to hear she does have your sister close by. Hugs to you and yours as you take each step. xx

      1. Reply


        I’ve been away from family for 25 years, it is difficult at times, especially when someone is sick or worse, a death. Thank you.

        1. Reply

          Aw, I can imagine distance would make it challenging. I wish you continued strength and perseverance. Hugs to you, xx

  3. Reply


    There are two events that caused me to enjoy your blog from a more personal perspective: I failed my mother when she was dying and in terrible pain, and second, I was hospitalized for what was a probable stroke over this past weekend. But even with both of these aside, I would have enjoyed your story — so well told, so heartfelt and so interesting.

    1. Reply

      Ellen, I’m so touched to hear my words were of value to you. I think we all feel in some way that we fail our loved ones as they are passing on from this life. I hope you find peace, I’m sure your mom would want you to. Oh, my, gosh, that’s scary for you about the probable stroke! I trust since you are home now, that you went quickly with the first signs and are well on your way to full recovery?!? You’re in my thoughts!!

  4. Reply


    When my mom lay on her death bed, we were holding hands. But I pulled away. I did not want to feel her spirit leave her body. To this day I always regret that I did that. Yet, I did it once again, when my dad wanted to hold my hand on his death bed, but I pulled away.
    Death of a loved one is never easy. My mom died almost 40 years ago and I still, to this day miss her oh! so much. Dad died thirteen years ago. I miss his wisdom and advice more so.

    1. Reply

      Aw, Cindi, thank you for sharing your story about your parents with me. I don’t know that anyone really knows what they’ll do if they are there when the moment of death arrives. I couldn’t keep the promise to let her live in her home until she died, I was able to keep the promise she’d not be alone when she died. You’re right, death is never easy. You still missing your parents is proof they never leave us completely. Your parents would be very proud of you and the life your living. Hugs to you, xxxx

      1. Reply


        Thanks Shelley. I wear my mom’s wedding ring every day. Inside is the inscription my dad wrote to her back in 1942. They got engaged on D Day. Amazing.

        1. Reply

          Cindi, that’s a beautiful and amazing daily reminder of true love!

  5. Reply


    I can’t imagine the pain of losing a mom. My mom is in her first stage of Alzheimer and conversations with her are really difficult. We’re trying our best to be patient with her. By the way, have a great year ahead!

    1. Reply

      Thank you, Winnie, for sharing your story. It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Sorry to hear your mom is beginning her journey with Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, she lives in a town that is dementia friendly and that she has a physician who is her advocate. My recommendation would be for you to live in the moment, never argue (a person with dementia is 100% right, 100% of the time) and just be with her. The frustrations will lessen if you approach it that way. Take care, stay in touch, and I hope you, too, have a great year! Hugs, xx

      1. Reply


        Thank you for your lovely message and encouragement. The town where she lives mostly knows her. Our only fear is if she ventures in another town. She’s mostly alone the whole day because my sister works. Our only consolation is there are tenants in her shops in front of our house. We can rely on them to look after her once in a while. Nowadays, she prefers to stay at home. I thank God her health improved when we changed physician. Thank you for your advice. We’ll keep that in mind. Hugs for you too ❤️

        1. Reply

          Aw, Winnie, you’re welcome. That is great news that others are around her and that she’s recognizing in a way her own fears of venturing out. Sounds like you’re doing great with the difficult situation. I’m always a click away if you’d like any other thoughts to try. Each journey with dementia takes a course of its own, no different than each of our own journeys. Staying together throughout is very helpful. Hugs, xx

          1. Winnie

            Thank you for your support. Somehow the difficulties lessen when I talked to people with similar situations like you. Thank you again. Hugs also 😘


            You’re welcome! Caregivers and family members need just as much support as those with the disease! I’m happy to be able to provide support! Hugs xx

          3. Winnie


  6. Reply

    Create Space

    That can’t have been easy for you Shelley. Dad was diagnosed almost two years ago…noticing more changes lately. I realise now that you and me have even more in common than I thought…thankful that Donna sent me your way.

    1. Reply

      Donna, you’re on to something, we certainly have lots in common! My dad was just diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s. Even though I’m well educated on dementia, have lots of experience, and know the greatest risk factor is simply being over the age of 65, when hits my family, it takes on a whole new meaning. I’m very thankful Donna has helped us connect! Hugs to you, xx!

  7. Reply

    Dr B

    A very moving post and one I fully identify with. My own mum had dementia and passed away at 92 years of age, but while I was away from home in a Nepal. Writing of you memory of a lost loved one at a Christmas time is a good thing to do. But sadly we haven’t been able to do the same regarding our son we lost on Christmas Eve 20 years ago at 22.

    1. Reply

      Aw, thank you for sharing your story. My heart hurts for your losses. While I can sympathize with dementia, I can only reach out in empathy for the loss of your son. May you continue to find strength. Hugs to you and your family xx

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