I knew Mom had memory issues, but had no idea how long Mom’s short-term memory span really was.
She never wanted to see a nursing home, she said, and I couldn’t force her to go– not with a clear conscience. I knew the day would come when she could no longer live alone. So I determined to make it a comfortable transition when she came to live with us permanently.
Hubby and my Mom always got along, no friction there. He is a Texas boy and loved nothing better than a vegetable garden. Mom was an Oklahoma girl and thought growing tomatoes was about as happy as one could get.
So I began to plan for the day when Mom moved in with all her belongings. Mom loved Solitaire and my home-based business consisted of many hours of computer-time. Hubby and I sat at side by side networked computers, which I thought would suit my plan for Mom and me just fine.
When Mom arrived for a weekend visit, I decided to give my plan for the future of her memory-care a test drive.
I sat at my computer with mom right beside me. Mom was not computer literate, but she’d retired from an electronics firm 15 years earlier. Mom was a quick learner and besides that, she loved card games. Evenings as a child found Mom’s family gathered around the table for long games of Canasta, Gin Rummy or Pitch. Any time she was home alone, you’d find cards laid down in rows of seven on the kitchen table as Mom played Solitaire. Now, she was about to learn Computer Solitaire. Old memories die hard, I was hoping. And, how much short-term memory did you really need to play Solitaire anyway.
Mom smiled at me, then turned to face the computer in front of her. Her eyes were as bright and blue as they’d ever been and she was excited to learn something new. No sign of aging or the weakness that affected her brain. Her hair was still blond (though she’d long forgotten that it had always come from a bottle) and curled gently around her face from a soft perm.
I watched her mouth drop open first, then her eyes widened before she exclaimed, “That’s Solitaire!” with a gentle finger touching the screen. “Oh my goodness, maybe I like computers after all,” she was giggling.
I was thrilled. My plan was going to work. I knew it would. She could play solitaire — and I could work, side by side, without incident. No Nursing Home for MY Mother! Her short-term memory was still intact. She recognized the faces on those cards if even on a foreign screen.
That had created a slight bolt of contention between us at one time. I had begged Mom to buy a computer for years, to stay in touch with her grandchildren and relatives back east, to play card games when she was bored, and to join message boards for the elderly or retired which I knew she would love. Especially now, post Alzheimer’s, I thought the computer idea might have helped retain more of her short term memory, the first thing to go when it comes to Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Mom had always been the friendly, greeter-type person. She’d never leave anyone in the corner alone but urge them into the fray. A people person, for sure! I laughed. It was joyful to see her having so much fun. She’d been more than a little depressed lately at her lapses of memory.
“I told you,” I said. “I knew you’d enjoy the Solitaire game for sure.”
Mom was loving this, without looking away once, she had moved many of the cards around the screen and almost beat computer Solitaire! We were both laughing at her new found dexterity with a computer mouse! Plus, I had been right all along. We could spend many happy hours after she came to live with me sitting side by side at the computers.
I thought of all the places and things I could show her on the computer, and could only imagine all the hours she would spend exploring an entirely new world for her. I was so glad I had planned ahead, thought of ways we could both occupy our time when she came to live with us permanently.
Mom stopped for a moment and turned her chair to face me. “What are you doing?” she wanted to know.
I explained about my job and the work I processed on the screen. She scooted closer and listened intently, nodding and bobbing her blond curls. I was beside myself with pleasure. Mom had never taken much interest in my home-based business, so my plan was already bringing additional benefits I hadn’t foreseen. She was really interested in what I was doing…
Then, suddenly Mom squealed loudly! and I jumped out of my congratulatory reverie about my super-duper plan. “What?” I turned to her, puzzled.
Mom was bouncing up and down in her chair like a five year old child, pointing at the computer screen, she could hardly speak. Her face filled with the glee and delight of a little child and a new toy. “Look at this…look at this…” She was pointing at the screen, shaking my arm, and breathless she exclaimed, “Just lookie here –I have solitaire on my screen! How did that get there? Can you teach me how to play it?”
My jaw dropped as I suddenly realized …………….I needed a new plan.
Playing Cards make a great activity for the Alzheimer’s Patient. Though they are no longer able to remember “rules of play” for card games, they often remember how to count and like the pleasure of shuffling and sorting and stacking cards in numerical order.
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