By Diane Ako
"Where is the bathroom?" my mother asks me. She is in her own house. "Take me there, will you?"
"Sure, Mom, it's this way," as I take her hand and guide her there, then assist her with her needs.
The simple act of sitting, standing, and walking is slow now. "Thank you," she replies when we are back in the living room, where she slumps into her favorite chair by the stairs.
My heart breaks a little every day. My mother has Alzheimer's Disease. She is 84. She has a host of other medical ailments which make caregiving harder and harder with each month.
There are lots of times I cry. I cry myself to sleep. I wake up crying.
We were close. I love my mother. This is graded process of grieving as her condition worsens gradually. I first noticed the change three years ago. Her moods, my parents' habits, slowly but distinctly shifted.
Relatives and friends would express concern that she didn't recognize them. Obviously, I myself noticed it, and was troubled. Last spring I insisted she get tested, and the diagnosis came in.
What followed in the remainder of 2013 was a slow but steady flow of suffering in ways that I could not have anticipated. This disease has categorically affected my family and me in every aspect of life.
It has cost me time, energy, effort in trying to find the best new path for my mother. I'm sad, also, that my very young daughter has lost the grandparent she was emotionally closest to.
This is not how it was supposed to be, in my grand plan. I am supposed to be baking with my mother on the weekends and sending my kid to my parents' for sleepovers, not worrying about if Mom fell or wandered today.
Some of this stress, you can extrapolate based on the fact that there are more than five million Americans stricken with Alzheimer's, so you're probably familiar with this topic in some way.
Some of it, though, is particular to our own situation and was not even predicted by me. There is no upside. There is only downside, that keeps sliding downward.
Sure, I've found emotional support. My excellent husband, some really good friends and relatives. Help came from unexpected places, too. I'm grateful for that. If it wasn't for that, some days I think my head would explode.
I also take slim solace in the fact that millions of other adult children are also struggling through their parents' degeneration in the so-called Silver Tsunami. My mother's situation isn't so extraordinary - but it's still hard.
I realize my relationship as I once knew it with my mother is over, and it's a difficult transition to accept. In its place, though, I am learning to appreciate the good moments - when she's happy, when she's having a good day, when we sit and hold hands.
It takes discipline for me to stay in the moment, but it lets me find the simple joys in our new relationship together. And so my lovely mother is still teaching me about life.