IEmma grasped her cereal bowl by the handle and tilted it filled with Cheerios, blueberries and sliced banana: “What are you doing?” I asked. “I want to pour milk on the ceiling,” she said. Well, don’t we all.

That was Emma, my mother, in November 2009, in the middle stages of dementia. That was when she had trouble getting the right words out, when, as I approached her to guide her with her walker,  she admonished me, “Get out of my whale!”

“Are you doing this on purpose?” I wanted to ask her. Well, of course she is. Why else would this be happening? What is her intention? Or, well, maybe she isn’t doing it on purpose; she isn’t a child whom I can correct and she’ll remember next time and do it right. No, she is in the process of reversal; her brain cells are dying.

She’d run upstairs after I’d get her all settled on the loveseat in the living room. Well, she didn’t run, but she got a good grip on the balusters and managed. I’d find her sitting on her straight back chair in her bedroom or undressed and in bed. It was warmer up there in the winter, and she was always cold. She always found a way. She never lost her ingenuity.

Her hospice doctor explained to me that while certain aspects of the condition are common to all dementia sufferers, other aspects are unique to the individual based on that person’s background and experiences.

Over the recent years we went through a troupe of juggling circus clowns in white coats, dressed up as doctors, but unable to maintain accurate records and unwilling to take the time to answer my questions regarding Emma’s condition.

So in March 2010 when the hospice doctor called to make an appointment for his first visit with us, he wanted to come at dinnertime. I told him he couldn’t, that it would throw Emma’s schedule all off, that she would be eating dinner too late, therefore, consequently be too tired to eat. “People with dementia need to be kept on their schedules. You’re a doctor; you ought to know that,” I told him.

He had to work at the hospital until five and Medicare required his visit, so we compromised.

When the doorbell rang I was in the kitchen with the oven door open, holding a pat of butter in my fingers basting a turkey breast and Emma had just escaped upstairs.

I got to the front door and opened it. He introduced himself, greeting me professionally and respectfully, handing me his card. I, in turn, without offering him a seat or to take his coat, told him that I had to go get Emma: “I don’t have time to cook dinner, chase after Emma, and chase you, too,” I said, half noting that he was of Indian heritage and rather good looking.

He sat with equanimity in the blue chair in the living room until I brought Emma downstairs. He then went over to her on the loveseat, pulled up a footstool, sat down beside her, greeted her softly, asked her how she felt and talked with her a few minutes. Then, he turned to me, listened to me and patiently answered my questions. Had he carried a flute rather than a stethoscope, I would have thought he was Lord Krishna.

From there on, he consistently conducted himself in this manner, no matter the measure of chaos around us.

Said Tess, our hospice nurse, “He doesn’t add to the stress; he moves through it.”

Samantha Mozart


14 Responses to Intention

  1. Susan Scott says:

    Samantha, I thought I had posted a comment when I read your post but evidently not!
    A lovely post thank you and I also felt a sense of calm at the handsome doctor’s approach. Some people have that ability to separate themselves from stress and just be themselves. I imagine you being that kind of person against all odds much of the time – moving through the stress as Lord Krishna does/did.

    • sammozart says:

      Well, you haven’t read my “L” “Lion at the Gate” post yet, Susan. I believe the doctor — handsome to make me pay extra attention to him — and he was probably a Hindu, came into my life to teach me to move through the stress. I have gotten a little better at it.

      In fact, at that first visit and with every phone call and visit, he had the ability to stop me in my tracks and spin me around, just by virtue of his equanimity.


  2. I am in complete awe of anyone who looks after an elderly parent, and to do so for one who is suffering from dementia is even more awe-inspiring. I imagine there are few things more exhausting (emotionally and physically), heartbreaking, stressful–you name it, really–than giving up so much of your own life to look after another.

    This post brings tears to my eyes. I can feel your frustration in it, and I can feel the relief of having finally found a good doctor. Thanks for sharing part of your journey with us.

    • sammozart says:

      Sara, thank you so much for your touching and insightful comments. I basically fell backwards into this and, trust me, had no-o-o idea what I was facing and for how long. All I can say is that it was what I needed for my own spiritual evolution. I had always avoided sick elderly, but I had to face this one, and build my own self confidence and awareness.

      Thanks for coming by. So nice to meet you.

  3. Pat Garcia says:

    I love people who are like this doctor. They tend to have a heart of gold. They don’t let anything or anyone bring them out of balance and THEY know how to treat people. Believe it or not my dear Samantha, I have found out that force and demanding doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the calm, soft spoken person that wins with their meekness and humility, and it sounds like this doctor had it within him.
    So nice to hear that you enjoyed him coming, and Dearie, the nice thing about it was that he was good looking. A good looking man always brightens up my day. 🙂 Sorry, I just had to add that because it does.
    Love you.
    Ciao, ciao,

    • sammozart says:

      Patricia, you are right about the softness — I am still learning that. I believe to teach me this is one of the reasons he came into my life.

      And, the doctor’s being so good looking — yet, way disappointingly less than half my age. To compound matters, he lived with a nurse, whom I imagined as a tall, willowy blonde. Nevertheless, he did brighten my days. 🙂

      I have enjoyed your visit to my blog, Patricia. Thanks.

      Ciao, ciao,

  4. Hi Samantha, an escape artist and a set of stairs, what joy. It’s so important to have access to the right Doctor I’m glad you found one that helped ‘you move through it.’
    Reflex Reactions

    • sammozart says:

      Yes, an escape artist. Funny (now). The doctor helped immeasurably Meeting with him was like meeting an oasis of the mind.

      I’m glad you came by. Thanks!

  5. Marsha Lackey says:

    Well again we dive into a variety of issues facing the care of an elderly individual and the absolutely overworked care giver. Everything seems to happen at once. I, at times, believe that so much happens to stress us out, at one time, that we will more appreciate the calm moments. I felt the serenity, as soon as the doctor sat, began to speak to her and you relaxing, just a bit, with butter on your hands and a turkey in the oven. And even in her limited consciousness, I’m sure Emma had a wave comfort. You have mastered self expression.

    • sammozart says:

      So true, Marsha, about the stress, overwork and being, well, overwrought. The doctor was always indeed calming — to both Mother and me. He was just what we needed. They kept wanting to take him away from us, because they had a reorganization of teams and he was no longer on ours, but I wouldn’t let them.

      I didn’t have butter on my hands when I greeted him, though. 🙂 Only my buttery mind wished I were 30 years younger.

      For your last sentence, thank you for your very kind compliment.

  6. Gwynn Rogers says:

    It is interesting that my mom was a nurse, but she was not willing to care for dad’s mom with her dementia. You did an incredible job dealing with your mom’s antics and life. Watching out for your mom with her taking off must have been a trial for you. My grandmother fell and broke her him so she was tied to a wheelchair. It made it more difficult for her to escape… except when she convinced visitors that the nursing home was mean to her and had tied her in the chair for no reason. Then she would attempt to stand and fall again.

    Listening to your stories brings back so many memories of my grandmother and her dementia. You survived a harrowing experience… Congratulations.

    • sammozart says:

      Heh, it was part of Mother’s nature to suddenly take off. And, during her dementia, when she could have gotten hurt during one of her escapades, and sometimes she did, it was extremely frustrating, Gwynn.

      My only way through it was to write my blog, laugh a lot, and rant to my ever so patient hospice nurse, social worker/bereavement counselor, chaplain, and, yes, sometimes even the doctor.

      I have a friend whose mother is in a nursing home and telling people how mean they are to her there, and I’ve heard that from others; so it’s common among dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. And my aunt, 101, is not strapped to her wheelchair, thank goodness — how cruel — but, as when she said to me one day, “Listen to this,” raising herself off the seat, all the bells and whistles went off and the nursing facility staff came running from every direction. Harrowing, but we survived, and as you know well, humor helps.


  7. Val Rainey says:

    Hey Sam
    Are some of your letter/articles out takes from your book? Some I remember and others I don’t.

    • sammozart says:

      It’s impossible to dance around the real experience if that’s what I want to write about, Val. And I tell these stories of our experiences once again hoping that they will help others in the same or similar situation. So, yes, the stories are the same as those already posted on my blog and published in my two books, but the passages, however similar, have been reworked. That’s the way it’s done in ethical writing.