Strong, Smart Role Model for Many
By Amy Cipau
Our Mom, Virginia Maness, was a Mother of 4, married to my Dad for 59 years before his death. She was born and raised in N.C., one of 12 children. She was also a loving grandmother and aunt. As a registered nurse, she was a natural caregiver. As a Head Emergency Room nurse, she was tough! Other words used to describe her include strong, smart, and independent. So we were quite unprepared for our journey with Alzheimer’s.
After a few years of increasing forgetfulness, difficulty with ordinary tasks, money, bills, etc., Mom was diagnosed in 2011 with mild cognitive impairment. The disease progressed to full blown Alzheimer’s over the next couple of years.
When our Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in June 2014, my sisters and I went into 24/7 caregiving mode for Mom. We learned what a good job he had been doing for so long! Her decline was precipitous, which is not uncommon after a sudden loss for someone with Alzheimer’s.
The loss was great for our family, as not only had we just lost Dad, we were losing Mom bit by bit, and we were missing them both.
We brought in private, in home help to assist with caregiving, as our parent’s had often times expressed the desire to not be “put into a home”.
In the fall of 2015, Hospice came into the home to assist. By this time, she no longer knew who we were. She had one constant desire, to “go home”, which no amount of explaining could satisfy. In her mind, she also continued to go to work, check on patients, sew…. always staying busy!
By the Spring of 2016, she became increasingly bedridden, and it was no longer viable to care for her at home. That Memorial Day weekend she was moved into a skilled nursing facility. This was very difficult for our family and for the wonderful caregivers who had come to know and love her. As a fellow nurse, many of the staff there knew her in person or by reputation and were honored to have her there and be able to care for her. That gave us some comfort.
It was always so hard to leave her after a visit there. She didn’t necessarily know us but I got the feeling she had the sense that we were family. Or maybe I just hoped! I was also never quite sure if she really knew where she was or that she wasn’t at home; I hoped not!
On June 21, Hospice told us she was transitioning. We played some of her favorite music like Amazing Grace, and recited the Lord’s Prayer which always seemed to give her comfort. Even though she wasn’t awake, I believe she heard these as well as our words of love and support.
June 22 dawned as a beautiful, quiet summer morning. I’m not often up so early (!) and got to see the day break and hear the birds chirping happily. It seemed fitting that she passed peacefully on such a morning.
I will always be grateful for the mother who raised us and the role model that she was for so many. I also have a newfound appreciation for all the wonderful caregivers who assist families like ours, and for the education and support provided by Dementia Alliance of N.C.