Follow Me to the Senior Center Forget Me Not

By Carl and Jo Ann Hauser
When I was in college, for Thanksgiving I would bring some of my friends home with me. My mother and grandmother were always delighted to have a full table. They served a holiday meal second to none. I went to school only thirty miles from home, so every few months I would come home for a weekend unannounced. After all, why wouldn’t my mother and grandmother want to see their darling boy? One weekend I came home and something wasn’t quite right. There was a strange car parked out front in my spot. I walked into the kitchen, went straight for the cookie jar, but found nothing but crumbs. Someone had been eating my cookies! Then I went down the stairs to my basement bedroom, and that’s right: someone was sleeping in my bed! (Just like one of the three bears) Turns out, one of my friends from college had dropped out of school. He came to Kansas City looking for work, and my mother and grandmother had taken him in. When he was at my home for Thanksgiving, he had experienced something for the first time in his life: a loving family. For the last several years their main job was to spoil me, but after a little reflection I figured I could share them for a while.

Several years later my grandmother, with her endearing and magnetic personality, at the age of 102, could still walk ever so slowly, cook, and play cards with the best of them. She came down with pneumonia, and after spending seven days in the hospital, they gave up on her. She was too old to get better, but too tenacious to die, so they released her. My mother, after caring for my grandmother for over fifteen years, could no longer care for her. My grandmother spent the last two months of her life in a nursing home.

Now my mother, who was equally tenacious, had a completely different personality than my grandmother. She was always loving and faithful, but could put the fear of the Lord in you with just a glance. She beat breast cancer twice; once when she was 45, then again at 80. Her senior years were spent volunteering at the Kansas City Zoo. To say she was ferociously independent would be an understatement.

In 2002 I took my mother to New Mexico to see the home Jo Ann and I had built for our retirement. She was 84 at the time, and I promised her we would take her to New Mexico with us when I retired in 2005. I knew she was having some memory problems, but didn’t know how serious they were until we returned from that trip. We got back late in the afternoon. She was to pick up her dog at the vet’s and then drive on home; a trip that should have taken her about 45 minutes. Three hours later the Vet called saying my mother never showed to pick up the dog. I tried calling her with no response. Beginning to panic, I then drove to her home, where she finally showed up a few hours later. She had gotten lost in neighborhoods she had known her entire life. Sundown Syndrome is a very real condition for those suffering from Dementia. A year later she fell in her home and broke her hip. The strong woman I had always known completely broke and was no longer capable of making a decision.

We now found ourselves responsible for all her medical and financial needs. After consulting with her doctor, I learned she had been struggling with Dementia for almost ten years, had congestive heart failure, and now a broken hip. Jo Ann and I cared for her about a year, but she fell again, and became wheelchair bound. Her Alzheimer’s had progressed to the point where she needed 24 hour care.

We moved to New Mexico, brought her with us as promised, but had to put her in the Mescalero Care Center. When we would visit, sometimes I was her brother, sometimes her husband, or she would say, “These are my friends.” One of her many trips to the hospital was for a colonoscopy. As she went in for the procedure on that day, we were her “close friends from Kansas City.” When she came out, she had a scowl on her face (I don’t blame her!). The doctor pointed to us and said, “Your son and daughter-in-law are here to take you home.” She looked at us, then back at the doctor, and said, “I’ve never seen those people before in my life.”

There are a few upsides to Alzheimer’s. For example, there is no such thing as a rerun on TV. Every day truly is a new day. You cannot hold a grudge. You are never afraid to speak your mind. You won’t remember that you lost your keys.

On her final hospital visit, the doctor gave me a stern look and asked, “Why is she here? There is nothing I can do for her.” Sometimes we reach a point where there is nothing left to do, but see that our loved one is comfortable. The last day I saw my mom, she had a moment of clarity, calling me “son.” She said, “I know why I’m here; this is where I belong.” The next night she passed away peacefully at the age of 92.

If you have a spouse or a parent who is physically disabled or has a mental issue, such as Alzheimer’s, you do not have to go it alone. I had Jo Ann to help me through. Our Senior Center doesn’t have one, but now three Otero County Women of Merit. Our Executive Director Kathy Swope received her award in 2011, our beloved Mable (now retired) received her award in 2006, and now our Program Director and Finance Manager Marrianne White was honored this year. These women received this prestigious award because they care about YOU, our mountain seniors. If you are in a difficult circumstance, our staff will do whatever they can to make life better. Kathy and Marrianne are available to counsel and advise you about various services and options for your circumstances. If you need help keeping your house clean, Michele Hudman is our devoted homemaker. We have homebound meals that can be delivered for lunch. Helping you solve issues with such things as Medicare and Medicaid is part of our service. The other part is we want you to come to the Senior Center, have lunch and have some fun. For lunch reservations, or info on our services and activities, please call our Center at 682-3022. Check out our website, managed by Marty Ware, at

If you are a full time caregiver for a loved one, may God strengthen you, comfort you, and bless you. If you call the Senior Center we may even be able to help you!

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