Bobbie Faris stays busy taking care of her mother, shuttling her to places she needs to go, staying on top of doctor’s appointments and fixing her meals.
But sometimes Faris takes a breather to consider her mom, Peggy Sendell, who is now in her fourth year of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I just look at her and think to myself, ‘I wonder what it’s like in there,’” said the South Hall woman. “She’s so lost, and she needs me. She needs her family right now. I just feel very fortunate to be able to (take care of her).”
For Faris, the journey into dealing with her mom’s Alzheimer’s began soon after her father died and Faris began having her mom visit her from Savannah.
Memories lost, moments cherished
A series exploring dementia, how it affects our community and the resources available to those affected. Read other stories in the series.
Faris began noticing odd behaviors, particularly forgetfulness. She was worried at first it was the side effects of mini-strokes that Sendell had suffered.
So, she had her tested. That’s when the grim diagnosis came.
“I realized she couldn’t live alone,” Faris said.
She and her family wrestled with what would happen next.
“After checking out some of the facilities, I decided I was going to try to keep her at home and do the best we could,” Faris said. “I feel like she deserves to be taken care of in the best possible way. I know how she took care of us — the kids — when we were little. I just want to give back, and I feel good about it.
“There are stressful times, but I think that when we stay in our routine, it helps us all out.”
Part of their routine is dropping off Sendell at The Guest House, a daytime-only medical care and activity center in Gainesville, three days a week.
Faris’ husband drops Sendell off in the mornings, and Faris picks her up in the afternoons.
The arrangement has allowed the couple to keep working, and it’s given Sendell, 82, an opportunity to be around others her age and take part in activities.
“It’s very nice,” Sendell said. “I’ve made friends there.”
“It has worked out fabulously,” Faris said. “She’s with people who love and care for her.”
The Guest House also has enabled Faris to work as a server at Chateau Elan resort in Braselton and her husband to keep up his cleaning business.
The main thing is routine.
“She is very good with that,” Faris said.
Often, though, her mother “doesn’t really understand things we explain to her,” she said. “She gets very confused. She can’t tell me if she’s hurting, if she’s hot or cold. But with me being her daughter, I know my mom and I know what she likes to wear, to eat, the TV programs she likes.”
Faris said her mom “seems very happy, as happy as you can with this disease. She doesn’t know she has (Alzheimer’s).”
During an interview at Faris’ home, Sendell chatted about her childhood in Oklahoma, service in the Air Force, raising a family, deep love for country music and her long marriage.
She choked up a bit when talking about her husband’s death.
“I miss Bob very much,” Sendell said. “We had three wonderful kids.”
All in all, “life’s been pretty good,” she said.
Every day is different, though, Faris said.
“One day, she may know who I am and the next day, she really doesn’t,” Faris said.
She has researched the disease to learn as much as possible about it, and one thing she has discovered is “you have to go into their world” to communicate.
“A lot of (patients) forget they’ve eaten, and they keep saying they’re hungry,” Faris said. “You can’t say ‘You just ate.’ You have to say, ‘Well, we’ll eat in a little while.’”
So far, it doesn’t seem her mother wants to wander from home, as is often the case with Alzheimer’s patients.
“That may be our next step,” Faris said. “We may have to put alarms on the doors. We may have to get a baby monitor.”
“We’ll probably have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” she said.
One thing Faris knows for sure about her mother, who has endured heart problems and skin cancer surgery, is “she’s been through a lot … and she’s pretty tough, I have to say.”