Jolted Awake: A Daughter’s Journal

by Beth Whitman


The first heart-wrenching event that occurred during the time I have been taking care of Mom happened sometime in December 2011.  Despite her Alzheimer’s, Mom was still fairly independent, but had recently taken to wandering some at night.

I am jolted awake from a deep sleep.

I hear loud screaming and pounding.


I have no idea what could be going on.

I fly down the stairs and follow the sound into my parents’ part of the house.
My mom is standing in the bathroom, screaming and pounding on the floor with her cane.


Dad is standing helplessly in the doorway, trying to talk with her.

I step into the bathroom and try to hug her, and she pushes me away.


I grab her shoulders and look into her eyes.  “We love you.”


I reach out again and this time am able to hug her.  “I know, I know,” I say.


“You are right.  I don’t know.  I have no idea.”  I am crying.  Mom is now crying on my shoulder.  Dad is standing in the doorway crying.

“Let’s go back to bed,” I say.

“Yes, Marianne, why don’t we go back to bed and try to get some sleep,“ Dad says.

“Here, why don’t you hold on to my walker,” he offers.

I lead Mom over to Dad and she takes hold of his walker.  Then slowly, little by little, Mom still sobbing and occasionally pounding on the floor with her cane, all three of us make our way into their bedroom.

I rub her back for another hour as she sits on the edge of the bed, whimpering for a while, and occasionally pounding her cane on the floor.  Eventually she lays back on the bed and holds my hand until she falls asleep.

Beth Whitman lives in Maine and is a member of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage, a developing community on the coast of Maine focused on multigenerational living and sustainability.

12 Responses to “Jolted Awake: A Daughter’s Journal”

  1. Jim Wheelock says:

    OK–you’ve got my attention! Hang in there, you’re not alone.


  2. mary says:

    Thank you…..So wonderfully handled…..You did all the right things….
    I hope I can do the same someday. My mom has Dementia and is going to be like that . I just pray I am as wise….

  3. Loretta Haines says:

    God bless you and give you much strength, much love, and hold you close to Him forever and always. My prayer is that your mother doesn’t suffer very long with this horrific disease. This stage is the most confusing for all. May God keep you and your father together throughout this sad time and have mercy on your Mom.

  4. Juile Batsel says:

    Thank you for sharing, Bethers. It’s so heart wrenching…yet so generous of you to share this journey. Thank you, sister.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Wow. Thank you beth for this. The story gives me chills thinking about what this must feel like for all three of you (and every one else out there. .. ) Huge hug to you, too!

  6. Peter says:

    Caring, patience and understanding are intrastinct components of our humanity.
    What’s hard sometimes, is finding those feelings within ourselves, and even more difficult, knowing how to express them. For some of us it appears to be impossible. You have made those connections in yourself by sharing yourself with your parents: an experience of simply being. Both your father and mother are sustained by the knowledge that they are loved, and not alone. As are you, Beth.

  7. Maureen says:

    Thank you for being brave. Words and community are two very powerful things. I am so glad you are accessing both while you are on your journey. Mo

  8. Gina says:

    Beautiful. Life is so intense in the daily invitation to love deeply and let go.
    Big hugs on this journey. Xxoh

  9. Mary says:

    I am glad that I found this 77 yr old sister has lived with us for 31/2 yrs, she has been a widow for 6 yrs and has no children. My husband and I had to go to CA and bring her to live with us after her friend of 26 yrs called and told me that she was scared of my sister, she had been staying with her for about 6 months. When I arrived at her home she didn’t even know know if I was really her sister, is what she told me. She is doing much better and is now handling her personal affairs but the Dr wants her evaluated for dementia and psychosis and has asked her not to drive, she has refused the evaluation and continues to drive and has threatened me that she will get a lawyer if I try to make her go to the Dr. My family members have caused a lot of problems and have turned her against me and my family yet she is still living in our home and is very angry that I had to bring her to live with us in another state..I am at my wits end on how to handle this. Its obvious that something is wrong with her. Any suggestions, would be appreciated.

  10. Beth says:

    Mary, You are facing one tough situation – taking on the care of someone who is resistant to you, and having family members that are not supporting you in your efforts.
    Alot depends on the details of the situation.
    To the extent that you are able to it might be worth sitting down a few of the folks involved and come up with a number of options that might be workable (if not ideal), and ask that those members that are objecting commit to being the ones to take on the option that they are most in favor of, and then let your sister decide which option she prefers. Then, if she chooses an option that does not involve you, let go. Even if you believe that is not the best course of action.

    There are support groups for caregivers in most areas through the local agency on aging. I don’t know if you have checked in with them. But you might find some folks through a group like that to talk this over with.

  11. Kathy Lyons says:

    Beth, what you are doing is amazing–physically and emotionally draining.

    My step father has dementia and my Mom is his sole caretaker– and so far resistant to getting any kind of help. He’s stopped driving–his own decision. (Thank goodness). Your blog is reminding me that I need to call her more often as I know she is feeling alone.

    Hope to see you in person again, soon. I’ve missed you!

  12. Charles A. Kennedy says:

    Was showing some slides about our trip to Turkey and pulled out one from 1965 when our families spent the day in Jerusalem and Jericho. Let me know your email and I will send you a copy.
    My wife is struggling with dementia right now and is hospitalized, so I understand what you are going through. She was a high school classmate of your father.