John Pulliam, Executive Director at The Fountainview Center for Alzheimer's Disease, Atlanta, Georgia. My mom, Doris Pulliam, was a career Charge Nurse at a long-term care center in Winder, Georgia, and didn't retire until she was 73 years of age. Needless to say, Mom had a true passion for nursing as a profession, but more so, for her patients. She loved them and cared for them with unbelievable compassion. Before Mom retired from nursing, my dad had passed away leaving Mom with a lot of free time; thus, she poured her energy into her nursing. After she retired, Mom said that retiring was the worst decision she ever made; however, we included her in our vacations for several years. By the time she turned 80, Mom began showing symptoms I had too often seen in our patients and residents in my center. Mom was showing early signs of Alzheimer's Disease, but was able to live at home, alone, for about two more years. By the time she was 82, I had Mom admitted to my facility, but she thought she was coming back to work. In many ways, it was a blessing to see her continued passion for nursing, even with compromised cognition. Often times, our nurses would allow Mom to sit at the nurses' station to "do her documentation (on paper - that was all Mom knew)". None of us knew what Mom was writing, but it was real to her and she still felt valued as a nurse because she was still at work in her mind. I was fully aware of the disease progression and tried to prepare my family members for what would be ahead. Mom eventually forgot all our names and didn't recognize our family members, except me. I visited Mom so often, talked to her as if she could understand my conversations, and updated her on all the family events, such as weddings and even funerals. Mom always knew I belonged to her; she didn't remember my name, but she remembered the connection. During these months, I saw a couple of vividly clear moments of mental clarity - I could see it in her eyes, and I will always hold those moments dear to my heart. I prepared my family for the beginning of the end for Mom - the time when she would stop eating. When the time came, I knew the end wouldn't be too far in the future. I didn't want any heroic measures to be attempted, it was so important to allow Mom to go in the way God permitted. Mom peacefully passed away on May 7, 2014 at the age of 89, with me at her side, holding her left hand when she took her last breath. That was such a powerful few moments for me; I knew Mom's journey had come to an end. As the Executive Director at The Fountainview Center for Alzheimer's Disease, I arrive each morning knowing I have a mission to fulfill, and I attempt it daily to honor my mom, Doris Evelyn Ivey Pulliam, Charge Nurse Extraordinaire.
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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