When we know someone, either personally or professionally, who is trying to sort out their experience of loving someone with dementia, a little insight can go a long way…
This blog is a reflection of an adult child watching her mother decline during later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. The emotional landscape of someone in this situation can be a pretty rugged terrain. If you have a loved one living with dementia, you may want to take a deeper look at your changing relationship. If you are a provider of services to families, the more awareness of their loss and perspective you have, the better you can serve your clients……
The woman in the wheelchair was admiring my yoga sandals. She said I had pretty feet.
I wondered if she had been in the chair for a long time or if this was a new situation for her. Always looking up at people in order to have eye contact, probably noticing the way eyes are averted, facial expressions carefully impassive when she enters a room.
It isn’t hard for me to remember when I would notice someone accompanied by an elderly person in a public place. The interactions that required repetition or a louder speaking voice, often attracting the attention of others. My heart would ache for a moment and my mind would diligently find gratitude that my parent did not require an escort to go to Starbucks. That was then.
Now I am the parent, constantly scanning for safety, dignity, and comfort for my mother. My mother, who blew through red lights to rush me to the hospital when I broke my arm. The same parent who confided in me that my father and husband were conspiring to surprise me with my prize emerald ring, because she couldn’t contain her joy about it. The mother who changed my diapers, sent me off on my first day of school every September with new shoes and a new dress, who comforted me during my fearful anticipation of visiting the pediatrician for a “shot”, who told me I was beautiful and smart and talented and how proud she was of me. The same person who helped me grow up to be a person with confidence, a certain lack of fear that I sense in so many people who did not have this kind of parent. The person who has always been my biggest fan.
I often feel like Mom deserves more loving kindness than I give her. I attend to her needs, try and help her through the rough spots, make sure that when she is wearing soiled clothing that we get her changed into something clean. Somehow, I still feel like I am holding a part of myself back from her. Almost as if were I to go all the way there, as she always did, I would drown in the sadness of how this disease has taken her abilities and intellect from her. And from me. Growing up and even as an adult, her love often felt too big for me to let in all at once. As a baby, I must have soaked up every last bit of her deep and unconditional love for me. Something has happened along the way, I can’t say exactly what, that convinced me to withhold a piece of myself. I feel a reluctance to open fully, even now, when she can only feel raw emotion and can’t discern the fine points of connection.
This is my guilty secret. On the outside I am the dutiful daughter, caring in an apparently unselfish way for my progressively incapacitated mother. I pray that there will be a time when I can look at others caring for their loved one and not feel inadequate. My time with my mother is running out, I know. The essence of who she is and her awareness is disappearing very quickly now. She will be gone soon and I will have to live with the loss, take her many gifts with me and live with what I imagine I didn’t give her for the rest of my life.
If you have any questions or would like to be in touch with a Senior Care Authority Advisor in your area call (888) 854-3910 for a no-cost phone consultation. We have many resources to share with you. You can also find a local advisor on our website at www.seniorcareauthority.com.
Marcy Baskin is an Elder Care Manager, and Managing Director of Senior Care Authority. She is also the author of Assisted Living: Questions I Wish I Had Asked.