This blog is areflection of an adult child watching her mother decline during later stages ofAlzheimer’s Disease. The emotional landscape of someone in this situation canbe a pretty rugged terrain. If you have a loved one living with dementia, you maywant to take a deeper look at your changing relationship. If you are a providerof services to families, the more awareness of their loss and perspective youhave, 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 orif this was a new situation for her. Always looking up at people in order tohave eye contact, probably noticing the way eyes are averted, facialexpressions carefully impassive when she enters a room.
It isn’t hard for me to remember when I would notice someoneaccompanied by an elderly person in a public place. The interactions thatrequired repetition or a louder speaking voice, often attracting the attentionof others. My heart would ache for a moment and my mind would diligently findgratitude that my parent did not require an escort to go to Starbucks. That wasthen.
Now I am the parent, constantly scanning for safety,dignity, and comfort for my mother. My mother, who blew through red lights torush me to the hospital when I broke my arm. The same parent who confided in methat my father and husband were conspiring to surprise me with my prize emeraldring, because she couldn’t contain her joy about it. The mother who changed mydiapers, sent me off on my first day of school every September with new shoesand a new dress, who comforted me during my fearful anticipation of visitingthe pediatrician for a “shot”, who told me I was beautiful and smart andtalented and how proud she was of me. The same person who helped me grow up tobe a person with confidence, a certain lack of fear that I sense in so manypeople who did not have this kind of parent. The person who has always been mybiggest fan.
I often feel like Mom deserves more loving kindness than Igive her. I attend to her needs, try and help her through the rough spots, makesure that when she is wearing soiled clothing that we get her changed intosomething clean. Somehow, I still feel like I am holding a part of myself backfrom her. Almost as if were I to go all the way there, as she always did, Iwould drown in the sadness of how this disease has taken her abilities andintellect from her. And from me. Growing up and even as an adult, her loveoften felt too big for me to let in all at once. As a baby, I must have soakedup every last bit of her deep and unconditional love for me. Something hashappened along the way, I can’t say exactly what, that convinced me to withholda piece of myself. I feel a reluctance to open fully, even now, when she canonly feel raw emotion and can’t discern the fine points of connection.
This is my guilty secret. On the outside I am the dutifuldaughter, caring in an apparently unselfish way for my progressivelyincapacitated mother. I pray that there will be a time when I can look atothers caring for their loved one and not feel inadequate. My time with mymother is running out, I know. The essence of who she is and her awareness isdisappearing very quickly now. She will be gone soon and I will have to livewith the loss, take her many gifts with me and live with what I imagine Ididn’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.