When dementia became a daily reality, I did not understand that this disease doesn’t allow discernment of any kind in, or to, any situation. I’d be irritated that Mom was incapable of seeing the obvious. Due to my own ineptness in dealing with this illness, I had expectations of her even with this disease.
In 2010 when I was living with Mom, almost every morning right before I’d be ready to serve the breakfast I had prepared, she’d get up from the kitchen table stating she wanted to go read, or she would decide she needed to go for a walk. “Can’t you wait a minute, Mom?” I used to say impatiently. “Can’t you see I’m cooking breakfast?! It’s almost ready!” My firm parental tone surprised and confused her and sometimes, it even surprised me! My being upset in-turn upset her, and what was supposed to be a calm, delightful breakfast, turned into exasperation on both our parts that lingered throughout the meal like burnt toast; and I was the one who created the scrambled mess.
Fast forward to the present time. This past weekend, breakfast went entirely different, and has for quite a few years now. Mom sat at the kitchen table at the cabin, watching me fix breakfast, talking while I took the bacon off the heat and drained all but a little grease, poured the cheddar cheese, onion and scrambled egg mixture in the pan, then pushed the toast down. Mom gets up and says, “Well, I’m going upstairs to change my clothes and then sweep the porch.” I didn’t skip a beat. I popped the toast back up and turned the burner off and said, “Super idea!”
It took me years to get to this point, but I have learned to be present in her world and not be critical of her inability to recognize the obvious. I have learned to let her lead, not only because I have no choice in the matter, but I have come to the realization that swimming against that current is futile.
Not all dementia sufferers behave this way, but enough has been written in books to let me know it’s more common than not. Letting go of the controls was a very difficult thing for me to learn and then to actually do. Of course, there are still times when I have to grab hold of the yoke, but in times like what I just described, no. Don’t argue, just enjoy the flight.
Breakfast was delicious by the way. Eventually!
What Is True For Me
Even in the midst of the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with this disease, I pay attention to my response(s). It is important for me as the caregiver to connect the dots when I hear stories from others in Support Group, or read stories and ideas in books.
By being able to connect these dots, it helps me to better respond to the moving target this disease dishes out relentlessly. Even in the fog, try and stay awake, because being observant allows us to learn to do better next time. When we know better, we do better.