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Smoke & Mirrors

Recently a caregiver friend of mine, Teddy, ran into rude and dismissive behavior by the family who hired him to take care of their mother, Regina. Initially, his connection to their Mom was just being her friend. He and their Mom lived near each other and saw each other almost daily.

About a year ago, Regina was diagnosed with dementia. Both of her children live out of state, so it was at this point, they asked her friend, Teddy, if he would be interested in taking care of her for them, and they would pay him to do so.

In the beginning, Regina’s “kids” treated him with respect, even becoming close friends with him. They seemed to appreciate his help for many reasons, but mainly because they knew not many people would take the job of caring for Regina because they knew she could be cantankerous and a bit rough around the edges.

Living out of state, the “kids” weren’t around much to visit their mother, so they didn’t fully “get” the severity of Regina’s dementia, or how problematic and challenging the job of caring for her actually was. Teddy spoke with the family several times telling them that he was really not capable of caring for their mom much longer as her mental state was rapidly declining, and he didn’t feel comfortable in his ability to give her the proper care she now needed.

He did suggest other options such as in-home care with licensed help; however, Regina would not allow anyone but Teddy in her home. Finally, due to the severity of her decline, and Teddy’s persistence in telling them their mother was not safe living alone, they moved her to a memory care facility near her home. Teddy continued to call and visit Regina as often as he could. However, her dementia progressed rapidly to the point she no longer knew him or had any memory of her home.

When Regina’s family realized this also, they again asked for Teddy’s assistance, this time to help them clean-out Regina’s South Carolina home so they could get it ready to sell. Teddy readily agreed once again but noticed the family becoming more distant, curt and abrupt with him as they worked together on this project. He dismissed the intermittent behavior compassionately, understanding they were under a lot of pressure and grief.

Today, Teddy is literally banished from any contact with the family and for no apparent reason he can think of. There are no longer replies from the family to his phone calls or texts. He did see them recently when they came into town to check on the house. He told me, "The hostility was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife!" He held it together, remained civil and kind, but left vowing just to let it be and let them go with no explanation as to why the change in their attitude towards him.

Teddy is a sensitive soul, but not stupid. As he looked back over the last year, there were many odd experiences and observations he discounted at the time. For one, none of them had people they could call on, nor did people call on them. The doorbell and phones were silent. Their social life lacked the word “social.”

His conclusion today is he was duped and used, and I can’t argue with that. I know Teddy. His heart is always in the right place and it was no different caring for Regina and helping the family clean out the house she lived in for so long. He would do it again in a heartbeat because he cared about Regina even before she became ill.


It’s hard to believe that anyone would dupe, or use, another person, but they’re out there. Caregiving has a lens that can zoom in from a normal life of 24mm, to 135mm and even 300mm to expose flaws in ourselves as well as others. Just as important, that same 135/300mm lens can zoom in on our strengths as well.

Teddy was disposable to these people. It had nothing to do with his character; this spoke more to theirs. This is precisely why he didn’t confront their rudeness, much less defend himself against whatever “reasons” they had for behaving so poorly towards him in the end. “Smoke and Mirror” people have a tendency to be trigger happy with their arsenal of “reasons” to justify bad behavior - and there is never an end to how many rounds they have in their magazine. It is why Teddy said goodbye with a quiet prayer rather than questions.

When it comes to other people in the arena of caregiving, behaviors of all kinds are magnified. This experience stung him. It was hard for him to see that Regina’s family had an ulterior motive hidden behind a velvet curtain that was cunning and subtle. However, their behavior didn't change the fact that he finished each day content and without regret.

Anyone can easily be at the wrong end of a spell just as the Tin Man and his friends were in the poppy fields near Oz. But it is more important how we conduct ourselves because that is truly the only thing we can control. And if we can be satisfied with that, then that is enough.

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