Monday, December 17, 2012
This weekend I made two big mistakes. One, I argued with mom when I know better. Two, I went errand running all day Saturday with mom and dad. Let’s delve a little deeper shall we? (Like ya have a choice… LOL)
One: never argue with a dementia patient. You won’t win because they don’t argue logically and two it’s not worth the frustration. I forgot that key item on Friday. I stepped right in to it. I corrected her recollection of an event. I know better, it’s not hurting me or anyone else for her to come up with things that aren't in order or never happened. But no, I was only half listening to her and corrected her. BIG MISTAKE! When Dad got home she told him, “all she does is tell me NO! Well she can just be told NO. I’m not listening to her anymore.” So of course Dad doesn't delve into why I used the word “no” he just assumes that I told her she couldn't do something. What I should have done was got his attention when she wasn't in the room and explained where the “no” came from. Or better yet, I shouldn't have used the word “no” in the first place. With a dementia patient, the word “no” means so much more than “no”.
For example, “No, mom your shoe is on the wrong foot.” What she hears is “NO, you can’t do anything right.” Instead I have learnt to say, “Mom, let me help you with your shoes because I don’t want you to trip.” That she can handle.
Or another example, “No mom Tony was born before me. And I wasn't alive when Grandpa F. was.” She heard, “No, you are wrong. You are always wrong.” What I’m learning to do is nod and laugh at the appropriate places instead. It’s only me she’s telling the story to. I know I was born in ’76 and grandpa died in ’75. Her revision of the events isn't hurting anyone. And it’s not worth the fight.
On the other hand, today when I said, “NO! Don’t touch that. ”, I didn't care that she got upset. She was touching the top of the toaster oven with her bare hand. She got really upset with me when I yelled (I was across the room). I didn't care. She burnt her palms really bad as a child and has no concept of heat in her palms. When she started to yell at me I took it. Then I looked at her and said, “Momma, I don’t want you to burn yourself. You know you can’t feel the heat, I can. And that top is much hotter than you think.” That’s when I need to use “NO”!
It’s these lessons that can make my days easier. Or if I forget this one, the day can go to hell in a hand basket faster than a two year old can empty out an entire container of powder. (Y’all know how fast those little buggers can get in to things! J)
Now for mistake TWO! I know better than to spend 6 days in a row with mom. I have to remember that as much as I like spending time with the two of them, I also need my time alone. I spent the prior five years living alone. It’s only been three months here and I’m not “over” my alone time yet. Plus I need the time away to decompress. When you’re the primary caregiver, you need breaks. Your mind needs the rest, and so does your heart. I have always been an emotional gal. I take things to heart and can get hurt by mom easily. Without taking the breaks I need, those hurts become too much to handle. I have to remember to take time for myself. An hour in the evening doesn't cut it. I need to make sure I get hours of time for myself and my pursuits or I will lose my shit.
Every caregiver needs to be able to take a break. And that includes moms and dads, nurses, social workers- anyone that cares for someone else as their job. This is my job. I spend 10 hours a day with mom, making sure she has everything she needs and that she’s not alone. Whether I take her shopping or am doing laundry, I’m working. I have found that my much needed afternoon naps aren't happening because I continue to keep an ear peeled. Instead, I’m going to start going to bed earlier and push through the day. And on the weekends, I need to make sure I get my time to be alone. To recharge and relax whether I choose to organize my office, or to decorate, or to color, or to go to the movies or however I choose to spend my time. Without my alone time, I will break. And breaking isn't an option….