If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!
Have you heard the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them?” I have come to the conclusion this is the path I need to take with my ninety-two year old mother. Instead of trying to be logical with her I have to love her and care for her just the way she is and trust me, logic has not been a part of her life for a long time now.
This might sound easy but it isn't. You always think of your parents as being strong and healthy. They are the ones who protect you when you are too young to protect yourself. They teach you more than any school teacher ever could and they have high expectations for you no matter what the rest of the world thinks of you. When the day comes for you to realize you are a helpful stranger to them it nearly breaks your heart.
Earlier today I was trying to reason with my mother who was determined she was going to put on her shoes and go visit her mother. She was fretting because she hasn't seen her mother for a long time and “She’ll be worried about me now. I’m going home.”
I tried to tell her the weather is terrible, the vehicle is not running, and she could get sick going outside in the cold wet weather. She didn't care about any of that. Finally, I asked my mother where grandmother lives now. She said, “You know, up there.”
“Up where?” I asked.
“Up the road in that other house. “ She spoke to me with a blank expression on her face as if I should know this already.
I responded, “Grandmother is not home. She had a doctor’s appointment and was going to the supermarket after she got of the doctor’s office.” Telling her grandmother has been deceased for the last thirty-one years would only upset her. She would cry and feel the pain of losing grandmother all over again and it would serve no purpose so I went along with her belief in going to visit her mother.
Yesterday she didn't want to go the restroom even when it was obvious she needed to go. She insisted she had just been in there and was ready to physically battle anyone who attempted to help her up or clean her up. Those are the moments that make it hard to go along with her and it bothers me to force her to do what has to be done but I can’t leave her lying there soiled.
My friend often helps me with my mother and she was here. She hadn't seen that side of my mother before. I leaned over my mother, placed my arm under her armpit and raised her to her feet. At that point she looked at me and said, “I’m going to the bathroom. You don’t need to go.” Then she looked at my friend and said, “You can go with me.” The ladies walked off into the bathroom reminding me of a cowboy riding off into the sunset.
Sometimes it is not easy to love someone with dementia but you can’t forget who they were long before they were forgetful and angry. You have to remember the laughs, the times they encouraged and supported you, and the times they dried your tears. I have learned I have to love the woman my mother is now and leave the woman she once buried in my memories.
Those times when I reach for my mother’s hand and she pushes me away, I have to remember I am no longer the daughter she remembers for her daughter is still a young woman. In her eyes I am the older helpful stranger and when she doesn't like something I say or do she reminds me, “I know my daughter is paying you well to be here with me. I’m going to tell her how you've acted today! She’ll fire your ass!”
She needs my love, my care, and my patience, and I must admit; I need the laughs she brings me that many others might not understand.
© Dianna Doles Petry