Modern Day Samaritan Woman
Mothering my Mother, Mother’s Day, “Mothering Do ‘Over’s…”
Now that my Mother is living with me and is also a sufferer of Dementia/ Alzheimer’s and also recently had two (2) falls in which she broke both her left hip and right femur. I find myself as “Mother to my Mother”.
This is both challenging and heart rending at the same time. I expressed in another blog that I really wanted to have a Mothering Do Over, but perhaps I wasn't specific enough, because here I find myself with a wish granted, yet not quite in the way I had imagined.
Once again with no manual, I am navigating a new concept of mothering. A new kind of normal. My mother is totally dependent on me for everything, and although she is now the “Oldest” of my children at 78, she is also the “Youngest”…Much like a two (2) year old.
She has memory lapses due to the disease and this causes her to struggle to communicate her needs clearly. Sometimes, she simply cannot remember the correct vocabulary she requires to express what she would like. Then just like any two year old she will become frustrated and irritable, because I do not understand what she needs.
1. I have found that in trying to anticipate her needs in advance has helped to prevent some of these unpleasant tantrums.
2. I have also built up a handy mental vocabulary list of my own and throw in a few random words, while she is trying to find a word, occasionally getting it right and preventing the frustration.
Due to her Alzheimer’s, she is also very restless and changes her mind frequently. One minute she wants to be up in her wheelchair, and in the kitchen with the family, which means helping her to get up, into her wheelchair, carting along whatever she would like to take with her. This activity alone could easily take an half an hour to accomplish. Then after we have her in the kitchen, she will change her mind and rather be back in her room watching something on telly.
1. I have found that giving her something to do while in the kitchen usually helps her to feel more included in the activities, so I will hand her the grater and some cheese (or carrots) and bowl and ask her to grate it for me. This activity will usually take her a while and whatever is grated can easily be placed into a container in the fridge for another time, if not needed immediately.
Many a night has been spent up keeping her company because of her restlessness which keeps her awake and moody. Due to Sundowner’s Syndrome which accompanies Altzheimer’s these nights are sometimes tense and irritable, as she is demanding but cannot articulate what is bothering her. I don’t think that she even knows. These are also particularly difficult, as I have to be up at 4am in the morning for work and cannot help counting the hours of sleep remaining that are being lost due to this condition. I cannot leave my mother alone, as like any two year old she is unpredictable, so there is no telling what she may do when unsupervised.
1. I have found that keeping her awake (with short naps in-between) and productively active during the day assists in keeping her sense of worth intact. (Helping to fold the laundry, chop up veggies for supper, and any other age appropriate chore, that we can give her to do). Having been up and active also assists in helping her to be naturally tired when the evening comes.
2. It also helps to be calm and patient when she seems to be restless and agitated. Having a meaningless argument that has no real purpose of focus never resolves anything. A set routine makes a huge difference as well. Because mom forgets things so quickly, it helps to have a set routine that is strictly adhered to. It became familiar to her and she felt at ease, as there are no changes and she felt that she had some control in knowing what was next.
3. I also have a handy note book, that I keep record all kinds of things in for her. She keeps this book with her, even when she moves around the house. In it, we record all kinds of information, such as family member’s birthdays for the day, as well as any decisions or conversations we had. If she feels that she has forgotten something important she can consult her book and immediately be reminded of recent events, etc. This has also helped in keeping her calm and given her a sense of being in control.
4. I announce at least thirty minutes before bed time that it will soon be bedtime, in order to prepare her for the change to come and try to anticipate whether she will be thirsty or peckish in that time, so that I can give her something to eat or drink beforehand.
5. Finally, when I do help her to prepare for bedtime, I try to calmly and slowly get her tucked into her bed, remove her glasses and give her, her night time medication.
The final thing of the day is the kiss on the forehead. That kiss seems to be like the full stop of the day, helping her to understand that it is now time to sleep. Just like my babies used to love being cuddled and kissed when being tucked in for the night, so too does my mom.
My Mothering Do Over, has happened in a way I have never anticipated and I have had to learn a lot during the past few weeks; however, I have to mention that despite all the challenges, I look for and appreciate every tiny “open window” that mom and I have together in which she is lucid and present with me…In those times I am the daughter again… and in between... I Mother my Mother….
Do you like me find yourself with a whole new normal, so different from anything you ever imagined? We never imagine that our parents will one day be dependent on us, or rather we never quite imagine how really heart rending it is until we are faced with it. How have you coped? Have you done things not mentioned here which could help us and others? Please leave your comments. It’s always helpful to know that we are not alone in difficult situations.
*Hugs* till next time.