Living with Dementia
by Rita Davidson
As many of you know we moved my elderly mother in with us last summer. That was a whirlwind time and it’s taken us about this long to ‘settle’ into our routines.
It was a miracle of sorts really.
I LIVE in OVERWHELM. I mean homeschooling, four boys, three with autism, and writing keeps me on my toes. Anyone who knows us says we both have amazing patience. (it wasn’t ALWAYS that way!) But living with an elderly parent with dementia teaches you a different kind of patience.
I had gotten used to managing our boys meltdowns and re-routing a meltdown before it begins. With autism you almost have to be prepared for anything.
I didn’t realize dementia is the same.
Living with autism helped prepare me for my moms dementia. When my mother was diagnosed with mild dementia it came after a long search for help for her hearing loss, tinnitus difficulties and she was still recovering from our recent fire. It seemed an answer to prayer at least to explain some of the difficulties we were seeing, but it still didn’t feel it fit quite right.
When an unfortunate series of events landed her in the hospital it was then that God opened our eyes and Mark offered to let her live with us. So with relief we let her come stay since the constant travel back and forth was wearing me down and this would make my life much easier to have her with me.
LIVING WITH DEMENTIA
But adapting to daily nursing care was quite a bit for our boys and us to get used to. Finding nurses that worked with my mom was a key. I realized before long that it didn’t matter if I LIKED the nurse all that mattered is that my mother DID. That was a blow to my pride and comfort. This was not about ME, it was about what is best for my mom. heh
Ahh I realized God is going to teach me something with this isn’t He?
When my mother came home from the hospital to us she had lost her ability to talk. This was very disconcerting and frustrating as she had no way to tell us what she wanted and we had to learn to adapt to learn what she needed. It was eventually confirmed to be the heavy drugs given in hospital that accelerated her dementia. (don’t get me started on this one but this is why I appreciate doing all we can now to avoid this later.)
It wasn’t until later, I realized I would never be able to ASK my mother questions about her life, or family or history. Or the old family recipies I have been hoping to get from her. Now she is WITH us, but can’t TELL us. This is a particular kind of pain I wasn’t prepared for.
Not long after she arrived I realized I had a ‘shadow’. Every time I move my mother follows me. That was another irritation to get used to. I could be cooking in the kitchen and turn around and trip right OVER my mother, who had sneaked up behind me. (just cause she is so quiet) If I go to one door or another room she is right there behind me. That took some getting used to and some adapting our home and routines. Sometimes it’s a good thing she is slow. 🙂
When my mother ate 6 bananas at one time I realized we will have to hide the bananas. I remember doing this for our boys with autism. Our one son, would eat non-stop and so we put commercial locks on the fridge. Now we just hide the bananas. 🙂
Helping wipe up my moms toileting ‘accident’s took some getting used to. I often think what a blessing God has allowed me to care for her and to stoop down lower for God who has been so good to me. These times have given me much fruitful meditations with God, wondering whether I’m doing the right thing.
When my mom put her soiled, poop-y bedding in the dryer and got it covered in dried poop that took another bit of adapting. Scrubbing the inside of the dryer allowed me to meditate on how unworthy I am and how thankful for this task to do for God who has been so good to me. Believe me it took some arguing with myself to get this far. 🙂
After visiting the local nursing homes and seeing those poor folks in there it reminded me of the battle that is raging today for LIFE. We hear all the time about pro-life efforts, and saving babies, while elderly lives are in the balance. These poor souls who lived full lives, now in need of basic daily help that comes not from loved ones but from strangers. Now this is not to say those nurses aren’t gifted with what they do. We love the ones that come here to help. And I know not everyone can do this but to see so many institutions, so full, WHY? Where are the families? Also, Why do we have SO MANY with dementia? New nursing homes are popping up everywhere here. As our population ages their needs increase but which of us are willing to care for them? Why are so many NOT able to care for themselves at younger ages?
We always look for the easy way out. Always trying to take the comfortable road. Not too long ago, elderly parents were always taken care of by family. An extra room, an extra place at the table, their increasing needs accepted as normal by family who loved them. Now it’s an impersonal institution that cares for them, who often medicates them to keep them in there at times. My heart and mind mulls this over daily now.
With the growing anti-life mentality of the medical community, and growing acceptance of euthanasia as an option, what is going to happen to our elderly – our PARENTS? What is going to happen to US? Those, like my mother, who can’t speak up for themselves? It is not hard to see how elderly have no purpose left in society:
- they still eat food (money),
- they do take up laundry (money),
- they do use up diapers for incontinence (money),
- they do need special respite nurses to give families a break (money)
- and how can all that be justified to someone who doesn’t believe in a SOUL?
The purpose of our lives is to give glory to God, no matter what age, no matter how simple they might seem, until He determines they are done. But if you don’t believe in a soul it is easy to see how the elderly just cost us MONEY.
The extra burden of caring for my mother is by no means small. It has given me MUCH to think about. We have had to make sacrifices to make this work. Who is willing to make those sacrifices today when our loved ones need us?
Our Lady of Fatima said, “More souls fall to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.” Everyday we have an opportunity to make some sacrifices, if you are contemplating taking care of your elderly parent what is stopping you?
The greatest JOY in taking care of my mother, even after a long and difficult day is seeing her SMILE when I tuck her into bed. When I’m all flustered by the days stresses and silently relieved she is going to bed, there comes that SMILE that just melts my heart and makes me feel rotten and humble at the same time. There once was a time when she put me to bed. Now I tuck her in every night. There is something too sad for words but so satisfying knowing she is with us and not going to bed alone.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
There are lots of questions that need to be answered. There are lots of questions that need to be asked! I have been mulling over so many of them lately as I constantly re-affirm I am doing the right thing for her. Some days I’m angry at what we could have done to help prevent this? Other days I’m exhausted wondering if this is the right thing for us to do? Another day I’m researching what can I do with her right now to help her stop declining?
There is SO MUCH more I could write but I’ll leave this these questions for you:
But what about us? What shape are WE going to be in when we are 75 years old?
Do you think there is anything we can do to change our direction? (I think YES!)
Do you think we SHOULD do anything to try PREVENT eg; Cancer or Dementia ? (I think YES!)
With all we understand now about health, diet, lifestyle, are we OBLIGATED to the best of our ability to TRY?
Why do we have such a growth of autism and dementia today?
What is God’s will?
POST your COMMENTS BELOW and SHARE with me please! I want to hear YOUR thoughts?
Rita Xo 🙂