My sister, my wife, and I have been providing somewhat intensive care for my Mother this year, 2017. I told my sister in 2014 that I realized that Mom was emotionally dependent on her which has not been too difficult to address until this year. My sister said that Mom has been in steady decline all year. In the last three months, Mom’s health has declined and her dementia has increased.
Until the last two weeks, the dementia has manifested itself in short term memory issues, confusion, and now, mood swings that change either in the minute or within a few minutes time. Occasionally, she would be sullen or withdrawn for a day however that was infrequent. Her mobility also has taken a sharp decline in recent weeks.
The Color of Dementia
So, to reference the title of this post, many if not most of us will face this life situation when roles are reversed with our parents. Their needs will rise and increase as they grow older. For some, that time comes far too early and for others it is after a life of 8 or 9 decades. If we are blessed, that time will not last too long or it will be filled with quiet, pleasant days of reminiscing. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, the nature or events of any given day truly does not matter. What matters is our response to each day whatever the events and the loving care we give to our Mother.
Often, these days with our parents approaching the end of their lives can be delightful as were the days with my Dad. He never forgot a face and name or lost his dry wit. Dad did not like needing the physical help that was necessary that last two months of his life and said a couple of times, “I’m not good for much of anything.” I responded, “Dad you have taken care of us for decades, it won’t hurt for us to care for and help you.” Our last weekend with him was simply delightful. He spent his last hour with his personal aid and new best friend at the very end.
Mom has struggled with short term memory loss as the first sign of dementia for most of this year. This caused confusion with remembering events, dates, times, etc. Only in the last 2-3 months has she begun showing mood swings that can be abrupt, short lived, and occasionally extreme. I suppose this is the most troubling aspect of her dementia since the negative moods are not Mom’s usual demeanor.
Another troubling aspect of dementia are extreme confusion that may be manifested by hallucinations. This can be as simple as seeing people that are not present and or hearing someone speaking that is not present. The confusion can be seen when a victim of dementia asked for people that are no longer partakers of this life.
There is another symptom that has taken a toll on my sister and I. Mom can have extreme insomnia going days and nights without sleep. Those nights often have symptoms noted above along with the insomnia. One of the aspects of caregiver burnout is lack of sleep. Steps must be taken to eliminate the lack of rest for the caregiver. Without rest the caregiver can experience fatigue, weariness, headaches, body aches, heightened frustration, anger, and mild depression.
What to do? Since I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ, my response is informed by and controlled by my faith. Number one on my list of responsibilities is to love my Mother as unconditionally as I can humanly speaking. There are times when sharing that love is difficult. Her legs no longer have the strength or control to stand and move about with a walker. This is a significant point of contention between us, Mom and her caregivers. At times, she questions my love and concern for her. At other times, she is accepting of my “decision” all of this based on whether or not I am willing to tackle getting her out of bed.
There are times when you must say no to your parent such as when driving is no longer safe or walking is no longer possible. Your parent may not like these decisions but if you are making these in love and concern, you simply receive their displeasure or anger and leave to overall outcome to the all knowing, loving God our Father.
One reminder that I share from previous experience, in the darkest moments and hours, we, the followers of Jesus Christ can stand secure on this truth:
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” Jesus Christ the unique Son of the Living God.