It can be very challenging to be your mother’s primary Carer.
My mother has Alzheimer’s dementia, but at 91, still lives independently because my husband and I can manage a lot of things for her.
Progressive Memory Loss is her key challenge, so when we see her, repeated information and questions are ever-present.
In order to continue to support her, we have had to become very good at managing these sometimes stressful visits with grace and kindness, but also with a clear acknowledgement that we can’t fix everything for her.
Over the time, we have learnt that offering solutions to real or perceived problems is most often pointless, when memory loss is the issue, but even after 12 months of living with dementia, we still get sucked back into Einstein’s version of insanity – which of course is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
And last night was a cracker when mum came for dinner – as she always does on a Thursday night.
One of the behaviours she exhibits is a kind of a loop where the same topic is raised over and over again for a period of time, and then another topic takes its place.
For example, it might be doing her tax when it has already been done and lodged, and at other times it might be the need to get a script for her pills – which in fact, she never does now since I manage that for her.
For a little while now, the topic has been that she is terrified she won’t remember how to get into her building and into her unit – which of course, is very stressful for her.
The problem that we face, is that no matter how many times we go through it with her, she is unable to see and accept the facts and the solution.
The Facts: She has never NOT remembered how to get in; she lives in a retirement village so there are literally hundreds of fellow residents a few steps away who would willingly help her; if it’s after the afternoon drinks, there are security and nurses on deck.
The Solution: If you can’t get in, walk to the office; if you’re worried, ask someone to walk you home; if you get locked out, knock on a door and ask someone to help you.
The truth for us, is that we have to get to a place where we don’t try to “fix it” for her – not because we don’t want to, but because the conversation is pointless, and can result in me feeling frustrated, which can lead to anger – which is NOT helpful!
We’re really pretty good at managing this now, but last night we got sucked into the vortex of trying to solve the problem – again.
We see how stressed she is worrying about it, and it’s very hard not to respond to that.
But the truth is that not getting into her unit isn’t the problem, the worry she experiences is the problem, and you just can’t fix that.
When my husband got home from seeing my mother safely to her door – which she go to herself without missing a beat – we sat on our balcony staring at the the sea
For the tenth, or the twentieth or the hundredth time, we acknowledged that we simply cannot expect to solve this kind of problem with a reasonable solution.
Perhaps this sounds unkind, but for us – and for others caring for their loved ones – if we can’t cope with all of this, then the inevitable outcome is the need for higher care.
My mother doesn’t want that, and we don’t want that for her either.
So my latest attempt at managing my own insanity is a picture of Albert Einstein on my office wall looking quietly at me reminding me of how to stay calm, and just do the best job I can.
Who do you know that’s just not managing the day to day because of memory problems?
Whether it’s because of dementia, an acquired brain injury or a mental illness – the result is stress and worry for individuals and for families and carers.
We can help!