On the 6th of February, my first grandchild was born – on the Richter Scale of joy, it’s about a gazillion!
To celebrate, my friend and Honorary Great Auntie Tessa brought around a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (our favourite) – the Chix code you understand, is that my little darling must be christened into proper bubbly practice – even if it’s a week day!
Our little miracle is not only my first grandchild, she is also, poignantly, my mother’s first great-grandchild.
In the scheme of things, this is BIG, right?!
It’s the classic – 4 generations all here at one time – truly something to celebrate!
You would think then – when I rang my mother to say our baby girl had arrived and that I would pop over later in the day with some photos – her response would be ecstasy, wonder and sheer joy.
Instead, when I gave her the news, her reaction was bland to say the least, and the only question was to ask when I would be coming because she had committed to something at 4:30pm.
Boy, did that put a pin in my baby balloon!!!!
And it’s not because she ever puts her social engagements ahead of family – quite the contrary.
As my husband, my friend and I sat around clinking bubbly glasses over the birth of our little darling, we chatted about what had just happened.
In doing so, I recalled a conversation with a friend of mine from about 10 years ago. My friend was lamenting the fact that her mum was totally absorbed in herself.
When she visited her mum, there were no questions about my friend her daughter, no questions about her grandson – really, nothing to suggest she had any interest in anything other than what was going on in her life.
At the time, I remember thinking how sad that was for my friend – and it was. But today, I’m wondering whether her mum was pretty much in the same bot as my mum is now.
Over our bottle of Veuve, we came to this conclusion:
With the relentless decline of mum’s memory, she is SO busy trying to keep her ducks lined up – what she’s doing, when, and with whom – even such a momentous and joyful piece of information as the birth of our baby girl was just complete overload.
When I thought about it, a picture of one of those vertical shoe storage hangers came to mind.
If you put a pair in the top, you have to take one from the bottom.
Maybe mum’s failing memory needs to be treated a bit like that…….
There’s only so much room, so the only way she can accommodate new information is if something gets thrown out – in her case, once the 4:30 appointment had taken place (or been thrown out) she had a spot free to accept the new information about the baby.
So, Where to from here? is the 64,000 dollar question.
My husband and I in fact, have had this conversation many times in recent months, but we never quite manage to nail it.
This recent development has just reinforced what we need to do.
“IT” I think, is the good old KISS principal – if you haven’t heard it before, it stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.
In this case NOT because mum is stupid, because she isn’t. It’s because for her, too much information just creates confusion.
With benefit of throwing out the appointment information, she was ready to fit the baby information in, and the next day when I took the photos over, she was clucking away.
Part of our problem, and perhaps for you too, is that our absolute fall back position has always been to treat mum with respect and dignity.
That naturally leads us to paying her the courtesy of answering her questions as if she was working with the same cognitive capacity as we have.
As things are, that means WAY more information than is actually helpful.
Our answer is a new Mantra – KISS – and here are the rules:
KISS Rule 1: Wherever possible, provide ONLY absolutely essential information
KISS Rule 2: Resist adding ANY superfluous details
KISS Rule 3: If she asks for more information, keep that as simple as possible and ALWAYS go back to the most important kernel of information
KISS Rule 4: To set minds at rest, ALWAYS reinforce that there will be a phone call to confirm any new arrangements If you know of anyone who is fighting the good fight, maybe going down with it, or just needs to know they’re not alone, please pass my information onto them.
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!