For those of you who have become familiar with my writing style, you know that I like to write as if I am having a face to face conversation. Having said that, by a show of hands, how many of you know that Dementia does not have to be a time of tears and pain? Well, I shall lift two hands and two legs (sitting makes this possible). How can I make such a statement? Because I am the child of a parent who is on the train of life leaving the little town of Dementia, heading for the big city of Alzheimer’s. No, I am not poking fun of these serious conditions. I am simply trying to help someone realize, as I learned, you must seek out the humor in every moment because it not only helps you, but the person on that train as well.
One morning, as I was laying out the items for my mom to do her oral hygiene, I explained the process in a manner in which I THOUGHT was simple enough to understand. “Step 1: brush your gums. Step 2: rinse off the toothbrush and place the cap back on the brush. Step 3: place the toothbrush into the holder. Step 4: rinse out your mouth with the water in the blue cup. Step 5: pour out the remaining water in the blue cup and place it in the rack. Step 6: rinse out your mouth with the mouthwash in the white cap. Step 7: rinse out the cap and place it back on your bottle (this is her personal bottle that NO ONE ELSE USES). Step 8: pick up your lower denture, the small one, and place it on your lower gum. Step 9: pick up your upper denture, the big one, and put it on your top gum.” I asked my mother if she understood and she said yes. I stepped out of the room to lay out her clothes. This took a few minutes. Once I completed that task, I returned to the bathroom. “Mom, are you all done?” As she turned to speak, I thought that I would choke from laughter. Mom had her dentures in upside down. The upper was on the lower and the lower was on the upper and they would slip out each time she tried to speak. I soon realized that modifications to the instructions was a must. Instead of getting upset, I simply said to Mom, “I don’t think that eating breakfast will be easy if you keep them in like that. Let’s switch them around and see how that works.” She smiled and we continued our day.
My mother wears hearing aides and I have a fit of a time trying to get her to leave them in. Whenever, I catch her messing with them, I say, “Mom, please don’t bother those. You want to hear everything around you, right?” Mom smiles and says yes and after about two seconds after I have put them back in, she is messing with them again. One afternoon when I was preparing her lunch, I walked over to see what she was doing (she was too quite so I knew that something was up). “Mom, are you alright?” Mom turned around and said, “Yes. My earrings came out and I just put them back in.” Mom had her hearing aides on upside down. The sight was priceless. I told Mom that she did a great job and that I had to make just a little adjustment to help them fit a little better.
It is so easy to get sad, down, discouraged, and depressed when you are watching your parent slip away before your eyes. However, you have a choice as to how you will cope with this challenge. You can be serious and stoic and try to make them do everything the way they use to or as you would do it and be one frustrated mean caregiver or . . . . you can make the instructions as simple as possible, do as much with them that they will allow, keep it simple, and keep it moving.
I spoke with my mothers pastor one day when I was feeling REALLY OVERWHELMED and he said, “You mother is fine in whatever time period she is in. You are the one going crazy. Lighten up and go with the flow.” So for those who are traveling on that train with your loved one, let’s take the Pastors advice. Let’s lighten up and go with the flow. Remember to have yourself a fabulous Funkadelic Friday.