Sometimes you just need a good cry

Written by Amy on May 26th, 2016

One of the perils of caregiving a loved one with Alzheimer’s is that even though I know better than to take a nasty mood as a personal affront, sometimes… I forget.

I call it Caregiver’s Alzheimer’s:  I forget who I am. I forget that her brain is no longer functioning the way is used to.  I forget that I’m an adult, and she is too, and she needs my care.

I bet you can relate, since it’s helpful to not take things too personally in any relationship. After all, relationships have their dynamics. They just get played out sitcom-style in my life…

Like this morning, when mom seemed pretty chipper, already in the bathroom getting ready for the day when I arrived. I poked my head in, “Good Morning Mama!”

“Good Morning!”

“Are you ready for me to help you with your shower?” She wasn’t at all ready, she was preparing to give herself a sponge bath with toothpaste, with obvious consequences I was hoping to avert.

“Do I have to take a shower today?” She asked petulantly.

“Yes, today’s the day!

“But I’m doing this,” she says, holding up the washcloth and toothpaste.

“You don’t need to do that today, it’s shower day! I can help you.”

She said, “Oh, Ok.”

And I thought, “Oh, Ok. Not bad for a shower conversation. Easy Peasy morning.”

But by the time we got to breakfast, she’d gone from Easy Peasy to Grumpy. Poking at her eggs and toast, she declared, “these aren’t right. Who made these?”

“I did. Would you like them warmed up?”

She had a whole piece of toast speared on her fork, and shook it at me, announcing, “this is horrible.”

She sometimes forgets that she likes to eat toast with her fingers and eat the eggs with the fork. Usually I can gently remind her.

“You’re right. It’s no good. Horrible. I bet you’ll be happier if you use your fingers with the toast, and the fork with the eggs. I’m picking my toast up.”

“I know that!” she said, her voice raising, “but You Should Know Better than to serve it like this.”

Whoopsy! The magic childhood button phrase has been said and successfully activated: You Should Know Better.” A part of me realized that I really should know better than to let anything she says push my buttons, especially when she’s grumpy. But, like I said, sometimes Caregiver’s Alzheimer’s is a tough practice. So I forgot. After sitting for a few minutes refraining from nasty replies, I knew the best thing I could do was withdraw myself from the situation, go to the other room, hope she ate her horrible breakfast, and get on with the day.

When the next caregiver arrived to give her a ride, I wished her good luck as I helped mom with her coat, saying, “I hope you have a good day.”

“I doubt it,” mom huffed curtly.

After the door slammed shut, I had a good cry.  I see where I might have done things differently, like when I serve her toast and eggs separately, she gets less confused about how to eat them. Still. The point is, at a deep level, there is no way to help her. She has Alzheimer’s and is declining. And there’s no way to help my internal youngster who wants mommy to be happy when she’s not. I am the one who needs to love and accept myself. So I cry.  Letting myself soften and care again, amidst the ache of it all.

Then, I got on with my day.

Now, if I were going to pull out a Mindfulness Lesson out of this daily drama, I might say:

Start where you are, whenever you get there. That morning, somehow I didn’t have it in me to consider pausing until after the door slammed.  So, that was a good time to pause, let myself feel what I was feeling, and let go.  It was when I remembered what was possible.  If I hadn’t paused then, I probably would have had a downright sad awful shutdown day!  With the pause, I honored the frustration, sadness, and grief… and came back home, more embodied in this moment.

What a relief.

An invitation to share:
How is this for you?  When do you forget who you are?  And how do you come home to yourself?  Please post a comment below and share.

An invitation to work together:
Sometimes coming home and embodying this moment isn’t so easy.  Especially if your nervous system has been jangled by chronic stress or difficult events.  When that’s the case, you may need a little help to ease the diverted the stream of attention and let it come back into it’s natural flow.  I’d enjoy helping you do that.  Feel free to contact me or check out my individual work.  I would be happy to have a conversation with you to see if it’s a good fit for your needs.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Judy Keenan says:

    Hi Amy. Remember that you are loved. And so is your Momma. She is so fortunate to have both you and Ken nearby. ‘It’s funny how our parents become our children. Or perhaps it is just the natural course of things. Miss you!

    Love, Judy

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks Judy! I soak it up and am so grateful for all the love in my life! Miss you too, and yet you don’t feel so far away.

  3. John Snow says:

    Wonderfully written, Amy! Caregiver’s Alzheimer’s is all too common for both family and professional caregivers, due to the stressful nature of the job.

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