“We moved mom to an assisted living facility a year and a half ago. Someone suggested that we place her in memory care but I wouldn’t hear of it.” Sharon told me.” I figured Mom would be mortified if I placed her in a place like that.”
With all the education around Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia you would think the stigma would be gone. But somehow it isn’t. We accept that our legs or our heart or our eyes may not function as well when we age. But when it comes to our mind we are not as forgiving.
This was especially hard for Sharon. Her Mom, Helen, was a college professor. She had a P.H.D.! This couldn’t be happening to her. But it was and Sharon was having an especially hard time.
In the early stages Helen knew something was wrong. And she knew that Sharon was upset. Helen tried hard to do everything right and to remember what Sharon wanted her to remember. But it became overwhelming and frustrating. It seemed the more she tried to make Sharon happy the worse things got.
And so, mother and daughter did this dance with each other trying desperately to please one another. But the truth is they were both miserable. As the disease progressed it became harder and harder for Helen to please her daughter. It seemed that no matter what she did it wasn’t right or not good enough.
“I just wanted to help her regain her memory. I know it sounds crazy now. But I think somehow I thought I could keep this dreadful disease from stealing the mother I loved and admired. I made her do puzzles and word games until we were both blue in the face from exhaustion. I would get angry when she couldn’t find the right piece for the puzzle.”
I told Sharon this behavior was a lot more common than she realized. Sharon was simply in denial of Helen’s diagnosis. It is part of the grieving process. Everyone goes through it and some people get stuck in this stage for a while.
We never think about the fact we are grieving.
In our society grieving is for someone who has passed away. But when someone is diagnosed with any type of fatal disease, the grieving process begins. With Alzheimer’s and dementia, families must grieve the loss of the person they once knew. It is only then that they will be able to embrace the new person. Then they can move into the acceptance phase.
Once Sharon understood this she was able to grieve and let go. Mom would never be the grandmother Sharon wanted for her young daughter. The trip to Greece they planned to take would never happen. Mom was no longer able to navigate the large beautiful assisted living facility Sharon had moved her to.
Life had changed.
So, Sharon poured herself into learning all she could about Alzheimer’s Disease. She attended conferences offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. She joined a caregiver support group. And Sharon changed too.
Realizing that her mother was uncomfortable, frightened and unhappy at her assisted living home Sharon decided it was time for a move.
This time Sharon focused on what was important.
And that was the care. Having people around who understood Alzheimer’s made all the difference. Sharon decided on a Residential Care Home specializing in Alzheimer’s Disease. It was a regular house much like the one Sharon grew up in. There were no fancy chandeliers and everyone ate together at the dining room table. Just like at home. Helen slid into her new home and her new life with ease.
This was due to two things.
She was in a comfortable environment that felt like home. And received great care.
Sharon accepted her just the way she was now.
Though the disease was progressing and Helen did not always know who Sharon was. She always knew that this lady cared about her. And that was comforting.
As for Sharon, her acceptance didn’t take away all of the pain. “I still want my Mom back the way she used to be sometimes” Sharon confessed. But now I am also able to find the joy in helping her navigate this new world she is living in.
Mother and daughter are still doing that dance together. But this time it is a slow, gentle, accepting dance.
Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.
Give us a call today and come for a tour.