Silver linings – if you look for them, you can find them… even in the worst of situations. So I’ll end this series of blogs about silver linings by writing about relationships.
Like everyone who is starting to consider taking care of an aging parent or loved one, you’ll probably find the roles flipping so that you start becoming the person in control. As a child, you get ingrained to the idea that in your ideal world, your parent (or a special loved one) is always going to be there for you to cheer you on, to help you tend to your emotional “wounds,” to be the parachute to help break your fall. I have been lucky enough to have that type of relationship with my mother throughout my life.
But then disease – in my Mom’s case, first Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and then Alzheimer’s Disease – gradually turns the tables on the relationship. And that takes some getting used to. Before, Mom was always there to advise me on the latest challenge in my life or to celebrate an achievement. Now the basis of our relationship has changed, which has left me at times asking, “How am I (or any child) supposed to be with our ailing loved one? And what should we base our relationship on when the loved one no longer has the context to understand my life – and I don’t truly understand what’s going on for the loved one because dementia has taken over?”
The silver lining in all of this is that I’ve learned that what truly matters is just to be with your loved one. My mother no longer has the attention span to listen to any long-winded explanations. What makes her happy now is a story that causes her to laugh and a bag of freshly made cookies. For Mom, just knowing that people are there (even if she is in a grumpy mood) seems to momentarily break the grip of the gremlins of Alzheimer’s Disease that have invaded her body.
Tonight, the nursing home will be hosting its annual holiday dinner for residents and their families. I went last year with Mom and we enjoyed our time together (Mom was sure I had taken her to a good restaurant that I discovered). On a sadder note, as I wheeled Mom’s wheelchair past the dining hall last year, I saw a number of residents who were dining in their usual places because family members did not make the time to join them for this event.
So this evening, Dad and I will be joining Mom for some quality time by enjoying the holiday dinner together. Our conversation will be limited to only a few areas that Mom can respond to. But we’ll be there for her – and that will make her happy. And what I’ve learned is that it’s my presence – not my achievements or any tangible asset that I have – that is that Mom truly appreciates.
Published On: December 14, 2006