“I hate my mother and just wish she would die. But I shouldn’t feel like this!” said one of my friends. You’ve watched your mother decline into dementia. She thinks people are stealing from her and trying to kill her. You might even be the one she accuses. Remember, she is so afraid. Instead of reacting with anger or argument, will you create a moment of joy? Perhaps you could pull out a photo album, or give her a foot massage, or tell her a childhood story. Sometimes diversion is a wonderful cure for the raging brain that people can no longer control.
When Your Parent Regresses into Childhood
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are heartbreaking to watch. They can be so frustrating to manage, especially when you are a caregiver to someone you love deeply. As you become familiar with how the disease progresses, your paradigm will keep shifting as they regress into childhood. A beloved dad quit showering and was very belligerent. The family agreed that showering was not optional, but no one could figure out what to do about the problem. Finally, one of his daughters had an idea. She took him into the bathroom, turned on the warm shower, got him undressed – and he showered with her help. He had forgotten what it meant to take a shower, and no longer knew how to turn the water on, what the soap was for, or where the towels were kept. He knew that he should know what to do, but could not remember, and covered this up with anger. By helping him, his daughter created a safe moment for him.
Your mother may not have dementia, but may continue to treat you as if you were a child – even though you have become her caregiver. Losing the control and power that was her right as a parent is frightening for her and most people do not let go of it easily. Don’t vie for power with her, but let her have as much as you can safely give. Create a moment of joy where the sorrow of aging has begun to live. We had decided that my mother should no longer drive. She was quiet for a long time before she agreed. I then took her to a box store and let her drive the electric shopping cart as much as she wanted. It turned out to be one of her favorite outings.
Facing Your Own Childhood Wounds
This may also be the time to let Jesus heal some of your childhood wounds. The demands placed on the children of aging parents have a way of revealing our unresolved pain, and frankly, some of our selfishness. It may or may not be possible for you to interact with your parent on this level, but if you feel as if you want your mother to die, this may indicate that it is time for you to clean some house. Do you struggle with areas of unforgiveness or bitterness over childhood (or older) wounds caused by your parent? Do you resent helping them now because you are still hurting? Is it hard to say “no” even though this is the tenth call for help in a day and you are cooking dinner for your family? Will you dissolve into the role you played as a child because it just causes too much upheaval to fight the battle for your identity?
Care for Yourself
Most importantly, how are you caring for yourself and your own family? You need to create boundaries and take time for yourself. In order to have the energy to care for another person, you must also care for yourself. If your parent seeks to guilt you about leaving to have lunch with friends, leave anyway. There may also be times when your activities are not known to them, and should not be known. Find others to help you share the load so that you can rest. Laugh when you can, and laugh especially with your parent.
You will be blessed as you honor your parents as a caregiver, whether in small or large ways. Create as many moments of joy as you can. Your aged-diminished loved ones are so hungry for life. Most are afraid to die, but they live with broken bodies and minds. It is the best they can do and you need to do your best. But be kind to yourself.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Care for Elderly Parents
It is easy to say that we need to be patient and loving when faced with the difficult situation of an aging parent, but actually doing so can be very difficult. You may find it helpful to share your concerns in the safe space provided by a skilled counselor. A Christian counselor can provide guidance and support as you confront your destructive thoughts and the wounds from your past.
Images from Dreamstime.com:
“Brain Aging,” by Skypixel, ID 31489814;
“Dealing With Dementia”, by Lisa F. Young, ID 4853618.