Today’s post is from a longtime friend of Karen’s and mine who shared with me after my post about shifting my care during frequent mood changes (1/5/21 Shifting with Her Moods). Her sharing from her experience helped me, and I thought would be helpful for readers..
“ I read your Facebook post on shifting moods and it took me back to the 3-4 years we spent with my mother-in-law who had advancing dementia. I’d like to share with you some of my ‘learnings’ during that time—some from reading, some from learning from my communication mistakes. I hope they can help you realize that you are doing the best you can under constantly changing circumstances.
“I found that I had to give up my ‘teacher and reality orienting’ roles that I thought were so helpful. I read an article that reminded me of what I knew worked so well with children: meet them where they are, go into their world and let them lead you. I thought of that when Lynne said, “I hate this place.” Letting her know that “I hear you,” or “This is hard, painful,” or something to that effect helps validate what her reality is for that moment–she’d rather not be there.
… she went through multiple moods with tears, pushing me away, shouting at me, then smiling, focused, following me in and out of her apartment. “My MIL’s mood swings were a challenge for me—until I realized that I was taking them personally, thinking there was something I could do to make them better. My presence was my gift to her, whether her mood was positive or negative—I tried to be a sponge and just absorb and accept and witness them. It helped me that I knew she would quickly change, and, better yet, would not remember or “accumulate” these unhappy moments as memories.
I had not helped her.” I cannot fathom how painful it must be as a parent to be unable to take away my child’s pain, the one thing (after unconditional love) that we see as our role. But then I reviewed your description of your time with her. You gave her nourishment when she couldn’t do it herself, you danced and laughed with her when she felt like it, you accepted her following you in and out of her apartment— all with love and acceptance of the moment. It all helps—but those times cannot be exchanged like green stamps (if you remember them) to lessen those painful times for her. I will pray for more joyful times than painful ones, more movement and engagement than withdrawal — perhaps that is all that can be hoped for. Gems of joy to be gathered and returned to when times are tough.”