A few weeks ago I read a quote from another blogger that touched my heart. I will share her quote in a moment, but I need to preface it with a few words that will explain why it meant so much to me. I hope you'll be blessed too.
Since my mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis I've learned I can't trust my perceptions of the motives behind her disease related behaviors. We tend to view the past through the lens of the present, and so my mom's current negative behaviors can cause me to remember past upsetting events and to say, "You know, I've just realized...she's ALWAYS been like this."
This isn't true. Parents and offspring traverse rocky places in their relationships as the children grow up. This is a normal fact of life. The difficulty is that the emotions elicited by Mom's Alzheimer related behaviors are so similar to those I felt as a teenager who thought her curfew was unfair! I often feel resentment and a sense of betrayal that are unwarranted given that my mom truly can't help her current emotional and cognitive state. To remember past hurts in light of current disease related behaviors is unfair to the dementia patient.
It's just so hard, because that lady sitting in her recliner in the next room looks and sounds much as my mother always has. My logic and reasoning tell me that her behaviors are the result of Alzheimer's, but my heart often tells me something very different. It is in this region of emotion that I must be very cautious not to react to my mom based on the unfair premise that she understands how hurtful she is being. Responding as a loving caregiver is much to be preferred to reacting like an angry teenager!
It's time for that quote, used by permission from ljrc1961, from her post entitled "Alzheimer's Disease and my Momma":
I just want all mothers and fathers to know this...you are not and will never be a burden to your children. If we act as if we are frustrated by your questioning, your sense of loss, your inability to perform like you used to; it is not because you are a burden. It is because we, your children are struggling with how to accept that we are losing what we used to have with you . Never, ever feel like you are a troublesome factor in our lives. It's important that all of you hear that now. I think it is also important that all of us remember that Alzheimer's is a disease but it is not a death. I haven't lost my mom rather I have gained a good friend who is genuinely happy to see me each time I visit and she remembers me. Not my name or that I am her daughter, but me. The people who love you will grieve a short time for the person they thought you were and will in a short time relish the person you are.
This blessed me on several levels. How sweetly she puts into words the fact of our heartache as caregivers. "...we... are struggling with how to accept that we are losing what we used to have with you..." And how gently her words comfort me regarding my own future! "...Never, ever feel like you are a troublesome factor in our lives...Alzheimer's is a disease but it is not a death..." I have undergone much anguish as I fear becoming dependent on my own children, even though I freely acknowledge how much I've been blessed by Mom's continued presence in my life. Somehow this lady's words released me from the fear of becoming a burden to my own children. This release has come because I have been reminded that most of the anguish I've suffered has not been my mother's "fault." I think that's what I've dreaded the most: the possibility of someday being blamed and perceived as a burden (as I've at times felt my mother to be a burden). The fact is, most of the negative feelings occur as the caregiver progresses through stages of grieving and acceptance and are more about the caregiver than the patient. If we can persevere in traversing these difficult stages of grieving, the long goodbye of Alzheimer's allows us adequate time to emerge on the other side of this process and to find a new appreciation that our loved ones are still with us. At long last I'm beginning to appreciate my mother once more. For such a long time her disease has prevented me from remembering the good times.
As caregivers we have to remember that present grief can distort the memory of past blessings. I have learned my own perceptions are not to be trusted when my heart is aching with grief of loss.
And just a note: yes, I have written a book that addresses all these issues. My spiritual gift is the ability to see and record spiritual truths, and as I transitioned into the role of being my mother's caregiver, I recorded the guidance God provided us. These Scripture based truths recorded in my book have served as a template for me; you see, recording what I see is not quite the same as living what I've learned! That's what this blog is about, and I praise God for fellow travelers on this journey. May the Lord bless each of you.
Here is my prayer:
Lord, in my struggle to accept the loss of my mother as she once was, keep me from hurting her heart with negative reactions to behaviors she can't help. Help me to recognize and to value the blessings of the mother I now have, and release the mother she once was. In Jesus' Name I pray!
Happy Mother's Day to my sweet mom, and thank you to the writer known as lrjc1961, whose words have helped to open my eyes to the many blessings of my mother as she now is.