Thursday, August 11, 2016
Chocolate and Sympathy...Maybe Just Chocolate!
We placed my mother in nursing home care eleven days ago. I have been fighting my way through a flood of emotions of such varying levels of depth and strength that I've had no choice but to abide in the Lord moment by moment for guidance and help. I'm reminded of the story in which a man says, in despair, "There's nothing left to do but to pray."
His comrade is a person of greater faith and replies with gentle irony, "Oh my, so it has come to that!" And of course, in this place of complete reliance on God's provision I have indeed found that the everlasting arms do not fail. When I am too overwhelmed to hold tight to the Lord, He holds on to me.
I'm still too immersed in a plethora of feelings to sort them out in a way that might be helpful to anyone else, but I do want to say I've felt pangs of regret borne of empathy for the full time caregivers who, still in the midst of bearing a heavy burden of full time caregiving, may feel they have lost my comradeship in their difficult journeys. There was a lady named Jenny who used to post comments occasionally at this blog, and several others for whom I prayed. I also know from looking at the stats page that there are a number of additional readers who have not left comments, but may have been helped by the guidance the Lord has provided Mom and me along these past 12 years as caregiver and patient.
Of course, those of you who have placed loved ones into nursing home care know that the caregiving role doesn't stop. I'm no longer in charge of changing my mom's bed each morning and I've released the responsibility for her personal hygiene to others, but my responsibility to her hasn't ended; I'll still be writing about caregiving. So that's the first thing I wanted to say; if you read this blog regularly and have gained comfort and strength, know that I'm still here and will still be sharing the encouragement that our Lord provides to caregivers. And, I'll go to work labeling past posts so you will be able to more quickly find one that meets your current need.
The other insight I need to share is directed toward those who have chosen nursing home care for loved ones who are in or approaching the later stages of dementia. It is a difficult truth but also oddly liberating to recognize that because of the confines of the disease, our late stage dementia patients don't pine for us when they are separated from us, not in the way we might fear. Because our roles have been reversed, I was afraid my mother would miss me as a child longs for her parent, or even in the way that a mother misses her absent adult child. However, Mom doesn't realize she has been moved to a nursing home, and assumes I'm nearby even when I'm out of her line of sight. And when she recognizes my absence, she isn't sad so much as she is angry in the way that an employer is displeased with an employee who has shirked assigned duties. Her anger is all the more virulent because she perceives herself as suffering because of my negligence. Mom is more mad than sad, and in a way this is easier to deal with than if she was suffering from homesickness and longed for the emotional support she once received from me.
And so one of my tasks now is to avoid projecting my emotions of grief and loss upon my mother when I visit her. She doesn't need my soulful gaze, my tears, or my professions of love and devotion. She would much prefer to have the chocolate bar I've tucked in my purse as a special treat.
My prayers continue for those of you who have traveled this caregiving road with me. You've been my comrades in arms and I'm thankful and blessed by the encouragement you've provided along the way.