Friday, February 24, 2012

Ouch. I Mean Really...OUCH!

I was upstairs working when I heard loud, angry knocks on the door that separates my mother's apartment from the main part of the house. "Someone acknowledge I'm alive!" she shouted. It had been less than 30 minutes since I'd been into check on her.  

I'm not proud of how I react in situations like this. I freeze. I stood there on the other side of that door, heart pounding, immobilized, literally afraid to open it.  But then I heard Mom's outside entrance door open.  I stepped through the door to her apartment and said, aghast, "Mom, where are you going?"  

The word "angry" does not begin to describe how Mom felt and spoke. She was venomously, viciously, infuriated. She said a lot of ugly things and, as she drug her walker back in through the open door and hobbled over to her recliner she said, "Shut your mouth, you don't look very bright with it hanging open like that." 

Without speaking I went back into my part of the house, shutting the door behind me.  

I emailed a request for prayer to my prayer partners. My heart was pounding and I was shaking, and so I asked for prayers for myself (I need to respond as a loving and calm caregiver, not as a trembling and hurt daughter) and for my mother.  

I prayed for wisdom, waited 30 minutes, then filled a basket with apples and stepped through the door to Mom's apartment.  She looked up and smiled pleasantly.  "Oh, that's pretty," she said. "Is it for a centerpiece?"  

"Yes, and you can help yourself to these anytime you want. They are especially nice ones."  

Jekyll and Hyde.  

I casually picked up Mom's journal.  In the middle of a page of her spidery scrawl, just after, "Lord I am so grateful for this lovely apartment and my many blessings," and just before a narrative summary of the Janette Oke novel she is reading were these words, "Linda do you want me to leave? OK, I'm up and dressed, I'll just leave."  

I have no idea what triggered this.  As Mom's caregiver I know her anger usually arises because she thinks food is being withheld from her, but there was no indication of that this time.  She'd just finished lunch.

So often in this blog I record positive things about my mother's journey through Alzheimer's. Sometimes I think I do a disservice to those who are struggling with care recipients who routinely lash out in anger.  It is painful to endure the grief of loss I feel when my mother is so irrational, painful to receive an unexpected injury from her unwarranted anger.  Let's see what the Lord said to me about such things during the time I was transitioning into the role of caregiver 8 years ago... Here's a quote from a reading called "Praising God in the Heartache:"
I suppose it is instinctive to draw one’s hand away from the hot fire of grief, but I found a divine paradox; if I tried to flee the pain through escapism, I soon found myself overcome by flames of sorrow. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,” (Mark 8:35).
Grief is like one of those woven finger traps that tighten the harder one pulls. I learned that the only way to escape was to go deeper in, with the Lord at my side and the confidence that He would bring me through. I knew this didn’t mean that I should go around with tears in my eyes and a sorrowful countenance. It’s just that I needed to stop avoiding the grief issue and to take my sorrows to the Lord’s healing balm and comforting arms of solace.
I prayed for the strength to give up avoidance of the Lord, of my mother, and of others God put in my path. As I delved deeper into God’s Word and opened my heart to praise, I was delivered from the danger of wasting the discipline of grief.

Today’s Scripture: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief … But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God,’ My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:9, 14-15).
Well, yes.  It is true that as I sank down in a chair after this confrontation was over that my first thought was, "Chocolate, please, Lord, I want some chocolate."  But then I apologized to Him.  "I really want to hand You this pain and to receive Your solace, Lord. I don't want comfort from any other source."  And I really don't.  

Lord, bless my fellow caregivers today.  


  1. I've never been in your shoes but this really edified me , Linda. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. I’ve experienced the sadness and fear of watching my husband decline, but when it is your mother I can see where there would be some very different dynamics in play. We all still have that child inside who wants only to please our mothers, to make them smile, to hear their praise. So when your mother says something hurtful it has a special sting. If I were you, I would be ready with a mental practice – perhaps telling yourself, “This is my mother – but her brain is misfiring – she is not herself. Lord, give me strength.” Sadly, at least in my experience, you absolutely must erect an emotional barrier, if you don’t want this disease taking two victims. God bless you for honoring your mother even in this difficult circumstance! And I am eating Girl Scout thin mints as I type, so I empathize with the chocolate therapy :)

  3. I sure can relate. My mom was an angry person when alzheimer's claimed her mind and I moved in with her. My next blog post is going to be about one of the most difficult experiences I had with her. I know my mom loves me and she was in there still, it's just that her judgment was so clouded and irrational. She couldn't help what was happening to her, and I didn't blame her. Even so, it was really hard going through some of the things we went through. My mom always loved and cared for me and for her to act like she didn't care really hurt. ~ Lizzie

  4. I applaud your brave honesty and the wisdom to ask for prayer when strength or mercy or chocolate is needed. That old hymn comes to mind, "Oh the needless pain we bear" because we do not seek the Lord in prayer. There are just sometimes in life when we need other people to step into that prayer place on our behalf because, thinking again about that old hymn, we will have pain and feel it, we just don't have to carry it around all alone like a burden on our shoulders.