Friday, December 13, 2013

What I Ought to Have Said...

Many of my verbal interchanges with my mother are followed by the vexing realization that I did not say or do what I ought to have said or done.  I often react rather than respond to Mom when she is hurtful; she is my mother still and so it is difficult to keep that lifesaving caregiver's mindset when she uses her still-intact knowledge of me to hone a custom tailored insult. 

And sometimes my unhelpful reactions come, not because Mom is being hurtful, but because she is manifesting some new symptom of this hateful disease.  After all these years it is still my knee-jerk reaction to protest and deny rather than accept and support whenever Mom does or says some new crazy thing. It is so difficult to detach from the disease and its symptoms but to remain emotionally connected to the person who is still present, but that is our challenge as caregivers. 

I've recorded a recent interchange with my mom below in the hopes that other caregivers can learn from my errors!  Background info:  Though Mom listens to a weekly sermon and is provided many faith based books, we do not now and have not ever in the nine years Mom has lived with us utlized "Sunday School material."

How it went: 
(My cell phone rings) 
Linda:  Hi Mom
Anna Ruth:  (Impersonal, as one speaking to a mail order clerk):  Hello, I was calling to ask whether our Sunday School material has come in. 
Linda:  (moment of dead silence, then in a tone that clearly says 'What the HECK are you talking about?):  What Sunday School material???? 
Anna Ruth:  (Haughty)  Well, if you don't know we study from Sunday School material, I do not know how to help you.  (hangs up)

How it ought to have gone:  

Linda:  Hi Mom
Anna Ruth:  Hello, I was calling to ask whether our Sunday School Material has come in.
Linda:  I will check on that and get right back to you about it.
If Mom had persisted I could have named a specific time when I would bring the material to her.  It would not have been difficult to find a devotional from my bookshelf that would have satisfied her request for the time being.

 I must not say, "Oh well she'll forget about it," and dismiss her requests.  I need to respect her communication attempts and prayerfully work to figure out what unmet need she is trying to convey.  In this instance Mom wanted to actively seek the Lord and felt at a loss as to how to manage this.  The solution is in a file on my computer desktop, a set of devotions I wrote for her some time ago, each linked to her favorite hymns.  Like a birthday card signed but not mailed, I haven't followed through on this project that was surely the Lord's nudge for me to provide for my mother.  I'd better have those printed and bound for Mom for a Christmas gift.  

The rules that emerge for me are these:  1)  Don't react to Mom's words from an emotional perspective, 2) Look to the need behind her sometimes strange sounding requests, 3) Respect the person behind the disease and recognize my responsibility to do the best I can to understand and support her.  

Easier said than done; caregiving isn't a tidy venture.  But with the Lord as my help maybe I'll manage to do better next time Mom gives me a call.  

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