Saturday, May 3, 2014

Prayer, Physical Touch and Moderate Exercise

When Mom is moody or angry, I've learned to look for some physical source for her discomfort. I've read that urinary tract infections are especially diabolical for dementia patients because the symptoms can go unnoticed by the caregiver who sees only behavioral changes and may not connect them to a physical ill.  My mom has not yet been bothered by UTI's, but for the past couple of weeks a spring cold has caused her to take a downward turn.  She has been uncharacteristically withdrawn and often angry.

She became caught in a dreamlike state a couple of mornings ago, dozing in her chair, dreaming, and then waking up angry and convinced she had stated her case but no one believed her.  She could not tell us what it was she thought we did not believe, but was stuck in a repetitive set of responses that had no apparent environmental trigger.  It was almost as though she couldn't hear me as I repeatedly asked what she needed me to believe.  She kept saying, "I have never lied to you.  Why do you think I am lying now? Why don't you believe me?"  

At one point she began to accuse and threaten, saying "You are going to pay for this.  This kind of thing can't go on without people having to pay for it.  You are going to be very sorry.  I just wish I could be around to see it."  I was able to stay very calm.  I prayed for her and asked others to pray.  Finally I was able to convince her to allow me to rub lotion onto her neck and back.  I then washed and applied lotion to her feet, and during these ministrations her anger receded.  But for the remainder of the day she was uncharacteristically withdrawn and quiet.  

I'm convinced Mom's daily walk is one of the most powerful therapies we've been able to implement for her.  During the course of her cold virus, the weather was unusually frigid for April and very windy, and so we couldn't take her outside.  For nearly two weeks she went without that daily ten minute walk, and became increasingly withdrawn and depressed.  I walked her around the house but she didn't get that daily dose of sunlight that I believe is so important.  

Just two days ago the weather moderated and Mom's cold symptoms receded, and so we walked both yesterday and today.  This morning it is as though none of the difficulties of the past two weeks had occurred; Mom made her own toast and dressed herself without assistance. Through this time three caregiving strategies have emerged as being vital for Mom:  prayer, physical touch and that daily walk. 

Mom is nearly 90 and is in the tenth year since her Alzheimer's diagnosis.  Each time she loses ground I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the next phase of our Alzheimer journey.  But for now, Mom has recovered from both her depression and her cold, and we are enjoying these green and sunlit days of early May.