Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Queen of the Manor vs Sorrowing Sufferer: Long Live the Queen

My mother has been given the gift of being able to accept help from me without undue angst.  Oh sometimes she resists my guidance, but for the most part, her way of coping with the help I must give  is to assume the persona of  one who has hired a service. I am merely someone who is performing an expected task, and thus her world is brought into an endurable balance. She doesn't have to feel guilt or undue remorse over me (despite my oftentimes blatant bids for sympathy).  I am the waitress, housekeeper, nurse, or cook; someone whose job it is to do what I'm doing, and often she can see that I'm not particularly well-qualified.  Good help is hard to find, and so she endures.

This isn't an uncommon strategy for dementia patients, but is one I found demeaning when I was  a new caregiver. Even now there are days when I feel like Cinderella at the mercy of her stepmother.  The detachment my mom assumes when she is in "queen of the manor" mode is hurtful; this, along with the havoc caused by Alzheimer's, blinds her not only to my emotions but also to any responsibility she might have to accept my ministrations with love and gratitude rather than with an attitude of entitlement.  

In my struggle against resentment I was helped by these thoughts: do I really want her heart to bleed over all she is putting me through? Am I really so petty that I would enjoy her suffering over the difficulties I've endured on her behalf just so I could lap up the sympathy and credit my tiny ego craves? 

Well of COURSE not.  Give me an uppity dementia patient any day over one who is stricken by suffering and grief.  It's enough of a prayer challenge for me to cope with my own load of sorrow; if Mom was suffused in grief over her condition, well, that would be horrible.  But she's not sad, not at all.  She's happy with her stack of books, her journal, and her music c.d.'s.  Meals delivered on time and with a proper attitude of consideration and care please her, delicious food delights her.  Mom enjoys life.  

And I am truly glad that she does, so glad.

A post I wrote back in 2012 deals in greater detail with this issue of coping with our loved ones' hurtful words and attitudes, along with helpful Scriptures and an excerpt from my caregiving book.  You can find it by clicking on this phrase: ...she treats me like hired help...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Shem and Japeth Had it Right

This beautiful lap robe was made by our daughter-in-law and provides a "covering over" Mom appreciates very much! 
I've begun a year-long Bible reading plan, and thus far, six whole days into the New Year, I'm doing pretty well with it (last time I read through the Bible it took me nearly three years to complete).

Last night's reading included an account of Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japeth. Noah had gotten drunk and was lying on the ground unclothed. Ham saw him, and hurried to tell his brothers all about it. Shem and Japeth took a blanket, held it between them, then walked backward to cover their father so they would not see his shame.

When Noah woke up and figured out what had happened, guess which of his sons received his blessings and which one was cursed?

I'd read this Bible story before without applying it to my own life in any way, but last night I remembered the passage that says, "Love covers a multitude of sins"  (1 Peter 4:8).  I thought with discomfort of how, when my mother hurts my feelings, or does something embarrassing or rude, that I call my daughter to vent, or tell my husband all about it.  I could help them to respect my mom more by covering over her wrongdoings and disease-related behaviors, but I want sympathy. The truth of the matter is this: we don't need human sympathy when others mistreat us, we need to partake of the Lord's solace.

This morning as I brought my list of hurts to the Lord, it was as though I heard Him say, "Are you going to allow your mother’s sins against you to corrupt your relationship with Me and thus forfeit your own well-being, or are you going to partake of My forgiveness toward you and then extend that grace to your mother?"  

Well, when He puts it that way, of COURSE I'm going to choose to say "I forgive..." but the Lord has to make it real.  We aren't able to get at the recesses of our own sin-stained hearts, but we can say the words--again and again, as necessary, "Lord thank You for forgiving me, for Your sake I forgive these others who have hurt me..."   

It is blessed to cover over the wrongdoings of another person. When we turn to other human beings for sympathy and support ahead of crying out to the Lord, we not only display a lack of trust in God to take action on our behalf, we also risk causing harm to relationships. I've had to ask forgiveness today for damaging my daughter's perceptions of her grandmother by complaining about details of caregiving that my daughter did not need to know.  

God really likes it when we cover over the sins of another person, forgive, and bring our aching hearts directly to Him with no stops along the way.  He is able to provide the solace and help we need.