Friday, July 29, 2016

Transitions and Changing Perspectives

I don't have a sister, but I do have a cousin who is just a couple of years younger than me. We share memories of childhood times and places that I have in common with no one else on the planet. Sister in Christ, trained counselor, social worker, and heart friend; she is precious to me. Her name is Pam.

Pam is used to fielding my multi-page emails; I often use her as a sounding board. Gathering my thoughts for her grants me perspective I would not have gained otherwise. In response, she sometimes shares valuable insights, but she mostly just expresses her love. Regardless of her response, I'm always blessed.

I'm going to share with you my latest missive to Pam, because transition times are rough, and I think others might relate to my struggles as I prepare to place my mother into nursing home care after twelve years of taking care of her in our home. My emotions are volatile, my physical body is exhausted, and I'm suffering mood swings. Yesterday morning I was honestly convinced the nursing home decision was a huge mistake, and felt panic-stricken.  This evening I am calm and am actually looking forward to a lightening of my responsibilities to Mom.   

Here is my latest email to my cousin:
Dear Pam,

I'm sending you this email because I know what's going to happen. As soon as I place Mom in the nursing home, I will give myself permission to grieve. I will then lapse into an "oh my poor dear mother what have I done to her" state of mind. If, at that point, I send you a sobbing email, you need to remind me of how grueling taking care of her has become. Remind me that I obeyed the Lord as to the timing of her nursing home placement, and that, while it is okay to grieve the mother that I've lost, that it would not have been okay to have continued to keep her here in our home at the cost of the health of my physical body and of my marriage.

While packing Mom's things, I came upon a transcript of Dad's funeral. The pastor had used a lengthy quote from me extolling my mother's virtues. "She is the kind of person who will never let anyone else do anything for her," I had said. "If you try to get so much as your own glass of water, she will say oh no no you sit there I'll get that for you." This was an excellent reminder for me that it is the brain damage and the disease process that causes these current behaviors. It's just horrible how we view the past through the lens of the present and begin to think that she has always been this way. She has not.

But I've also heard that once the journey is done, that the good memories come back. And then we view the disease process in light of the good memories we have of that person. This is lovely but… at that point I'll be at risk of self-castigation and that's where you come in and say, "No, no, no; remember how difficult she became!"

I know the thing to remember is that no matter how I'm feeling in the moment, the Lord is the author of this path we are on. I know He will take care of my beloved mama as she is placed into the care of others.  I pray God grants the nursing home staff compassion and understanding of her, and that she is protected from the irritability that comes from feeling confused.

It is so difficult not to worry about other people bathing her and helping her in the bathroom. Pray with me about her sense of safety and modesty.  Pray also that I'm given wisdom about how to talk with Mom about nursing home care, and how much time to spend at the there with her during her transition time. I know I must keep focused on the Lord's guidance and Mom's needs, and just turn a blind eye and deaf ear to any real or perceived judgments.

This is so hard. Thanks for being there, and thank you for praying for us.

Love, Linda


  1. Oh can tell it, Linda. I am trying to decide whether to keep my mouth shut because that would be the best thing or to say this: there, there, Dear One, everything will be all right. You are releasing your mother to good, strong, capable hands and The Lord is going with you both every step of the way. You will never, not ever, be alone.

    1. Goodness, Vee, I'm sure glad you didn't keep silent on this one! Your words seem to me to be straight from the Lord's heart to mine. Thank you so much!