Friday, January 10, 2020

Dementia-related Combativeness

The background of this meme is a detail from one of my mother's oil paintings.

My poor mother is currently suffering dementia-related perceptions that she in danger.  I felt so sad and upset with her during our visit yesterday as she threatened to spit in my eye and to kick me in the backside. She responded in anger as I attempted to give her a sip of orange juice.  She flailed her fists in front of her face in an attempt to fend me off.  

My exasperated thoughts were along these lines: where is her Christian perseverance and love?  Why does she think even now it is ok to respond in such a mean way to anybody at all, much less her loyal and loving daughter?  

And then last evening, I lost my temper with someone who had done something they ought not to have done.  After the situation had been handled, the thought came, "What if your perceptions were canted so that you only thought this person had committed a wrong, but in fact, no wrongdoing had occurred?  How would your response have been different?"  

Of course the answer is that my response would not have differed at all.  We respond to our perceptions of what is true.  Mom's most recent misperception is that the sound made by the rattly congestion in her chest is the angry growling of a vicious dog.  She feels threatened, and responds with anger.  She talks about what she is going to do to that dog. She then forgets about the dog and only remembers she is  being threatened. And that is when she responds with aggression toward people around her.   

Mom is responding to a demented version of truth, and her combativeness is understandable from her perspective.  Our kind hospice workers have ordered meds that may help her congestion and ease her anxiety.  She also responds positively when I sing praise songs to her.  

It's hard to watch Mom suffering these delusions, but it is a blessing to know that her struggles are almost over.  As the physical body dies and our perceptions become increasingly compromised, there are sometimes responses that aren't pleasant to experience or for others to watch.  But I'm feeling strongly that I don't need to be overly upset about these things.  They are a part of the dying process for Mom, and are analogous to suffering through a rocky labor to bring forth a child.  At the end of this labor there will be peace, and a sweet release into new life. 

I wish it were an easier transition for my mom.  But the Lord is with us, and there are moments of peace and beauty that I wouldn't trade.  Yesterday morning the dementia fell away for a few seconds, and as I took her hand Mom looked into my eyes and said, "I love you."  For that moment she knew what was real.  And that is what I'm going to keep.  Love remains.    

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