Hi everyone. Okay, we’ve had a couple days sleep again, so we’re all feeling better, particularly Mom. Thanks to those of you who expressed your concern for her, Dad and me.
Indeed, parts of this are hard. But so are parts of your life. And this is COVID. Things are hard for almost everyone and this is just our version. Imagine being a Respiratory Tech for the last year. That had to be worse than this.
We’re okay in part because your little expressions of compassion are the stepping stone reminders of how good the world really is. When times are challenging it’s handy when positive reminders of our connections to others are delivered right to us. Thank you.
That way, I can choose to think about our challenges, or I can choose to think about the fact that you care. The latter feels better, so I selfishly focus on your kindness while I clean the bathroom for the 10th time without thinking much about that. 🙂
So what happened that we needed to take a break to get more sleep? Well, the nature of my mother’s dementia is that she gets ’bouts of busy-ness.’ These are generated by simple bits of confusion around time and impulse.
Those periods aren’t that uncommon for many dementia patients or caregivers. That’s why many seniors want to be at home. Their natural ‘seniors information/gossip networks’ inform them of what interventions are common, and being individuals they know which ones they want to avoid.
Most of them have older friends, so they learn over time that a frenetic nature in a nursing home often means the home has no choice but to drug the person into less activity. They can’t have the patients constantly trying to take out their own IV or play with the staff’s computers etc.
Those drugs, and that absent state of mind, has always been both of my parents central fear in life. To them it was and is a form of torture and I’m here primarily to prevent them from experiencing that. Fortunately, Dad doesn’t get the bouts that would lead to the fear. And Mom’s we simply manage. I’m luckier than most, I can often find ways of intervening that others wouldn’t notice.
For someone like me, who notices patterns, I can see different versions of Mom’s obsessions coming on. On the worst ones, she starts around 6:30pm, by frequently checking her watch. Then she adjusts her posture to the edge of her seat, like she’s anxious to leave. Then she starts moving her feet and rubbing her arms.
Over time she just keeps adding elements until she is fully involved. If I intervene early, I can dedicate myself to calming her down nine out of ten nights. On the other, she will shift to moving all over the house, non-stop. She can get in and out of the same chair, 15 times in one hour.
It’s a weird state in that she doesn’t want to cause me hassles. She’s fully aware that in a care home she knows there wouldn’t be anyone available to calm her, so she would likely be drugged every night. But despite knowing that I’m helping, and despite the fact that she wants to cooperate with me, she just can’t. So I focus on being grateful that she wishes she could. It means we’re together in our effort.
The entire time she is in these states, she is always picking up some random thing here and then hiding it in some random place there. It makes setting down a phone, keys, a TV remote, an item you’re cooking with, Dad’s hearing aids, their glasses, or any paperwork, into very risky behaviour that can lead to hours or even days of searching.
In that state of mind she’ll often be very angry with Dad and I because we can’t cooperate with 100% of her ideas, although we go with her on all the ones we can. Over time this whole process builds in intensity, and this can go on for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 hours on one occasion.
When she gets like that, I engage in long periods of settling her and comforting her and calming her, which makes her feel much better. But as soon as I stop, she starts back up again and it’s just a repeat of that process until she finally falls asleep. Parents of colicky babies would know the feeling. So I’m not worse off than them.
Eventually, like a switch, she suddenly act very normal. Then she suddenly gets tired, and she becomes super nice and cooperative. Then she voluntarily heads to bed and sleeps soundly for a good 12 hours. She wakes up as a much different person, and one who is acting more like who my mother previously was.
I can’t find any link to diet or activity, and the doctor also can’t find a cause –she’s quite healthy for her age. But in talking to countless other caregivers, they see these bouts too, so it’s most likely just the progression of a disease that is still very mysterious.
That lack of a solution, and the relentlessness of the negative events, often confuses people. How can they have what appear to be much better lives than mine, and yet they feel much worse about their lives, or themselves than I feel about my life or myself? And that is a very worthwhile question to ask.
To answer it, over the last few months I have been using Mom’s phases as experiments to help me find ever-new ways to explain to you, how a very worthwhile life can still emerge even from bad circumstances.
In the blogs this week, I will endeavour to describe how it is that I can often find greater life satisfaction than most people, despite being in an apparently worse situation that creates a much riskier future.
To that end, on Wednesday I will cover the difference between happiness and alignment. That will help explain why I would still rather be clearly facing this, in the way I do, than to be in some state of ego, facing far less. After all, being healthy isn’t about all-happiness. Being healthy is knowing how to see unhappiness with the sort of perspective that makes it acceptable –even desirable.
If that seems impossible, just remember that in your lifetime you’ve likely paid a lot of money to see movies you knew were likely to make you feel sad. I do this for the same reason you do that. And I’ll explain more about that on Wednesday. 😉 Until then, be kind to yourself.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.