Finding Joy in Little White Lies

There’s a book I want to tell you about.

It’s called “Creating Moments of Joy” by Jolene Brackey and it has completely changed the way I communicate with my mom.

I love this book so much, I think it should be required reading for anyone who interacts with an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

It’s a book about meeting the person with Alzheimer’s WHERE THEY ARE AT in order to avoid emotional pain and confusion.

It’s also an instruction book on how to tell little white lies.

For example, when my mom asks “When is Gary coming to get me?”  A not so good answer might be, “He isn’t coming to get you because you live here now.”  This answer is frightening and confusing.  The better answer might be, “Won’t you stay for dinner and Gary can get you later? I just love spending time with you!”

This works better because THERE IS NO SHORT TERM MEMORY!  Zero!  Zip!   So the only goal of the caregiver is to help the person with Alzheimer’s feel comfortable and safe — IN THAT MOMENT.

It’s okay to lie when it’s the kindest thing to do.

My mom will eventually think she is three years old and will start asking for her mom — which breaks my heart : (   But can you imagine my mom’s reaction if a caregiver replies, “Ruth, your mom died a long time ago.”  What if my mom asks this question every day?  Or ten times a day?!  A better answer might be, “Your mom is at the grocery store and she’ll be back soon.”  Comforting relief in that moment!

While this may seem almost cruel.  IT’S NOT.  We are joining them in their reality and coming up with feasible explanations in order to avoid emotional stress.  It’s a moment in time that will be gone in 20 seconds, and all that will be left is the feelings that were created.  Do we want good feelings or bad?  Comfort or fear?

The author covers many other topics to help create moments of joy for the Alzheimer’s sufferer, including giving compliments.    Saying you’re so smart, creative, or strong for example, are wonderful boosts.  My mom beamed when I told her how beautiful she was.

And she loved hearing me say, “So many people love you!”  Now, that was the truth.

Look at her! So sweet and innocent waiting for her piece of cake. I hope nobody ever makes her feel sad or scared. Just comfort and love please. Along with a fib or two.

Go to Creating Moments of Joy to order this book and learn more about communicating with your loved one and how to “discover their greatness.”

 

 

She Came Out of Her Room With Spirit

Visiting with mom after her first night at her new home. I just needed to see her one more time before I left.

When I decided to write a blog, my intention was to write about what I’m doing to get healthy and hopefully prevent Alzheimer’s disease in myself.  I didn’t want to write too much about my mom who has Alzheimer’s for a couple of reasons —  first, there are already “caregiver” and “long goodbye” blogs out there, and writing about my mom was just too close and personal for me.

But, as you know, close and personal is where I’ve been lately.

Moving my mom into a residential home and then leaving the next day was one of the most difficult things I’ve done.  I’ve wanted to run back every day since then to hug her one more time and tell her everything will be okay.   It feels like I dropped my child off at a babysitters never to pick her up again. Like she is watching out the window, waiting to go home and wondering why no one is coming.

Friday night was mom’s first night sleeping in her new home and I went over Saturday morning before my flight to check on her.  I was told that she came out of her room “with spirit” and fully dressed to include her favorite pink baseball cap that says Winchester, VA.  My mom then hugged the woman in charge and promptly sat down with a bowl of oatmeal and raisins.

Mom looked rested and she seemed to be alright as I visited with her.  She didn’t ask me anything about going home or when we were leaving and she seemed content and at ease like she had always been there at that table with the newspaper in front of her.  Although, I’ve heard she’s been asking lately when she’s going home.

As I was getting ready to leave I asked, “Do you like it here?”

Mom said, “Oh my yes!”  “It’s like . . .  it’s like . . . . it’s just like THIS” as she wrapped her arms around to give herself a big hug.

While my mom’s new home feels like a big hug, I’m sure there is a sense that it is not her home.  I hope it starts feeling like home real soon — for mom’s comfort and our peace of mind.  I hope.

 

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s — Not Afraid to Love

Mom, 1940, 3 yrs. old, Wadena, MN

I live far away from my parents and I’ll admit, I need to mentally prepare myself to be with them . . . especially my mom when I visit.  My mom is not my mom anymore. It’s like a stranger is inhabiting my mother’s body — except my mother’s body doesn’t look like mom anymore either. Alzheimer’s disease has changed my mom both inside and out. She used to care how she looks, and now she doesn’t have the capacity to care.  She used to be a familiar harbor, offering motherly comforts, and now she’s the one who needs comforting and reassurance.

But, I’ve been visiting my parents for almost a week now, and one thing is clear — my mom is full of Love.

Mom loves strangers.  She actually believes that everyone is an old friend.  She talks to most people, and she hugs them and tells them she loves them.  She kissed an elderly woman she didn’t know on the lips, and since the woman seemed to enjoy it, I’m pretty sure she had dementia too.  It’s interesting to watch.  This activity used to bother me, but I’ve learned to relax and I’ve noticed that most people don’t mind.  But sometimes I wish I had a card that said “Alzheimer’s — she’s harmless.”

Or, “Alzheimer’s — not afraid to love.”

Mom also loves children.  She gets down on their level and tries to make them feel special.  Children are usually more receptive to the joy my mom has to give, but the parents – not so much.  She high-fived a family of six the other day, and afterward she told me, “I like to do that so they know they have something here.”

My mom loves just about everyone and everything.  She loves raisins, the sunshine and the clouds in the sky. She loves animals, pine cones and waking up to a new day. Mom told me once, that when she wakes up in the morning and opens the blinds to let the sun in — she could just cry. She cries lately; but they seem to be tears of joy — like the innocent joy of a new day.

My mom is like a child — a happy child finally free from the worries of the world — who is not afraid to LOVE.

Ruth Joanne Hall, 1939, 2 yrs. old

Minneapolis Bound: May 2012

I am overwhelmed by your response and support of my blog launch one week ago, and I want to say a heartfelt — THANK YOU.

Now that the 10K is behind me, I look forward to writing about things like how eating less sugar, drinking more coffee and being conscientious can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

But first, I’m off to Minneapolis today to visit my parents for a week, and I hope to share from there if time allows.

My 78 year old father is having ankle surgery and I’m going to help care for him and my mom while he’s recovering.  My mom is still at home, and my dad is her sole caregiver.  It’s difficult being far away.  It never occurred to me when I left 25 years ago that my parents would need my help someday.  It just wasn’t on my radar.  Now it’s frustrating that I’m not able to help with the little things that would make their lives easier.

I’m part of what’s called the “sandwich generation”, which means I’m helping to take care of my aging parents while still supporting my children.

Wikipedia says,

“According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition, between 7 to 10 million adults are caring for their aging parents from a long distance.”

I do what I can when I visit.  And as my parents age, it’s clear that I’ll be visiting more.

More later from the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

Minneapolis Lake with skyline in the background
I'm hoping I can find some time to run around one of the lakes while I'm there. I have 3 Mpls. lakes on my Bucket List -- one is done, so two more to go.