Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
Every day with my mom was an adventure. I had little experience with dealing with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. When I was training for my career as a respiratory therapist, I had a very short rotation with an Alzheimer’s unit in a nursing home. The other experience had to do with a very short visit with my grandmother shortly after my husband and I were married. We left from Eugene, Oregon with my mother and youngest brother for the long trip to Denver, Colorado. I was very excited for my husband to meet my grandmother. At the time, she was my only grandparent still living. After obtaining permission we took grandma out of the nursing home for the day to enjoy a picnic in the park. The weather was great as I recall and I think grandma really enjoyed her time out of the nursing home. As we came back and were about to enter her room she noticed an elderly gentleman shuffling slowly down the hall in our direction. Grandma yelled and cussed at him, maybe thinking he was a threat to her. I remember feeling very embarrassed, this was not the grandma I wanted my husband to meet. In my whole life, I had never heard anything but gentle and kind words coming out of grandma’s mouth. Cussing? Never! I was unaware at the time, that a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is unable to filter what enters their mind. They just say what they really think. In a way- Alzheimer’s makes one totally honest. God works through experience’s that are painful, He indeed turns them into something good. Through these experiences, He shapes us into the people we need to become. Years later that particular experience with grandma was part of what shaped us into the people we needed to be to take care of mom. When my mom no longer had a filter, when she said things that in another situation would be quite painful- I remembered grandma. I knew that mom was no longer in control of what came out of her mouth. My husband and I could have more patience with mom in this respect. We heard the words that would come out of her mouth and quickly forget. We knew that she had no control, she was not trying to hurt us by her words or actions. God accepted her as she was, so could we.
Sometimes what mom would say was really quite funny. For instance when she thought it was ok to change her great grandson’s names. Another instance involved mom’s instant love of a particular musician we had introduced her to. My parents loved music. There was always music in our house as I grew up. They continued to collect music throughout their life. They loved to sing and mom had a lovely voice. They would take every opportunity they could to go to church singing fellowships. They had their favorite singers, of course, Frank Sinatra had been a special favorite to mom. She thought no one could sing better- unless they were a bass. She loved to hear anyone with a deep resonant bass voice. One day we introduced her to the music of Michael Buble. She was hooked immediately. She loved whatever he did. For a gift, we bought her one of his DVD’s. We settled her in her chair and started the DVD. The minute she saw his face on the screen she declared in awe “Oh, he’s good lookin”!. She was like a young teenie bopper in her excitement.
Another incident happened one day as I was helping her walk from her bedroom into the living room. There was a shelf she had to pass by to go through her bedroom door. I had pictures of her family there for her to see. She stopped, pointing to a picture of her sister in law, the wife of her older brother. As she pointed she said, ” You can throw that away, she’s dead”. There was anger in her voice as she said it. She had never been fond of this particular sister in law. What is odd is, that the next day my cousin called to say that her mom had passed away. I never could figure that one out.
People suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s don’t really have the capability to watch what they say. Even though all their life they may have been careful with their words in order not to offend or hurt, they are not capable of that anymore. God knows them, he knows and cares for the real them. Their lives are essentially in His hands. Let what they say, no matter what it is- be instantly forgotten. God has placed you as the caregiver for them, He knows what you hear and experience. Sometimes it is very difficult to hear painful hurtful things come out of your loved one’s mouth. The instant it is said they have completely forgotten. There is no malice in their actions even though at times it seems so. Put these cares in God’s hands. God is with you and will give you the patience you need to accept them as Christ accepts you.