Monday, April 20, 2015

Conversation follow-up for last post and what I've learned about myself

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 91 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

I had a great conversation with Chuck Meyers, a long time friend who is familiar with the my mom, our history and the issues facing our family. He is so right with his perspective and it made me think about my place as well as reactions to what happens between me and my mom. I look back and can see us sitting at the table, having a very similar discussion. 

The dementia does play a large part in all of this. Her perceived needs are a lot more intense, since all of the time and instances that normally take a person brain energy to digest is forgotten and she had this big void to fill. Oh boy. Well, that is my non-professional way of looking at it. I will boil it down to: controlling her life and the lives of those around her was calling. In her mind, the things she wants to change or fix is now a very short list.

I need to stand back once in a while and view how I react to our conversations. My tasks for now are to listen, to help her remember old times and not judge. I have the easy list because I was the free spirit and mom couldn't always count on me to do everything she expected of me.

Here is my conversation with Chuck from earlier today:

Chuck: Nice read.  I think she is lonely. I've been helping my mother since dad died and have noticed the profound impact it has on her.  I replaced some of the man-in-the-house stuff. Today she drove me mad in the morning wanting to go here and go there. I kindly motivated her to hop in her new car and go to K mart without me. I want her to be more independent, because one day I’m gonna be away again, in my own space.

Me: Yes, you are right, she is lonely, but maybe she brings some of it on herself. Hazel, that is. She wants to be with Liz as a companion and Dennis to do the errands and to take care of her.  It is so nice that you take care of your mom and help her keep up some level of independence. Life is hard being old. We children are lucky to have parents who live so long, but we also have to face some difficult decisions. Do you think I was being a brat about her insisting on talking about the same issues, over and over? I guess I was. Maybe it is due to the mother/daughter relationship that we have. This is very interesting, Chuck. I would like to get your impression of this latest post. Can I use your response and this convo for another post? I do need a sounding board for some of the posts I write.

Chuck: You are normal. It is how we deal. I loved it.

Me: How do you know all of this? As a young child, I would've been the first to bolt from the room, when she started acting like this. I mean I really see some of this as the roles we always played. At least now and from this distance, I can be patient, let her have her say and then complain and make faces after we hang up. Dennis and Liz are stuck in their same roles and they can't change that. In your work, do you deal with people who have dementia?

Chuck: I have two friends who recently lost their mothers to dementia and I just listen to them a lot and I try to learn and understand what they have to go through, the things they have to do and how they get to a certain barrier that helps them cope and get through it. You're doing fine you're communicating with her you're doing a very loving thing

Chuck: Everything you do is positive and stimulates her mind it's very important what you're doing. What Dennis is doing is very very important. You're doing a wonderful job I know it is painful and sad but you're doing wonderful

Chuck: You are going to achieve closure in all of this because of this loving work
Chat Conversation End

Sent from Olean, NY

I am so grateful for Chuck's response he was a tad generous with his compliments. that's always welcomed. And I appreciate the notes I get from others about my blog and mom. Please keep passing along your thoughts and ideas. Thanks again for reading.

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