A few days ago, Mom was in a mood that I couldn't quite figure out. It happened at a time when I was annoyed by our new pest control service. She was irritable, but I just couldn't figure out why.
Because of dementia, she can't say what's bothering her. But over the years, I've gotten pretty good at watching her nonverbal cues to see where she's going and take actions that will keep us on an even keel. However, on that day, my usual strategy just wasn't working.
It's hard when Mom is moody, not just because her mood can be frustrating or annoying for me to experience, but it's hard to watch her struggle to communicate what she's experiencing. It's in those moments that I have to remember to be patient with myself so that I can be patient with her.
I have to remind myself that in every relationship there are moments of miscommunication that lead to periods of disagreement. I have to accept that as a human being, I'm not going to get the communication right 100% of the time. When I remember that about myself, I can reframe the communication between the two of us.
I can look at her as having a normal human mood in an abnormal context. It's important to remember that Alzheimer's dementia doesn't take away all of the moods and idiosyncrasies and preferences that made our loved ones the persons that they are. It just changes the way a person is able to access information for responding to those moods and preferences and idiosyncrasies. Patience for both of us is important for navigating those moments when she is being her authentic self.
On that day that she was having a mood that I couldn't quite figure out, I decided that it would be best if we both went to bed early. So while I was waiting, I ordered a pizza with caramelized onions and roasted mushrooms. And while I was waiting for its delivery, I got her into bed. By the time the pizza arrived, she was falling asleep and I was able to sit quietly and enjoy my pizza.
Moments of miscommunication happen to all of us. My encouragement for you this week is to be patient with yourself as you're experiencing a moment so that you can accept it and make good decisions for moving forward.
Be well until next time.
Dr. Sheri L. Yarbrough is an author, caregiver, and founder of Praxis Senior Care-Giving Solutions, a consulting business that provides care-givers with practical and easily implemented strategies that can be tailored to meet their individual care needs.
View Dr. Yarbrough's weekly blog on all things caregiving from a caregiver's perspective.