A close girlfriend and I managed to carve out a couple of hours over these holidays to catch up while walking and over lattes. We both are old orphans (meaning both our parents have died), and we got to talking about my creation called The Essential Family Caregiving Agreement She made reference to a conversation with a friend when he revealed that his mother no longer knows how to use utensils for eating, and then reminded me of a time when we two were “doing” lattes with my mother, as her dementia was advancing at a rather rapid pace. She reminded me of the three of us gathering at a coffee shop only one block from the care facility where my mother was living, and me casually mentioning that Mom no longer knew how to drink from a cup, and then proceeding to show Mom, by way of using my own mug, how to hold one side with the large handle and the other side with the palm of her hand, and then lean forward to sip her chai latte, while keeping it mostly on the surface of the table top, to avoid spilling it. As we continued our visit, I casually would reach over to help my mother, and to pick up the cup for her while helping her to drink, as we do with littler people.
With the memory of those situations coming back to me, I looked up at my lovely friend and asked, “Char, how did I know to show Mom how to hold and drink out of her mug? And, how did I know how to explain the steps to her without making her feel stupid and/or embarrassed, in case she still was capable of feeling those feelings? After all, it was she who had taught me how to do these things many years ago! Yes, I’d helped children learn such things, but I would never have imagined that I would have to help my own mother in a similar way. I think I will never forget the answer Char gave me, which was that we knew because we figure it out, so we can keep going out with our ailing loved ones and enjoying the pleasure of their company. And, of course, she was right, given I so treasured these outing with my mother, and I wasn’t about to let them come to an abrupt end simply because she needed help to drink her froofy tea!
Of course I would be fibbing if I told you that helping to care for my mother always gave me pleasure and never caused me frustrations, but I can say truthfully that it offered me much more happiness than it did frustrations. Her new and rather strange smile serving as all the thanks I could ever need.
Yours in caregiving,