More and more often, it seems, we will notice that our care recipient disappears into her suite for relatively long periods of time, such as two to three hours. This seems to us to make sense on a rainy or cool day, but we’ve noticed of late that it happens on beautiful days when it seems one would rather be outside than in a dimly lit room (which seems to be the case even though the suite now has pretty good lighting). Following these quiet periods, the topic of conversation becomes the past, and in great detail. When these situations began, I must confess that I often became impatient, especially if my husband was not around to share these memories with his mother. Quite simply, I think my impatience stemmed from the fact that I do not share these memories and they mean very little to me.
Realizing more all the time the importance to my mother-in-law of this reminiscing, I now make a point of shifting gears and sitting down with her and listening to the memories she has to share, and asking questions when I am not clear as to who fits where. I think what happens when I do take time to listen is that I am validating the experiences of someone who has lived a long life and accumulated lots of experience, and who seems to be keenly aware that she has way more time behind her than in front of her. At those moments, my mother-in-law and I truly connect, and I feel good about the decision my husband and I made to provide care for this woman into her nineties, who understands fully that her life is winding down, and who wants to share with us her memories of a life fully lived.
Yours in caregiving,