Bobbi Junior talks about setting boundaries in relation to dementia. In this series of posts, Bobbi Junior brings her unique perspective to bear on the subjects of dementia, and Christian caregiving. Bobbi demonstrates that God is greater than dementia or any other crisis we may face. She shares how being a caregiver is a tiring, challenging and demanding task, and caregiver burnout is a constant threat.
Journal Entry, Friday November 18
Lord, you are so kind. Around mid-afternoon it seemed a good idea to go see Mom tonight. I usually see Mom after work, but today I invited Rick to come along after dinner. Mom likes having a capable man around, and she’s always had a soft spot for Rick. I called and asked if we could come to visit. She sounded calm and seemed pleased we were coming. I was optimistic.
When we got there she was angry.
“What am I doing here?” she demanded.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Someone came and she left so many papers. Lots and lots of papers. She wants to wash me.” I recalled arrangements had been made for the Community Case Manager to assess Mom and determine her home care needs. We’d discussed this, but the information hadn’t stuck. Mom waved the assessment documents in my face, then dropped them on the table, effectively dismissing what was too difficult to understand right now. She had more things on her mind.
“Two men came. Tall men. They come in here and do things. What are they doing in and out, in and out?”
Rick and I have learned that when we can’t follow mom’s thoughts, it’s best not to ask for more details, but simply to listen attentively, to be her sounding board. That seemed to be what she needed today. Now, another topic reared it head.
“All the time, up and down in that elevator. All the time. I don’t know how to work it. You get stuck in it.”
We listened some more.
“How long is this going to go on? It’s been two weeks now.”
I wondered how she knew the length of time she’s been there when time is so confusing for her. Was someone telling her this, or was she figuring it out herself?
“Why is your name on the papers,” she suddenly accused me, jumping back to the home care assessment. “All the papers around here. Your name is on them. What are you doing with all my things?”
I didn’t have time to explain before she moved on.
Papers And Envelopes
Next, she took a bunch of papers and envelopes out of her purse. “I have to carry these everywhere. There’s no box for me to put them in. If there was a box I wouldn’t want it. It would be too much. I have to carry these. Look. This is the bank.” She held up the letter from Scotia Bank that I brought to her on Monday. It was unopened. She waved another envelope. “And what do I do with this.” This one was a stamped envelope addressed to my brother, unsealed.
“Is this a letter you wrote to Lawrence?” I asked, reaching for it.
She pulled it away. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s from Lawrence. It’s not sealed. How would I know?”
Other mail was unopened as well. She said she was going to have to go and talk to them downstairs about these letters and the people who want all this money. “I’ll just have to go to the bank myself. If they don’t believe who I am well then I’ll just starve.”
She took her glasses off, very distressed. “What can I do? We need to call a real estate agent and get him to sort everything out. The house. Someone has to sell it.”
Enough, I thought.
“Mom, do you want us to stay and visit or should Rick and I just head out?”
She scowled at me, as though she still more on her list of complaints, but she looked at Rick and stopped. She’s always wanted him to think well of her and today was no different, thank goodness. She let her rant go and now made a good effort to be pleasant to Rick, asking him about work, and was his car running well. “That TV,” she said, pointing to one Rick had given her some time ago. “I don’t want it. You can take it and go home.” Rick unplugged it and wrapped up the cord. We gathered our jackets.
“I better come down with you so they know you’re not stealing it.”
Mom opened the door for us.
She addressed Rick. “You be careful going down the stairs.” Rick said he would.
“Are you coming down to the door with us?” I asked, since she didn’t seem to be moving from her apartment door.
“Why would I come down there? I’m not leaving. You are.” She was very put out with my question. A sarcastic retort nibbled at my tongue, but I ignored it.
As we drove home Rick reflected on the visit. “It’s kind of heartbreaking, seeing her so sad like that.” I realized it’s the first time he’s really seen her distressed. She always tries so hard to be pleasant when Rick’s around. This time she just couldn’t manage it. She was much better than she often is when she and I are alone together, so I was grateful Rick was there. It’s easier to take the brunt of her anger when I’m sharing it with someone else.
It’s still draining, listening to her accusations and blame, but for the most part I’m able to listen without taking it personally. That’s a blessing. I wondered about her unopened mail, though. Mail has always been very important to her, and very private. That’s why I’ve brought her unopened letters from her house. Since the onset of her dementia, she’s carried the envelopes and their contents everywhere, checking them out repeatedly. Not now, though. I wonder. If she won’t open her mail, maybe she doesn’t feel capable of dealing with what’s in there. Maybe I shouldn’t be bringing it to her at all. But what if there’s something important? I don’t have legal authority to open her mail. Questions, questions, and no answers. At least not yet. I guess we’ll just keep addressing one day at a time.
Bobbi’s program, “Not Me Lord” airs on HopeStreamRadio.
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Envelope – Alex Fiore
Television & Remote – Andre Lubbe