In this series of posts, Bobbi Junior brings her unique perspective to bear on the subject 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.
Read Part 1 here.
God Is Greater Than Dementia – The Dining Room
Today was my first time accompanying mom through what would become her daily routine here at her new seniors’ residence. Together we rode the elevator to the dining room, along with several other seniors, many clutching walkers. Mom’s anxiety was palpable, and consequently, so was mine.
Lord, is everything going to be this big a deal? Show me what to do, what to say, how best to help.
Mom had been assigned to a table with four other ladies. Their hair was perfectly coiffed, their clothes fitting for a high-end resort. It made mom’s confusion and her over-sized outfit all the more apparent. Mom’s clothing, while good quality and well cared for, was at least fifteen years old. Her body had shrunk so much that everything was two sizes too big. Her pink flowered jacket hung crooked off one shoulder. Her slacks were roughly hemmed by hand, a little too short, and the bottoms uneven.
I pulled out a chair for mom, then sat myself. The ladies politely acknowledge me, smiled and nodded. One introduced herself as Mary, and went out of her way to make Mom feel welcome.
“It takes time to get used to a new place,” she told us. “And having people around all the time.”
I agreed with a smile. Mom’s face became blank, as though she was distancing herself from what was more than her brain could manage.
A server came with trays of food. We had soup, sandwiches, carrot salad and apricots. It was exactly the kind of lunch Mom used to make for us when we were kids. Mom was polite, but she was clearly struggling, trying to understand all the little details that the other ladies and I were managing so easily.
I saw people getting up and helping themselves to coffee at a serving station. “Would you like a cup, Mom?” I asked.
The blank stare remained, but she nodded.
I brought back a cup for each of us, and extra cream for Mom. I watched as she fumbled with the little plastic cup, trying to remove the foil lid. I wanted to reach out and help, but I didn’t want to embarrass her. Eventually she wedged a hole in the top and squeezed most of it into her cup, and the rest on the table.
Our meal done, the servers came and picked up our plates. It was obvious how much Mom had spilled off of hers. I tried to make light of it, but thought a quick escape was warranted.
“Shall we go back to your apartment, Mom?”
Her eyebrows arched and she nodded vigorously. We quickly made our way around the parking lot of walkers shoved up against one wall. “Look at all those, those… wheeled things,” she said loudly with disgust. “They’re everywhere. Everywhere!”
I made no comment as we crossed the lobby to the elevator.
I didn’t try to give Mom a lesson in pushing the elevator buttons. She was agitated enough as it was. We still had to enter her apartment though. Once again we battled with the key on the red plastic curly cord until the lock succumbed and we made our way in.
Thinking About Escape
I wanted to escape, but instead sat down at her kitchen table. We’d left the leaf at her house, so now it seemed like a miniature version of the table she’d used for the past four decades. I settled on a chair that was almost as old as me. The frame was a shiny chrome, and the cushion recovered with orange vinyl. The clutter that had lived on this table when it was six feet long in her house was now scrunched into a little four foot space. I edged some papers and trays of pens out of the way so I could lean on my elbow.
“Lunch was good,” I ventured tentatively.
“How do you expect me to live like this the rest of my life? The rest of my life! Forever. In this little hole here.”
“This change is hard,” I said. I didn’t want to feed her rage, but I didn’t want to ignore it either.
“Could you stand to have meals with those people every day?” she demanded.
“Well, yes,” I said. “I could. They were pleasant and trying hard to make you feel welcome.”
“Didn’t you hear them? They didn’t talk about anything that matters. They were just yammering.”
I had no rebuttal, so I changed the subject. “Do you still want to go to the drug store?”
“Of course I do. I might have to be here, but I still need things.”
Lord, Help Me Stay Patient
We put on our coats. We struggled to find the key on the red plastic curly cord, finally locating it on the table where she’d placed it after coming in from lunch. Mom searched and found her purse, lost the key, found the key, checked her purse for her wallet, looked to see if there was money, pulled out her bank cards, ranted about how this card is Lawrence’s card from the bank and now he thinks it’s his money, relocated her keys, put them back in the purse, closed the purse, got out into the hall, opened the purse, found the keys again, tried a few times until she managed to lock the door, and made our way to the elevator.
Lord, I thought, if this process makes me want to scream, what must it be like for Mom? I’m going to leave in a little while and go home to the peace and quiet and capability of my healthy brain. Mom can’t escape. This is her reality now, day in and day out. Help me stay patient. Please! It’s the least I can do.
Bobbi’s program, “Not Me Lord” airs on HopeStreamRadio.
If you have enjoyed reading this post and wish to send us a comment or share a prayer request, please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know.
Christmas Dinner – Birgit Nakielski
Old Woman – MariaLucila Gomez