Tag Archives: Ideas to Float On

Caregiver Strength

Some days, I feel 100% capable of helping my mom. If I must run 20 errands and make 10 phone calls, I will. But my emotions are like the snow in my yard, sitting in an icy pile which could support a car…or melt to a trickle that can break through concrete, through rock and….shatter my mask of strength.


This week a friend took me for a session with someone who sees spirits. I’m not sure how much I believe in these readings, but they almost always bring up stuff I’ve been trying to ignore. This encounter was no exception. The seer told me that someone in my life had one foot in this world, and one in the next. That person, she said, has an impaired mind — like someone with Alzheimer’s. Hmmm.

My tears did not begin to pour until she told me that my grandmother’s spirit visits my mom (who else could it be?) — trying to help her understand that the other side is not a bad place. Once I began to think about this (whether it is possible or not), the floodgates opened and I was confronting many thoughts and feelings I keep suppressed.

Anyone who has cared for, or been close to, someone with dementia knows that your feelings about the disease are always complicated. We don’t want to lose the ones we love, but we hate seeing them suffer. My mom is still so cheerful despite her near complete lack of skills. This week I also heard a poem called “Shake the Dust” by Anis Mojgani that called up an image of her. Without permission, I can’t reprint the entire poem but here is how it begins [click link to hear it]:

This is for the fat girls.

This is for the little brothers.

This is for the school-yard wimps, this is for the childhood bullies who tormented them.

This is for the former prom queen, this is for the milk-crate ball players.

This is for the nighttime cereal eaters and for the retired, elderly Wal-Mart store front door greeters. Shake the dust.

This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them,

for the bus drivers driving a million broken hymns,

for the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children,

for the nighttime schoolers and the midnight bike riders who are trying to fly. Shake the dust.

This is for the two-year-olds who cannot be understood because they speak half-English and half-God. Shake the dust.

That line about the two-year-olds was the one that got me. The words describe my mother’s way of speaking. No matter how much I want to, I can’t interpret her “half-God” language. When I’m feeling strong, it’s not that hard to pretend I know what she’s talking about. But there are moments — like after my time with the spirit reader — when that trickle of feeling gets stronger and seems to wash the strength right out of me. I just don’t know what to say to her.

I’m getting some of my fortitude back now because it’s a grey Sunday and even the clouds are speaking that half-God language. Although it’s scary, it helps to spend some time listening to those caged emotions struggling to push past our brittle surface. These feelings pull our attention to mysterious places where we can ponder — and deepen our sense of — the bewildering dimensions of life and disease.

Stewardship for Loved Ones with Dementia

Being a good steward for someone with dementia is a huge responsibility. It takes  energy  and time to study the medical, legal, and economic questions that come with being a caregiver and/or power of attorney. Recent mistakes have also taught me that caregiver stress impairs intuition — a problem that can push you into making hasty decisions that lead to worse problems over time.

Between the Pond and the Woods

For the past ten days I’ve been struggling to resolve a crisis that arose because I was in a hurry to rent my mother’s old home. Mom’s care gets more expensive all the time and I was distracted by thoughts of the future, instead of ensuring that our tenant was 100% trustworthy. My instincts were shorted out by the stress of cleaning the property between snow and ice storms and interviewing potential renters while fulfilling usual duties.

In my haste to keep Mom’s income stream running, I let someone into our lives who did not belong there. We’re not perfect people, but my family’s values are rooted in a tradition of hard work and mutual respect for people in our orbit. The person who moved into my mom’s old home did not embrace that tradition. Shortly after entering our lives, the tenant began to break all promises made in the contract that launched our relationship. Things quickly went from bad to worse — making me hate myself for trusting a devious person with my mother’s sweet home.

We’ve always had good rental experiences in the past. In fact, I would say that we’ve enjoyed knowing former tenants and still think fondly of them. I don’t know how I overlooked or ignored the small signs that could have warned me away from this recent encounter.  But I didn’t act on them, and ended up plagued with guilt over my failure to be a good steward of my mother’s interests.

The situation made me think about the number of times we serve as eyes and ears for our loved ones. We make so many medical and legal decisions on their behalf. Even something as basic as having an aide come in for a few hours of caregiver relief requires deep reflection since, after a certain point, they can’t tell us whether that person was kind, careful, or evil. It falls to us to stay sharp and aware for them. That’s not too hard when we are calm and focused. But caregiving often steals our clarity. During the last month, snow and ice made me feel like I was climbing Everest just to get Mom’s supplies from the pharmacy.

I feel very fortunate to be writing about this bad situation in the past tense. We took swift action and Mom’s home is secure once more. But it will take a while to straighten things out and get her financial ship headed back in the right direction. In the meantime, I’ve had to reflect on the nature of our true needs. Yes, Mom needs an income to help pay for her medical costs. But we can only afford to have people in our lives who share our values and merit our trust. Going forward, I need to summon more of the spirit of “Old Mom” and less of my frazzled self.