Friday, February 8, 2013

Broken is the tree

Alzheimer's Disease is a storm that comes ashore bringing hurricane force winds. Bend or be broken. Them's the rules: bend or be broken. Broken is the tree that will not bend when the wind blows. (Run over, as I said yesterday, is the dancer who does not change her steps when the music changes.)

I imagine that it is possible to care for a dementia/Alzheimer's patient at home, but the things that would need to apply simply don't apply in my household. For one thing, there would have to be a whole lot more hands on deck. When my Granny was in the last phase of her life, she was nursed at home. The big difference there was that she had three children who participated fully in that care. Granny had a fourth child, but Lord Fauntleroy came by infrequently and usually drunk when he did show. Obviously, he wasn't much help. Granny also had four grandchildren, two of whom were local. There was also a housekeeper, a daytime nurse's aid and an afternoon companion. And still, towards the very end, the stress and work of it left me (one of seven people charged with her care) with dangerously low blood pressure.

Even with all those folks involved intimately with the process of dying, we were all still exhausted. Imagine then my situation now where I'm doing the lion's share of the work here; all of the work related to Mummy's affairs in Trinidad and trying to pretend all the while that the current division of labor is not a source of some significant anger. But even that I'm working on. I can't say I'm making a whole lot of progress, but I'm working on it.

A long time ago, I gave up the anger towards my mother. There's no point to it. Barbs was a bad parent. Deal with it. She showed little love or affection. Deal with that too. When I say that she was a 'pragmatic parent' as I did in an earlier blog entry, that's my nice way of saying she was emotionally withholding. Deal. With. It.

The great challenge of managing AD is that there is no opportunity to fix the broken places of the parent-child relationship. Ah well, gotta deal with that too. The other great challenge is figuring out how you want to be as a caregiver, especially if the parent-child relationship was unhealthy. I have said in the past that I want to give her what she didn't and I believe, couldn't, give me. I have done the best I can with that. Broken, you see, is the tree that will not bend. I could stand firm and resolute and be to her as she was to me. Who would that hurt more? I would punish her for being less than I needed, and scar me for being less than I could. 

I have chosen to bend. I have little residual anger at my mother for her failings as a parent. It has become evident to me that her challenges exceeded her capacity. She did the best she could, like her father before her; like the husband she chose. They all did the best they could. That what they did was insufficient unto my needs isn't really anyone's fault per se, it's just how it is.

I must bend or be broken. I treat her with all the kindness I can, all the gentleness I can. If I can't sit and chat with her the way another mother's child might, then I bring in a caregiver to engage with her in that way. (There are many things that I can do, manufacturing relationship at this stage of the game is not one of them I fear.)

Bend or be broken. Bend or be broken. It's my mantra. Bend or be broken. And when all is said and done, I will be able to say that I let this most horrific of experiences change me. In a good way.

Bent but never broken.


  1. Where's the"love"button? I'd like to click it! Press on sister, the path to healing includes this very blog. Beautiful writing and imagery.

  2. Such a reality, in various forms and fashions, but real across the board, all the same. In some cases a parent, others a spouse, a sibling and child. Dealing with life's swings that we didn't ask for, didn't plan for. Do we bend? Or do we break? At least bending allows us to straighten up and assist someone else or to shut it all out and live in our own world. Are we ever adequately prepared? Sometimes we're prepared but we don't know, nor what for, then it comes; again we wonder whether we're prepared. Whenever confronted, we will deal with situations the best way we know how. In some cases we flee, in others, we stand and fight. The more we stand and fight, the more we will stand and fight. Continue to stand and fight, the best way you know how. You can't be expected to do more than you can do and you're doing much more than many others. Blessings my friend.