by Margaret Baugher
I became driver, shopper, light bulb changer, etc. My stepdad was 8 years older than my mother and, since his physical condition was worse than my mom’s, we all figured he would be first to pass away. The plan was always for me to move in with my mom if anything happened to him, so when the time came late in September, I moved in with her.
I always knew this was coming. I was prepared to accept it, but I wasn’t ready to handle it and I had no plan in place. I really had no idea how much my mother’s dementia interfered with the tasks of everyday life.
My stepfather had mentioned from time to time how hard it was, but I thought he was over exaggerating. She didn’t seem too bad when I visited. She did her normal tasks, even if she repeated things. But you truly don’t know how difficult it is until you live it day in and day out. I regret not being more understanding of the whole situation at the time.
my mom and I have been trying to figure out how to go about the day to day living. As I looked for resources and articles about caregiving for dementia patients I found the term “Backward parenting” an amusing term, but somewhat appropriate. Basically with my mother, I’m parenting her. I hear and read a lot of advice that says caring for an elder is just like raising your kids. Some behaviors are the same, you can use the same tactics, the same patience, etc. And those are great suggestions for those who have raised children. I am not one of those people, so I am basically starting from scratch. I wasn’t used to being responsible for another human being and was living for myself. I slept when I wanted, ate what and when I wanted…you get the picture.
Now I know. No more sleeping in, or sleeping all day, or taking a nap. Mom wakes up early everyday and expects me to do likewise. I have, however, recently found a way to get just a little extra sleep on the weekends. My mom does respond well to notes, so I now have a dry erase board in her room where I can write today is Saturday, sleep until 9 a.m. That’s been doing the trick the last couple of weekends.
There’s already a paper sign on her shower curtain that says Do Not Get in the Tub! Please! This was necessary after a couple of rough mornings when she thought it was a good idea to take a bath while I was in the shower. The challenge was getting her out of the tub, thus the note. If these different behaviors keep popping up, there’ll be notes all over the house!
Then there’s the cooking. My stepfather was the cook in the house. While my mother could cook, he was better at it… And I personally, hadn’t cooked for myself in about 14 yrs. Didn’t need to really. Visited my parents for dinner twice a week, got their leftovers for 2 more nights and I ate out or microwaved something for the other nights. Working two jobs, visiting my parents 2 nights a week rarely left me with the desire to spend my time cooking.
But, now I have to cook for both of us. As expected, I started with what I know - frozen foods. Stouffer’s makes great family sizes of lasagna (we could eat two nights on that), stuffed peppers, casseroles, etc. But even I’m getting tired of those, so I’ve been trying to cook, with mixed results so far.
At least unlike a kid, my mom’ll eat anything. As I was cooking the other night I was hit with an amusing thought about role reversal.
When I was a kid, I was the one relaxing on the couch, watching tv while my mom slaved over the stove, and now she’s the one relaxing and I’m the one slaving over the stove! When I was a kid and couldn’t find something, I’d get my mom and she’d find what I needed in a flash…and normally the item was right in front of my face. Now, my mom comes to me to find things for her that are right in front of her face.
About Margaret Baugher
Margaret is our Director of RSVP at the Friendship Centers campus in Lee County.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program engages individuals 55 years of age and older in volunteer service to meet critical community needs. RSVP is federally supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS.) Since 1971, RSVP projects have linked the skill of volunteers with critical community needs.