Thursday, February 26, 2015

Excess Baggage and "Why Is Your Husband In My Bed?"






Lori went to sleep early and then at 3:30 AM, woke up for a glass of water and there in the hallway with a huge toothless grin, wide awake and ready to take on the world was her mother. "Mother is everything okay?"  "Lori, I thought I would crawl in bed with you," said Lori's mother. "Well, mother (Lori was thinking it would be impossible for her mother to fit in her bed that she shared with her husband), I don't think you would fit in our bed." "Why wouldn't I fit in your bed?" Lori's mother was surprised by Lori's answer. "Well mother, my husband is in my bed and I don't think you would want to sleep with him." "Well, you better tell that to him, because he is sound asleep in MY bed, not yours, and I would like you to ask him to sleep in his own bed," said Lori's mother. Lori was very tired, but silently amused because she knew her husband was sound asleep in her own bed, and would be mortified (if Lori's mother had crawled in bed with them), at the thought of waking up in the morning with his mother in law in bed with him!!  "Well mother, it is possible that my husband could have been sleep walking and maybe he is downstairs right now snoring in your bed, would you like me to check?" "I sure would Lori, and tell him to stop with the nonsense and sleep with his wife!"  "Okay Mom, why don't we both go downstairs and tell him together."  So, they both went downstairs, and of course, no one was snoring in her mother's bed, but it was obvious that she had been awakened by something. It could have been a noise, not enough light in the room, or a bad dream.

Many times when disoriented people wake up from a nap, or a dream it is possible that they can become confused and frightened.   It is not unusual for a shadow on the wall to become a dragon, or a lumpy pillow to become someone's husband. Their reality is their reality and as caregiver/carepartner's we have the job to meet them half-way by honoring their reality, and then redirecting them to a safe and secure position.

 The Alzheimer's Association, and other experts who have studied dementia,  have found that people do not only remember happy memories from their past, but sometimes vividly remember painful events that have happened in their lives. These memories which have been suppressed for decades, and stored in the subconscious mind can be triggered by mundane events. Being awakened from a deep sleep at night, or from a nap can bring the person back to the painful physical and emotional experience. WWII veterans suffering from P.T.S.D. can have moments of remembering which are very real. Women who have suffered from domestic abuse can have moments of remembering events which can bring the past into the present. An innocent caregiver initiating an activity can become, " the aggressor," or, " the other woman," or, " the domineering teacher," or "the abusive husband," etc. all from the past.

 According to Naomi Feil, MSW, author and originator of Validation, it is of utmost importance to honor, research and recognize an individual's past history. In her workshops she states (to paraphrase), that these issues are coming up at the end of life to be healed so that the person experiencing these issues can find resolution. She says that they have "packed their last suitcase," and are preparing themselves for their peaceful transition.

 How does this translate into positive caregiving and carepartnering? It gives us an awareness to use the tools of listening and thoughtful connecting which can lead to moments of reassurance and support. Active listening, and asking the right questions without judgment can open avenues of expression for the person who has held on to a lifetime of emotional baggage and has carried it around for a long, long time. Knowing that someone we are caring for is acting out in an unusual way (on an unconscious level), so that something can be healed,  reminds us that there possibly can be a reason behind the action. The brain may be dying, but there is still a level of intelligence running the show which can be very comforting to see. Envisioning the person we are working with as an intelligent healing being helps us to honor the journey of dementia in a sacred and understanding way.

 Are we trained therapists? Absolutely not, and there are some highly skilled experts out there who we can call on for help. But holding a place for active listening without judgment, and validating questions can not only offer possibilities of trust and heartfelt connections, but can also lead to unlimited avenues of spiritual healing. Honoring the person we are caring for from a spiritual perspective of having a universal intelligence running the brain which needs to rid itself of excess baggage from the past by behaving outrageously at times in order to heal, paves the way for peaceful living on a daily basis, and forever.

 Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.




Friday, February 13, 2015

"I Can't Remember Things!"




The winter of 2015 has been a doozy here in America!! Lori and her husband were very aware of the cold weather, too. The storage room with the futon on the floor which she and her husband had as a makeshift bedroom was freezing. Even the dog chose to sleep in another room, but they were happy knowing their mother was warm and comfortable in the master bedroom.  And they were also grateful to not be living in Boston shoveling 6 feet of snow!! Then the phone rang.

It was 1:30AM. Lori's husband picked up his cellphone. "This is impossible, "he said. "Lori, your phone is calling my phone!"  Lori was still very much asleep and hardly able to comprehend what he was saying. "Pick it up, find out who has my phone!" Lori was slowly waking up. "Hello. Mom, is this you? You want Lori to come downstairs? Okay, she's on her way."

Lori entered her mother's room, and found all the lights on, and her mother was sitting in the lounge chair very confused and anxious. "Mom, how are things going for you?" Lori's mother was shaking her head, "I am so confused. I must be crazy, really crazy. Lori, I have lost my mind!" "What happened?" Lori was quietly ready to listen. "How did I get your wallet, Lori?" Her mother was gesturing to her night stand where Lori's open wallet was sitting. "I don't know, Mom," said Lori. Now we are both confused. Maybe we can figure this out together." "Lori, I need some water, let's go to the kitchen."

Once in the kitchen, Lori's mother sat in her favorite chair at the kitchen table. "Where am I? I don't know where I am." Lori explained where she was and (although this same question and explanation had come up, literally hundreds of times, she repeated herself as if she was telling her this for the first time), her duration of being where she was for over a year, and details of things that had happened, etc. "Why don't I remember things?"  "I can't remember things, and don't know how I got your wallet, but know it was yours because I saw your license."  "It doesn't feel like I have been here with you for a year, and I can't remember coming here in the first place." "What is wrong with me?  Am I crazy? I think I am crazy!"  

It was as if Lori's mother was waking up, really waking up to present time consciousness. Lori filled in the gap of silence with deep, deep breathing so she could approach the truth with a calm and relaxing vocal inflection. "Your heart and circulation problems have affected your brain, mom. This causes you to be forgetful, very forgetful at times and you have lost your short term memory. Your current doctor thinks you have something called vascular dementia. It is terminal and there is no cure.  But the good news, (according to research) is that people can live with with this condition for 3-30 years, and you have already had this for over 3 years."

Lori's mother was silent, and then almost looked relieved. "Okay, that helps. So, I guess I'm not crazy then. " "You aren't crazy,  but occasionally, at least in your past when you liked to go dancing in the 1970's wearing short skirts and white go-go boots you may have been considered a wild woman!"  She started laughing showing her beautiful blue eyes, toothless grin and angelic face. They both laughed together out loud, and then Lori's mother yawned.  "Well, I better get to bed."

Lori brought her mother back to bed. Once she was tucked in, Lori's mother struck a serious pose, looking up at the ceiling as if a mile away she said, "Not being able to remember things is very, very scary Lori." ( She looked like she was going to cry, and she rarely ever cries.)  "I am so sorry you have to go through this, mom. So, so sorry!" They both sat in silence breathing deeply while Lori softly stroked her mother's shoulders and back. Then Lori said, "I'm here to help you remember mom,  and I will support your every step. This is really hard, it really is,  isn't it?" "Yes, it is , Lori, " said Lori's mother. (More silence and gentle massage.) Then Lori said, " We will get through this together, mom!"  Lori's mother just nodded her head in silence. "Everything is going to work out because God's got this, and God loves you."

Lori's mother breathed in a deep breath, and said, "Will you stay with me?" Lori said, "Would you like me to sleep here with you?" "No, you can go back to your own bed." "Yes, I will stay with you, mom. We will walk through this together."  And Lori stayed with her mother until her mother fell asleep.

 In the morning there was no memory, or exchange about what happened the night before.

 Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Precious Souls, Puppies and Paper Towels






Lori's house was buzzing with activity. Later in the day, 30 friends were going to come over for dinner and so many things had to be done. Lori's mother was excited to receive the guests, and her new hairdo reflected a movie star elegance. "We are leaving in 15 minutes, just after breakfast, would you like to join me, mother?" Lori always invited her mother along when she had errands to run, and although her mother walked slower than she used to walk, the local grocery store had a wheelchair with a basket in the front which Lori's mother surprisingly loved to ride in. Just before they were to leave, the front door was blocked by two large handbags, a garbage bag full of clothes, 3 purses (one of which had been in Lori's closet with a broken shoulder strap for 5 years, underneath a stack of hangers), and a canvas bag full of shoes. "I'm ready to go, Lori!" Lori's mother was sitting on the couch with bright red lipstick on, "I think I have everything I need!" She was proud to have prepared so well for their outing, and excited to leave the house for an adventure of searching the local Kroger for paper plates, and sandwich buns.

 Lori was in awe of how many things her mother had packed. She gently suggested only taking one purse, and that, the rest of the things her mother had packed could remain in her room for another outing. "You are a wonderful organizer, mother!" "What a great job you did, getting things ready for our party!"  "I knew I could count on you for help." Her mother was happy to receive the compliments. "Now, I need you to do me a favor, could you be in charge of this grocery list?" Lori had a small piece of paper with "paper towels" written on it.  Knowing how her mother enjoyed being organized, Lori handed her the paper, and watched her put it in the front zipper of her purse. Later, when they arrived at the store and when Lori noticed her mother going for junk food instead of healthy food items, Lori would have her mother look for the piece of paper. "Mother, could you do me a favor and check the list that I gave you?  I think you put it in the front zipper of your purse."  Her mother would be delighted to find the "paper towels" reminder scribbled on a piece of scrap paper. 'Lori, you need to remember to get paper towels." They would wheel away from the junk food, and look for paper towels, and whenever more junk food would be sighted by her mother, Lori would repeat the pattern of requesting the paper towel reminder from her mother. By the end of the shopping spree, they had everything they needed, except junk food!!!  And Lori's mother appeared to feel happy that she was able to be of assistance to her.

Just before the party began, with a clean house full of freshly prepared food, Lori's mother appeared in the kitchen wearing a different outfit covered by a winter coat. "Well, I'm ready to go!" Her mother looked impatient. "Lori, have you seen my car keys?" Lori, of course always hid the car keys from her mother for her mother's own safety. "No, mother I don't see the car keys. Are you going somewhere?" "Well, I think the animal movie starts soon, and I don't want to miss the puppies."  "You don't want to miss the puppies?" Lori said. "Well, neither do I, mother!  I love puppies, and would like to go to the movie with you,  but we have 30 people coming over for a party in 10 minutes. Would it be okay with you if we had the party tonight, and saw the puppy movie tomorrow?"  Just then, on T.V., Little House on the Prairie came on with a puppy following a little girl. "There's the puppy, Lori!!!" "Okay, mother why don't you watch the puppy movie in your room and I'll greet the guests." So, Lori's mother rushed off to her room, shut the door and didn't appear until after her show.

Interesting to see how these events brought up various behaviors in Lori's mother. Her habits from the past, of organizing things, even if they were being inappropriately displayed now later in life as a person suffering from dementia,  such as packing 6 different bags to go shopping, instead of just carrying a purse had meaning to her on a certain level.  Using the scrap paper with, "paper towels," written on it to steer her away from putting junk food in the grocery cart was a technique that Lori used to create moments of having her feel needed and in control.  Matching her emotion when she wanted to leave the house 10 minutes before the party to watch a puppy movie, validated her in ways that made her feel her needs were being acknowledged.

As Naomi Feil, MSW., states in her book, "Validation Breakthough,"  there are always reasons for the odd behaviors that people with dementia display. What is important, in my opinion, is that it is not our job as carers to judge these behaviors through the lens of our own limited perceptions, but to honor each individual by using positive, affirming techniques that can and will give them moments of feeling loved, respected, listened to and appreciated for who they are - "BEAUTIFUL" and precious souls in aging bodies who just happen to be experiencing dementia.

 Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

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