Posted 6/30/2007 2:07 PM (GMT -6)
It's me again and this time with some advice that may not be helpful, or may have been addressed so many times that it is redundant. I will offer it anyway, just in case.
In helping my Mother through her Alzheimer's journey I naturally came across many things that worked and many things that didn't. I'm sure all of as current or past caregivers have that same list! Between us all, a book could be born!
There were several occasions where I couldn't figure out what had triggered a specific fear or obsessive thought with my Mom. These events would linger and escalate sometimes for hours and I would have a difficult time redirecting her. I had an A-HAH moment one day when I was able to connect something I had given Mom to read with an event that occured that night. She had always been an avid reader but was having trouble keeping up with her professional and non-fiction reading, but still craved reading. As a teacher educator professor with an emphasis in teaching reading, I had a huge store of quality childrens' literature and would dole out books that almost always gave her enormous pleasure, especially picture books, books about animals, birds etc. Because she spent a lot of her "memory time" in the days when she was young, I pulled out my books on living in that era. She really enjoyed these young adult novels! Then one night, though, she complained of being very ill to her stomach and said she was having labor contractions. Imagine my surprise! First of all whe was 90 years old, and secondly she had never given birth, adoping all of her daughters. She was totally adamant she was having contractions, they were coming at regular intervals, and she demanded to be taken to the midwive's home. Despite all the tricks of the trade I had used to redirect her thinking, I could not budge this idea from her mind and she was becoming desperate in her demand to get help because her baby was coming. My Dad was utterly disgusted, not understanding at all, and got angry with her.I removed Dad from the equation by sending him downstairs to watch TV and then turned all my attention to Mom. I was stumped until I decided to go along with her. I loaded her in my SUV, along with blankets and a baby blanket I keep around for my granddaughter, and she and I got in the car and started a long drive through the valley for more than an hour, promising her I was looking for the midwives home. As I had hoped, within a little more than an hour of driving, she began to become tired and then asked if she could just go home to the "homestead" and wait for the midwives to come to her. I drove home, got her settled in bed, and sat with her until she fell asleep, peacefully. I stayed in her room all night in case she awoke terrified that she was still in the situation from earlier, listening to my Dad snore and her too! In the morning she was shocked to see I was sleeping on the chair by her bed, started doing the mother-nurturing thing of trying to get me more comfortable and then I started breakfast, with no mention of the events of the night before. I had to remind Dad not to mention a word about the past events, because she had forgotten and that was best.
It was yet another example of putting myself into her reality until she could calm down and naturally fall asleep because of all the anxiety she had had.
This also happened when she would watch the nightly news and was particulary afraid after watching war news, natural disaters, local and national news of child abductions etc. That would become her reality and she would worry endlessly about not only that we were in danger, but also that she needed to don her Red Cross apparrell and get out and help. When I finally figured that out, I monitored what she watched on TV, as well as pre-reading any book I gave her to read. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is an ongoing learning curve, but at least we learn as we go along.
I was surprised at myself for not picking up on this long before, but I had to remember that I was learning something new everyday and that that was the most important thing....to pick up on her signals, enter her reality, and ride the times through. Anyway, I hope this little hint can help someone. I know it is going in my book!!