I’m Kristin, and I am the caregiver for Mary, the mother of friends of mine. She just turned 86, has what we were told was Lewy Body Dementia, but we’re not sure at this point, as some of her LBD-associated symptoms have disappeared.
I am taking care of her because her children do not like her very much, having put up with her abusiveness for years. For that matter, I don’t like her very much, either, and don’t expect that to change. She really is an unpleasant person and I watched her abuse her long-suffering husband for 26 years.
But I am learning to love her. She was very difficult and angry when I first moved into her home almost two years ago, and would yell, scream and strike out. She was consistently and extremely oppositional, which made it difficult to accomplish daily tasks, especially in regard to self-care. She has a colostomy bag and is incontinent of urine, so there are some cleanliness issues here. She is incapable of correctly completing any ADLs except for making her lunch, though she is beginning to slip a bit with that now.
She has deteriorated significantly in the past several months, now being caught in a world where past is present, all who were ever in her life are still alive (such as her parents, whom she told me tonight she is driving to NJ to visit tomorrow – they’ve been deceased for many years). She is more frail every day and has just ceased to take her daily walks around the yard. She is still cantankerous and oppositional, but I am learning just what to say, and when, to get around sticky issues.
At this point, the caretaking is much more about smoothing the way for Mary in order to make her increasingly frightening days less so. Last year she was happy and content; this year she is just frightened. I am learning to temper my lizard-brain responses, i.e., things I would really like to say when she is being rude and nasty, and either just shut up or give bland or supportive responses.
I am learning to understand that this caretaking gig, which I volunteered for but didn’t realize would last so long, is what I am supposed to be doing now in order to learn new things about myself that will make me a better person. At 67, and retired, I had other plans that I thought I’d put on hold for a couple of years to do this.
Now I understand that this could be it. I won’t say that this doesn’t frighten me at times, but I am learning to relax and let myself just be a caretaker.