Blowing the Top Off!

boxingI am going to share this in a constructive way as I know that we all have our “moments”, sometimes with disastrous results. I have made mistakes in engaging in conversation with Grandma but thought I wanted to blog a bit about Awesome Hubby’s experience that earned him an amended title for the day as just “Hubby”.

I was gone for about three hours on Labor Day to go to a movie with some friends. Awesome Hubby has really taken a lot from Elly in the “respect” department and after having company over two days in a row, it was just inevitable timing for a blow up!

Here’s some background: We do not have a diagnosis of dementia for Elly from a physician, just a “knowing” that we are dealing with dementia issues as described by others. But there are so many times we just wonder, she’s acting “normal”. So, AH and I have endured a lot of “control & manipulation” by Elly because that is who she is and we live in her house. We are free to come and go. AH is expected to sit in a certain place at the table regardless that the position makes it impossible for him to hear Elly or conversation around the table. AH is deaf in his left ear, there is no nerve, no chance of hearing and Elly has known this for over 30 years and has been reminded regularly over the past three years. She always tells us The Mistakes we’ve made (from Miss Manners?) in seating our company. Elly expects us to follow her schedule of when to sit down to eat, especially lunch and dinner during the weekends, since we are still viewed as guests in her house, our projects or agendas are not considered even though we communicate them. She turns off the TV, lights, fans without considering that one of us is still sitting in the room! Most irritating is when she mutes the TV just when the news person is making an important statement and the CC is off! Many times Elly will tell us NOT to do something, like weeding, watering, driving on the freeway, when to make appointments etc… even when it doesn’t affect her – she’s not traveling! When asking Elly about how she is, it’s always fine, or some kind of sarcastic remark that is always on the edge or just downright hurtful. She has alienated her younger siblings who rarely call or not at all anymore. Hubby decided to address Elly’s communication issues on this day while I was gone. Even though I had been sharing with Hubby about what I’ve learned in classes lately, especially what not to bring up with dementia influenced Elly, he disregarded all the cautions I had given. Elly was super upset, cried and held her anger.

Hubby told me what had happened when I got home. He was still very indignant and angry, pretty much still is, a week later! Elly took a couple of days before she told me about the conversation. I had observed that she was upset but being very stoic. It all came out, probably not how it was happened exactly but I could hear the feelings of hurt and concern like my Hubby was not happy here! There was an edge in the tone that Elly was using in this retelling. I recognized that it was similar to way my mother had spoken to me. My mother has removed herself from communication from the family – another story, sad. I have always expected that I would hear this tone from Elly, assuming that my mother had gotten it from her mother, Elly. So, I engaged in constructive questioning with Elly as she retold her story and was able to help her key on the apologizing that went on between her and Hubby. I could understand from Elly that he had tried to make amends but the body language and tone from Hubby were saying something else. Elly said she still wanted us to stay with her and that she did need us to some extent. I felt like my relationship is still good with my Grandma.

So, how to go on from here. Well, Hubby and I agreed that he should not stay alone with Grandma when I go out. He will just go out also, reducing the temptation to engage in an argument. Hubby affirms how I talk with Grandma and says he had been trying to get me to do this in the beginning. For some reason, now, he can’t follow his own recommendations. I know the caregiving classes have helped me to formulate healthy communication and reasoning with Elly. At this point, Hubby isn’t buying into a dementia diagnosis rather he sees her as controlling and manipulating. LivingRoom Son has better understanding and observes that Elly can’t help how she is living, it’s just ingrained into her DNA! That is how a person born in 1920 normally behaves as they age. She is very giving to the point of controlling but she really sees it as giving and helping.

I hope this will help others identify issues in their situation as they read this. I know that it will be difficult to live in this situation with Hubby as long as he feels Elly needs to change while the rest of us recognize that we are going to be the ones to change because Elly can’t. My prayer focus must be on Hubby so that he can be restored to Awesome. He is still my biggest supporter and has not or is not giving up on me!

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6 thoughts on “Blowing the Top Off!

  1. Avatar of CasandraCasandra

    We all make mistakes in the way that we communicate. We definitely feel if we have tried and tried to communicate appropriately with someone and they disregard us that they are disrespectful regardless of their “medical situation.” Your husband is having feelings and difficulty and it won’t be easy. It is probably definitely easier for you to overlook certain things despite the illness because she is family. For him and to her, he is an outsider and she does have to change and will change because she will have to learn that he is there to help her. He also has to learn to let these incidents roll off his back and not hold on so long to the anger they induce in the moment. I know you all will work this out but it has to be hard on everyone. Awesome Hubby is still VERY AWESOME but even the most awesome person cannot be awesome 100% of the time. Tell him you love him, you understand how he feels and why he’d feel that way and maybe offer to help him with learning some of the things you have learned from your classes (if he hasn’t attended) or make a plan of how you will handle situations together when he gets upset or irritated. Maybe if he comes to you with the situation first by the time he talks it out BEFORE he says something to her then you both will have worked out either a way to address it or he will realize that maybe it isn’t such a necessary issue to address. Best of luck!

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    • Avatar of EllysGdaughterEllysGdaughter Post author

      Thanks Casandra. We continue to work thru it. AH is just struggling in the workplace with lots of changes – physical change in location, desk, and the unknown everyone else in education support is feeling. The consequences fall on me, AH still holds value in Elly’s eyes since she sees him as ‘protector’. I was wishing he would go out in the backyard and have a good scream :) Our plan is not to leave him home alone with Elly :)

      Reply
  2. Avatar of ejourneysejourneys

    On top of everything else, I understand the added strain of not having an official dementia diagnosis. On one level, it’s like not having the proper “credentials” to be perceived or treated in a certain way, even when you know that such is the case. And dealing with a forceful, manipulative personality (with stifling house rules) is difficult all by itself. Forcing oneself not to take things personally is hard, especially with someone who knows what buttons to push. I think having an “official” lens to view that behavior through makes detaching a wee bit easier; the trick is to practice it without that lens in place. You already know what your gut tells you. (((Hugs)))

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  3. Avatar of DeniseDenise

    Hi EG–First, I’m grateful you shared this with us. It’s hard to share a household and it’s soooo hard to figure out if you’re facing manipulation or dementia (or both). I also think we don’t want to feel like a door mat, that our wishes and needs aren’t being respected. It’s difficult to know when to speak up and when to let it go. And, yet, we don’t want to cause hurt feelings or upsets.

    ARGH! It’s not easy.

    I’m glad you and Hubby have a game plan going forward. I think you handled the situation so well.

    Please continue to keep us posted.

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  4. Avatar of DenineDenine

    Aww Elly, I really love your honesty. And I also love how you respect and honor your husband, even on challenging days. Good for you for understanding his boundaries, even though that means more work for you. This is an example for the rest of us as caregivers, how to show grace for others as they deal with conflicts with carees that we long to protect. It’s hard with dementia, because while some behaviors are due to the disease, others are due to their personality and plain ole’ sin. More than once, I’ve confronted my grandmother directly about certain behaviors (like criticizing my mom), and will say, “Grandma, I know that you’re sick, but that’s just WRONG!!” Sometimes it works.

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