Mirror, Mirror on the…Oh, Forget It!

755px-Mount_Hood_reflected_in_Mirror_Lake__OregonI’m long overdue for a blog entry. So here it goes. I hope that it will end on a positive note.

Someone told me that people living with dementia often mirror the emotions that they see in their caregivers. This was not a good day for Grandma to mirror what she saw in me.

After fighting with my unruly hair for about an hour, I finally woke Grandma up for breakfast. I reminded her that she needed to take a shower, since we didn’t do it the day before. She gave me her usual reply: “After I rest.” I had already let her sleep late just so that she’d be in a better mood when I got her up. I asked her, “Do you know when was the last time you bathed?” She told me with certainty, “The day before yesterday.” Wrong! “No, it was four days ago, Grandma.” She thought for a moment. “Has it been that long?”

I tried again, “Look Grandma, I’m not trying to torture you. I’m just trying to help you.” Then she went for the kill. “First you get me out of bed. Then you tell me I need to take a shower. I don’t know who’s worse—you or your mother. I thought it was your mother, but now I see it’s you. Who can I get to come and protect me?”

Now let me be fair—Grandma said this all half-joking. But I was NOT in a joking mood! I replied, “Fine Grandma, do what you want. You can go all week without showering. And when you finish your breakfast you can wash your own dishes, okay? I’m going back to bed.” And off I went, shutting the door behind me.

On a better day, I would have spoken kindly. On a better day, I wouldn’t have taken her comments personally. On a better day, I would have taken a deep breathe, said a short prayer, and tried again. On a better day, my grandma would have been bathed, changed, and playing her computer games as I composed an upbeat, spiritually uplifting blog post for you to read.

THIS is not that day.

Today, I’ve decided to keep my distance from my sweet (and probably smelly) grandmother. It’s not that she did anything so terribly wrong—same stuff, different day. It’s that I’m afraid of what I might say to her, afraid that I might blow up if she just looks at me the wrong way, afraid that she’ll mirror back the frustration and resentment that I’m feeling right now.

Yet if I back off, that means that with no one to motivate her, she’ll just get back into bed and go to sleep—at 3:00pm…after sleeping all morning. And that means she’ll be awake all night. I just broke her out of that cycle last week, and now we need to start all over again.

What is wrong with me?? My mom was here this weekend and is coming back on Friday—I’ve had breaks. My grandma is pretty easy to deal with –no violent behavior or big health issues. A wonderful new health attendant started this week (thank you LORD!!) and will be with Grandma three afternoons a week. I don’t work, so I don’t have any outside pressures demanding my attention. And I just completed a dementia workshop series. So why can’t I handle this?

I think that I’m just tired of having her depend on me all the time. I feel like someone hijacked my life. Friends ask if I can meet for coffee, and I can’t. Due to grandma-sitting issues, every “yes” to a church or social engagement practically requires an act of Congress (maybe I’ll shut down too!!) I can’t even be in a bad mood because then I’m off my game as a caregiver.

Yet here are some things that I’m grateful for today:

#1: When I complained to my mom this morning, she didn’t ask to speak to Grandma, didn’t give me suggestions, didn’t fall into the guilty “I’m so sorry I’m here and you’re there” speech. She just listened, and said, “Wow that’s tough. Hang in there!”

#2: My grandma still does a quick wash up every day—by herself.

#3: Grandma DID wash her dishes and put away the ones that were in the sink.

So…today, MAJOR FAIL. Tomorrow, maybe it’ll be better.

Thanks for reading.

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7 Comments on "Mirror, Mirror on the…Oh, Forget It!"

Profile photo of Richard
Oct 3, 2013

Hang in there. We all have those days where no matter what anyone says it just strikes that one nerve. We just need to remember that our caree’s are not 100% and many times their don’t even know what their saying or doing. And that is when we need to be the stronger of the two. It sounds like your doing a great job with grams and that grams understood there was some tension by washing her dishes and then going the next step by putting away those in the sink. Great job walking away from the situation until calmer minds came forward. You’re only you and you can only do so much. Keep it up, your doing great.

Profile photo of Thedogmama
Oct 3, 2013

Hi Denine, did you just crawl in my head and blurt out my private thoughts? I can’t tell you how many times I have asked “What’s wrong with me?” Things with my mom could be so much worse, she is lucid, she takes care of herself, I have help for her showers twice a week. I feel like such whiny cry baby when I know others have so much more they are handling with their carees. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said: “I think that I’m just tired of having her depend on me all the time. I feel like someone hijacked my life…I can’t even be in a bad mood because then I’m off my game as a caregiver.” Thank you for your candor and maybe you feel today was a major fail, but as Richard said, you are only you and you can only do so much. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Profile photo of EllysGdaughter
Oct 3, 2013

Denine, You are in my world also!! I have used a prayer to pray over my Grandma and it has really made a difference in me as well as her. I was in your shoes, after completing my Caregiving Class, going out to lunch, and getting some good breaks but still my attitude wasn’t all that great! I learned in my Caregiving Class that my loved one can’t change – it is impossible, but I CAN change so I have to figure out how to do just that. I still have my bad days but Grandma has been cheerful even when she is in pain from “whatever”. Just try again the next day but make some kind of change, even if it’s a little one :)

Profile photo of MissAngie
Oct 3, 2013

Hi Denine, I relate to your post so much. I agree with Richard. You are doing a great job. It is a lot to deal with. I too wish my My mom who also suffers from dementia didn’t depend on me so much. There are good and bad days. I am sorry this is a bad day. I hope you have a better caregiver day tomorrow.

Profile photo of Pegi
Oct 3, 2013

Oh Denine, you did not fail. Most days you are admirably wonderful with your Gramma. It happens to all of us. Some days it doesn’t take anything to feel like that. Sounds like you handle it with your usual grace, and just removed yourself as much as possible until you felt better. Your posts and stories about you and your Gram are precious; you have such a beautiful, loving relationship. You had a bad day. You’re human. Tomorrow will be better. Your in my thoughts and prayers.