Living In Their Reality

Fern Pessin

Living In Their Reality

Fern Pessin

Caregiving for an aging loved one is like waiting at the bus stop for a train. The ups and downs of the physical body mixed with cognitive changes and all the relationship and well-being emotions make it a time of unknowing. Bette Davis famously said, "Buckle your seatbelt. It's going to be a bumpy night." And as day rolls into night every twenty-four hours, we caregivers steady ourselves for the new experiences we will need to manage. Even knowing to expect constant change in your mind does not make it any easier. In fact, people working in caregiving businesses and medicine are often just as overwhelmed, fatigued, and surprised as the rest of us when changes happen to their own loved ones. We can't beat ourselves up. We must, in my mind, roll with the flow. 

At a caregiving conference one man stood up and said the one thing he learned to say was, "It's the disease, not my wife," in order to stop being so angry and hurt by what his wife with dementia was tossing at him each day. That helped me. More recently, I have learned that in order to make my time with my parents less stressful on me, I have to go with where they are. I had to give up trying to bring my loved ones into reality. We have to live in their reality in order to keep them from getting frustrated and upset - and for our own sanity.

How many smiles can I get from my dad in each visit? As my dad tells his stories and reveals his past, I have become my dad's co-conspirator and travel companion. I've watched him go backwards from his retirement years to his business years, to his young married years, and now he's gone from his twenties to his teens in one week. I don't understand what he's talking about but just keep nodding and smiling, agreeing and answering best as I can to make our visit as pleasant as possible. And isn't that how we want to remember our time together?

For more on recent transitions in my father's reality and moods, read From Almost Gone to Invigorated to...

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