The Mystery of Truth and Reality

24 Oct

My mother is brilliant. My mother is 83 years old. My mother has Alzheimer’s.

Truth and reality used to be black or white issues for her and for me. Now that I am serving as the primary caregiver for my mother, I realize that black and white do not begin to capture the complexities of truth and reality when dementia joins the party.

Mother spends most days trying to figure out where she is and how she’s going to get back home so she can get her church clothes and get ready for church.  She gets terribly disappointed when I tell her that it’s not Sunday.  The multiple daily reviews of the fact that she is home and that all of her belongings are here don’t register as truth with her. Her realty is that this is some other house were she has to pay rent. Since she is no longer working she wants to get out of here because she can’t pay the room and board fees. Although she has lived in her home for 35+ years, it is no longer familiar to her. Her home in her reality is now a place where she lived 70+ years ago. Anything that I or anyone else says cannot register as true because it does not align with reality…her reality. I watch her trying so hard to make sense of it all.

I decided to try something new today. My story is that the nice people who own the house are letting us stay here rent free because they appreciate the years my parents spent helping others. All I have to do is keep it clean. They also allow us to eat whatever we like as long as I cook it. She LOVED that. She was moved to tears and wants to write them a letter of thanks. I have repeated this story several times, but it keeps working. It aligns with her reality and her truth. We both feel better.

One of the blogs that I read regularly is the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. This blog is full of great information for me as caregiver. In a post, Communicating in Alzheimer’s World, by one of my favorite bloggers, Bob DeMarco, he emphasizes that the goal of a caregiver is to lessen the stress of the deeply forgetful. Constantly attempting to force my truth and reality into my mother’s world is SUPER stressful for both of us. When caring for my mother, I must enter her world. My goals are peace and safety. Those goals are not reached if I do not embrace and support her reality and her truth. Learning to hold both her reality and mine along with her truth and mine is challenging when I lose sight of the goal. Peace and safety are accomplished when I focus on supporting Mom’s reality and helping her align the things around her with her truth.

I keep saying that I am going to be ready to deliver Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award winning performances at the end of this journey. I am learning the ebb and flow, twists and turns, and ins and out of owning someone else’s truth and reality. I am learning how to peacefully live with someone who lives in Alzheimer’s world.  This is the key to success as a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s. This is the mystery of truth and reality in my life.


2 Responses to “The Mystery of Truth and Reality”

  1. adventureswiththebiga October 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    “the goal of a caregiver is to lessen the stress of the deeply forgetful.”

    this times a bajillion. it’s been super weird for me to recognize that caregiving full time necessitates that i suspend my grasp with reality, with my own truths while i create new truths for her that will bring her peace.

    • delmariehines November 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      The dance of living between two realities can be exhausting. I love how you phrased this, “create new truth for her that will bring her peace.”

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