Many years ago, I was a guest in the home of a lady who had no children. She had a crystal candy dish and offered me a piece of candy. I accepted and politely thanked her. Upon returning the lid, she told me about a previous guest the who had his little boy with him. The child saw the candy and asked for some. The childless lady gave him the candy but told me how impolite it was to ask for candy. She said the child should have waited until it was offered. I thought to myself, “Obviously, she’s never raised children.” Mark Twain once said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” So, it is with parenting.
At times, I watched my children’s behavior thinking, “Those can’t be mine. Someone must have mixed them up at the hospital.” After all, I had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and had taken classes in child psychology. Sometimes, I surmised, I needed to retake a refresher course in abnormal psychology.
I wish I could blame it on my wife, but she was an elementary school teacher who was a better disciplinarian than me. It seemed the children at her school acted the same impulsive, loud, and goofy ways. I learned more about children at home than I did in college psychology classes.
It seems to be the same with caring full-time for a dementia-impaired person. No one knows about full-time caring for a dementia-suffering loved-one until they are in that position. Someone like a neurologist or physician may be an excellent resource of knowledge, but they don’t understand what we are experiencing. Even family members, who occasionally assist us, don’t fully appreciate the round the clock, seven-day a week pressure we are living. If we have a caregiver help us for an eight or twelve-hour shift, they don’t understand, either. They get to go home and get a break. Furthermore, they are caring for a patient—not a love-one. There is a difference.
A patient is someone who needs physical care. They must be fed, bathed, medicated, and made comfortable. A loved-one needs all that and more. We try to make our parent or spouse feel happy and loved. We empathize more which takes something from us emotionally.
I’ll go a step further and say that other full-time caregivers don’t know what we are going through. That is because every dementia patient is different. My mother is in a wheelchair, so I don’t understand the difficulty dealing with the wandering of “sundown syndrome.” My mother’s temperament hasn’t changed much, so I have trouble relating to people who are living with a person with an altered personality. My mother is docile, so I don’t know the life of a caregiver with an aggressive or violent relative.
However, we are a club of commonality. We are more similar than anyone else because we share the continuous effort of caring for someone we love. Because of this, I strongly encourage participation in a support group. In my area, the assisted living facilities in cooperation with an Alzheimer’s organization offer free meetings twice each month. It is not only a time of learning but also of sharing. Sometimes I am strong and offer insights or encouragement. Other times I am weak and appreciate advice and counsel. The apostle Paul wrote these words to the Romans:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Roman 15:1 NASB
Similarly, he wrote these words to the Galatians:
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NASB
I suggest support group attendance where we can help others and, at the same time, receive encouragement and education.
© Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn