Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia is very challenging. Every part of your home-life is
affected. Even something as simple as caring for our dog is more difficult with my mother in the house. She has always had a soft spot in her heart for pets.
When we were children, we had a dachshund-beagle mutt we kept inside. When Mother fried eggs for her boys, the dog sat at her feet and begged. She would always cook an extra one for him. Then she’d place it, dripping with grease, in his bowl on top of the dry dog food he had refused to eat. While wiping her hands on her apron she’d complain the dog belonged to the boys, but she had to feed him. We knew she didn’t really mind cooking an extra egg for the mutt because she loved him, too.
These many years later she hasn’t changed in that way. When she is given a meal or a snack, she sneaks part of it to my dog. This is not good since she is losing weight, and we are trying to keep her calorie and protein intake up. It’s also not good for the dog.
So, we must put him in his kennel with a snack every time she is given some food. After completing his dog-friendly treat, he begins to bark.
Mother asks, “Why’s that dog barking?”
We explain that he’s in his kennel so he won’t beg for her food. Having no short-term memory, she repeats the question numerous times as she grows more agitated.
Finally, she explodes, “Would you do something about that dog!”
Hopefully, she has completed her snack so we can let the dog out. If not, we must give the pet some food and repeat the process. This means the simple event of feeding mother becomes more difficult and time-consuming; even frustrating.
Another example is when the dog wants to go for a walk. Everyone is familiar with their dog’s habits. Our dog’s “I need” to go outside bark is different from hi, “I want” to go for a walk bark. Mother doesn’t know the difference. When he sits at the door barking because he WANTS to go out, I can ignore him if I’m busy. In a few minutes, he will go somewhere and lie down.
But when my mother hears him barking at the door, she asks, “What’s that dog want?”
I reply, “He just wants to go out, but he doesn’t need to go out. I took him out a while ago.”
She responds, “Well, he must need to go out again.”
After repeating this conversation a few times while growing more agitated, she finally exclaims angrily, “Would you take that dog out!”
Since it’s not logical to argue with a dementia parent, I take the pet for a walk several extra times each day. I think my furry friend likes to have my mother living with us.
This will be the way it will be for a while. I don’t know if it will be a few days or a few years, but it helps to remember this is not forever. I will care for her as long as possible, but eventually, things will return to normal.
I try to draw insight from Solomon who was granted great knowledge from God. He wrote in what we now call Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1-4 in the New American Standard Bible:
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.
A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.
My prayer for today, “God, help me during this season of my life, and help this animal bark less.”
© Copyright Ronald Milburn 2018