Looking back on this scene, now nine years later, I almost cry. On that sunny March day in the middle of that Florida street, my sister and I were angry because mother would not comply with our plans. We were so bent on “helping” mother that we did not take time to acknowledge her feelings. The day had been a difficult one for her. She had just lost her home. She was moving to another state. She was not sure of herself enough to drive her own car. Mother was losing control in many ways and she was feeling overwhelmed. My sister and I thought we were doing the best we could for her. However, in all of our planning for the move, we failed to factor in the emotional side of the equation.
At the beginning of this adventure, I was clueless. Although mother had been failing for several years, the enormity of the situation had yet to hit me. Not only was my mother on an emotional rollercoaster, my sister and I were on the ride with her. We were unable to communicate effectively with mother. After several attempts at trying to help her understand something, we all would become angry and shut down. Frustrations mounted on all sides. If we asked mother to make a decision, she returned a blank stare. After several attempts, we just made the decision for her. Unfortunately, this only created resentment on both sides. Mother resented our perceived interference. My sister and I resented mother for putting us in this position. The resentment continued for several years.
As the saying goes, “hindsight is always 20/20.” If I had to do this all over again, I would handle a few things differently. If you are at the beginning of a journey similar to ours, my biggest piece of advice would be to slow down. My sister and I were not equipped to handle all of the particular nuances of dementia. Although I had done a little reading, I really needed to do more research. I believe a counselor or therapist could have helped me avoid many of the pitfalls into which I fell. A counselor would also have helped me come to terms with my own feelings about this move. If I had taken my feelings out of the equation, I think I would have been more considerate of my mother’s feelings. At the time, the situation looked dire to me and acting quickly appeared to be the best option. I think slowing down and brainstorming over the issues in more depth would have made the situation a little easier. Slowing down would also have given me a little more time to process my feelings about the ways in which this move was going to affect my life. Physically moving mother closer to me presented more challenges than I ever imagined. Denying or avoiding your feelings will only backfire and cause you more pain in the end. No matter how difficult it may be for you to own your feelings, you must if you are to survive the aging process.
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