God Is Greater Than Dementia – Part 7
By Bobbi Junior
In this series of posts, Bobbi Junior brings her unique perspective to bear on the subjects of dementia, and Christian caregiving. Bobbi demonstrates that God is greater than dementia or any other crisis we may face. She shares how being a caregiver is a tiring, challenging and demanding task, and caregiver burnout is a constant threat.
Read Part 6 here.
A House Needing Care
Journal Entry, November 6.
Mom’s been in her new Assisted Living apartment a little over a week now. She still owns her house, and it’s still full of everything she couldn’t take with her. We will need to sell it at some point, but not now. Spring will be the logical time to clean it out and put it on the market.
This means hubby, Rick and I will need to keep an eye on the place through this coming winter. I don’t like the idea of leaving her house empty, but what choice do we have? I also don’t like having to add regular stops to my schedule, to make sure the place is okay over the winter, in addition to visiting Mom at Whyte Hall. Oh, and I still do have that pesky full time job. And a few other commitments as well.
Pity party complete, I turned to Jesus.
Lord, I’m trusting you to set the priorities and make sure we can fit everything in. I will now focus on today, not the winter, not the worry of frozen pipes, or people breaking in, not the task of emptying and selling the house. Just today. That’s all I need to deal with for now. Amen.
Snow hasn’t settled on the ground yet, so Rick went and raked Mom’s lawn today and checked that the windows and doors are locked up and the heat is on low. That should be the last yard work needed until the snow falls, but then shovelling will begin. I’ll stop by on Tuesdays and check the house and empty the mail box on my way home from work. Rick will do the same on Fridays. One more thing to add to our schedule.
I was talking to a friend this weekend and told her how angry and obstinate Mom is being these days. My friend pointed out that in addition to trying to make this transition in the face of all the challenges dementia causes, Mom is probably processing grief at the loss of her house, her home, her independence, her old way of life.
Grief. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
It kind of goes both ways, actually. I think my brother, Lawrence and I are grieving as well. When Mom gets on a roll and lets loose with her frustration, and we can’t calm her down, we grieve the loss of the intelligent, capable woman she used to be. We still get flashes of that person, but not as much anymore. Some have called this stage of dementia ‘the long good-bye’. It’s a fitting description.
For me, personally, I find myself trying to figure out what Jesus wants me to feel about my mother, this person I had practically nothing to do with for years, but who’s now taking such a prominent place in my life. It’s hard to make myself go to see her when I don’t know whether I’ll be a welcome visitor or seen as her enemy, and on some days, she has me flipping between both roles from one minute to the next.
Logic isn’t a tool I can use with her anymore. Loving unconditionally is the command and the lesson, and refusing to meet her anger with my own is the exercise in self-control. I don’t always succeed, but I’m trying.
Jesus is showing me I need to keep my joy in him no matter what Mom says or does. My task these days is to confidently, in Christ, confront what needs to be confronted when it’s in Mom’s best interest, and not let it change me or my attitude in a negative way. Above all, I’m to remain respectful of her and help her maintain her dignity.
That’s quite the job description, and I don’t have a chance of achieving it on my own. This came through loud and clear in church this morning. Pastor Brad talked about the story in Numbers Ch 20 where God instructed Moses to tell the rock to yield its water for the people to drink. Instead of speaking to the rock, in verse 10 Moses says, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his arm and struck the rock with his staff.
Poor Moses. Clearly, the man had lost his patience. He was working hard to do the Lord’s bidding and those doggone people were still grumbling and complaining. Moses sort of did as the Lord said regarding the need for water, but instead of having an attitude of obedience, it was more like, “I’ll show them”.
I get it, Moses! I’m in the same boat. I want to MAKE Mom feel better, more lucid, relaxed, and I’m doing everything I can to achieve that, but she’s still miserable and angry. God said Moses wasn’t trusting Him to deal with the murmuring Hebrew nation. I guess I’m not always trusting God to meet Mom’s needs either.
It’s hard, though. It feels like I’m shirking my responsibility, not being with Mom every minute, not finding ways to keep her safe, not being able to make her think clearly.
Feeling Sorry For Myself
I guess I was feeling kind of sorry for myself. As Pastor Brad continued with the sermon, I brought my slightly self-righteous frustration to the Lord, and finally I opened my ears wide enough to hear him. It was very clear in my spirit as Jesus said, “Stop it. Your mother is MY responsibility. If you believe in me, if you trust me with your life, why don’t you believe that I’ll care for your Mom and her life as well?”
For a moment I was taken aback, but then I remembered another teaching from the Lord. Jesus asks that I give a cup of water, but not that I force the water down the person’s throat. He asks that I visit someone in prison, but it’s not my job to make them happy about their circumstance. He tells me to give a coat to someone who’s naked, but He doesn’t say I’m to force them to wear the clothes or be thankful for them.
As we sung the closing hymn, I came to a solid conviction.
My job is to serve according to the need, and do it as it says in Colossians 3:23, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. I’m serving Jesus, not Mom. How she responds is her choice, and not my responsibility. Through it all, I need to keep asking myself: Do I have total trust and confidence in the Lord, believing he’ll carry out what needs to happen? And if I do, am I acting as though I do? That’s the piece I need to pay attention to!
Read Part 1 here.
Bobbi’s program, “Not Me Lord” airs on HopeStreamRadio.
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