My mother was hospitalized with pneumonia for four days and when I went to help with the discharge I brought her clothes. As I helped her get dressed we struggled with her camisole and she said, “When you were little I helped you get dressed now you are helping me.” And, I said, “but I didn’t have all the same body parts as you then” and we laughed till the tears came as she was caught in the camisole!
There was pure joy in that laughter even though for both of us on some level experienced grief from the lost of independence for mom and the loss of my once fiercely independent mother for me.
As a daughter and a professional, I am able to take her comments that might hurt me and softly explain without defending myself or using rationalization in my response in order that she doesn’t feel bad about her loss of memory or independence. This doesn’t mean I don’t need to process my feelings with family, friends and colleagues.
A good example is she called yesterday and said, “Did you know I was in the hospital?” Of course I did! I brought her there and I was there till 9PM the night before. But, my answer was not that – it was, “Yes, I know and I am waiting to hear what time
you will be discharged today.” This answer completely made her feel heard and not bad that she could not remember.
Our responses to our parents who are losing memory and independence can make all the difference to their quality of life. Love does get though; however, it can bring joy as you look at this passage as a gift of learning, giving and just being!