Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I Learned Caring for My Mother

Today would have been my Mother's birthday. I have been reflecting on her life and my family. As with many reflections I can see and understand things better in hindsight than I did in the moment. Perhaps it is because I gained more tools from the actual experience for dealing with daily life.

Care-Giving has been a complex part of my life. It has been diverse and individual as there were people we interacted with. There is no right way nor is there an easy way to take care of someone experiencing Alzheimer's Disease. It is stressful for all concerned. My younger sister was a great strength to me as we dealt with how Alzheimer's affected our Mother.

I think that a crisis brings up old unfinished business between family members. It acts to bring things to the surface. Things we have been stuffing most of our life. Unfortunately most of us struggle with the resurfacing of painful memories and issues when we least know how to deal with them. We often don't know how to mend the cracked places. In some cases the fissures widen as our world rocks from the shocks of our personal earthquakes and only rubble remains when the aftershocks settle.

"An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. Stresses in the earth's outer layer push the sides of the fault together. Stress builds up and the rocks slips suddenly, releasing energy in waves that travel through the rock to cause the shaking that we feel during an earthquake." Earthquake Facts

The stresses in our individual lives and the stresses as a family rub against each other until things open up releasing energy that rocks our world. In biology stress refers to the consequence of the failure of an organism – human or animal – to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined.

What Causes Earthquakes
"Parts of the San Andreas fault system adapt to this movement by constant "creep" resulting in many tiny shocks and a few moderate earth tremors. In other areas where creep is NOT constant, strain can build up for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases."

Yesterday I was telling my husband about experiences with my older two sisters and how I viewed their treatment of our Mother. Those family connections had been broken and severed for many years. And with Mom's death became final.

As I look at lessons learned, I have tried to use this insight in a positive way with the extended family that is a part of my life now. Like others before me and others who will follow me, it is a work in progress.

What I learned from my Mother was no matter what, she loved all her children and she mourned that her relationship with some of her children was estranged. Naomi Feil said people with Alzheimer type dementia who are in the final stage of life, are trying to resolve unfinished issues in order to die in peace. In the workshop I attended she encouraged us to start at this moment to take care of any unfinished business in our own lives.

I have learned that sometimes our relationships require us to make a decision. Are we going to work on changing the dynamics of the relationship with the hope of making it better, or are we going to move on?

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