After the realization a month ago that my mood so directly influences J’s, I’ve been channeling warmth and calm as steadily as I can – the result, a warm and cheerful atmosphere in the house. It took a long time for me to “get” this.
It seems there are stages of acceptance with this condition as with so much else in life. In the past, if I were to be short or crabby in front of J, she would have been able to smooth things out for me, or jolly me out of it, or challenge me lightly. If I came home from work burdened with something that had happened, she’d suggest I go sit down, read the paper and relax for a bit. If I was tense about getting ready for a trip, she might make a little joke about it, humor me. Or, she might say, “Don’t yell at ME!”, which would immediately correct the imbalance.
Now, it’s more like we share a mind, in some ways, and if I am short with her, she cannot separate herself from it. Now that I SEE that, it’s given me a lot more perspective to work with. It’s just not a favor to someone with dementia to be “real” with them about your feelings – a bit like yelling at someone in a foreign language, you can’t expect them to understand what it’s about, just that you’re upset.
So, there is a loss of a level of sharing that we once had in spades, but the gain is a a calm and pleasant atmosphere much more of the time.
This is where the counselor, the support group for caregivers and several thoughtful friends and relatives, and companion bloggers, come in – they have listened to me and provided encouragement and support for this new stage of acceptance. What a functional partnership looks like when one person has Alzheimer disease is just different from before. Lots to learn.