There are occasionally days where I feel like the worst daughter in the world. I’ll have a short fuse and sharp tongue, and despite my best efforts I will snap a little. Mom doesn’t deserve it, and I know she’s not trying to be difficult—but some days our bond hangs by a thread.
I attribute these days to growing pains—we are still feeling out the boundaries of our evolving relationship. I’m currently providing care for my mother—thanks to the Alzheimer’s that is slowly wrapping its debilitating tentacles around her brain. Despite the misgivings that we both occasionally have, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, through caregiving, I’ve learned to better myself.
One of my favorite movies of all time (possibly the best movie ever) is Pulp Fiction. At one point, Mia (Uma Thurman) asks Vincent (John Travolta) “In a conversation, do you listen or wait to talk?” Vincent earnestly responds with “I wait to talk—but I’m trying to listen.”
I used to think that I listened well (really well, actually). However, one morning after I had set mom’s breakfast plate in front of her, she looked right at me and said, “You’re not listening. I said I didn’t want a grapefruit today—my stomach hurts.”
Although I’m sure there were countless times where I failed to listen prior to this moment, that breakfast episode was the first time that I realized the gravity of not paying attention to mom. Not only did I ignore her request (and inadvertently her independence) but I failed to acknowledge that she wasn’t feeling well. Thanks (in large part) to mom, I now make a concentrated effort to devote my full focus to the speaker and conversation at hand.
What Do You Think?
We all like to feel valued. We take pride in our opinions and knowledge, and these attributes help us ascertain our sense of self. As mom gets older and her disease progresses, I have promised myself to continue to ask for her input as often (and as long) as I can (and then listen to her response). Rather than picking her clothes or doing her hair, I ask her what she prefers and what she likes. It’s not always convenient (or quick) but it’s a necessary courtesy. Mom is still, after all, a person—not a doll.
Nursing Home Guilt
Although mom lives with me now, there may come a time where I can’t care for her properly. Struggling with potentially putting her in a home created huge guilt for me. Now, I know by doing my homework and finding places with outstanding assisted living reviews, I could potentially find a home for mom that would provide her a quality of life that I couldn’t.