A question in my mail box: "How can I encourage someone with a bad attitude who is caring for an elderly relative?"
“My grandmother has dementia, but physically she is healthy,” my friend explained. “Because of her dementia, she lives with her daughter, but this has created a lot of stress for her daughter and she now has a bad attitude about taking care of her mother. I live too far away to help? Do you have any suggestions I could give to encourage her daughter?”
Bless her heart! I can only imagine the difficulty of caring for a person with dementia who is physically able to move around.
While caring for my mother had its own set of difficulties, she was physically incapacitated and it was like caring for a newborn who could not get up and walk away. The stress of worrying about where an elderly person with dementia might wander off, or dealing with a non-compliant or combative person with dementia must be very difficult.
This afternoon I had lunch with a very good friend whose circumstances are very similar to that of the person who asked for suggestions, so I asked my friend today how she is able to maintain a positive attitude while caring for her elderly mother.
1. Understand that it takes an anointing from God. Every morning she asks the Lord to anoint her for the task of caring for the needs of her mother and the rest of her family. My friend knows that she cannot do this without the strength and wisdom that comes from God alone.
2. Surrender. Along with praying for daily anointing, she daily surrenders her life – her plans, her desires – to the Lord. “You know the hymn ‘I Surrender All’?” she asked. “That is what I have to do. ‘All to Jesus, I surrender. I surrender all’.”
3. Find help. My friend compiled a list of people she could call on to stay with her mother so that she could do other things from time to time – like go on dates with her husband, or trips out of town. When her daughter lived closer, she would watch her daughter’s baby so that her daughter could get away, and then her daughter would watch my friend’s mother so that my friend could get away. Now that her daughter has moved far away, my friend relies on her list of other people she can call. She also investigated community resources for respite care.
4. Find ways of making the elderly person feel useful. My friend’s mother helps with the laundry. She can sort and fold clothes.
5. Be patient. My friend lets her mother do for herself whatever she can, even if it takes longer to accomplish the task. The more the person with dementia can do for themselves, the better they will feel about themselves and be easier to live with. It is also important for the caregiver to accept the quality of work the person is able to do with patience and understanding.
Often the person with dementia will make unkind comments and say things they would never say before they had dementia. That can be very difficult for a daughter. I asked my friend if she has learned to let those kind of comments roll off and not be so hurtful. She said that most of the time she can, but there are times that it isn’t so easy and that is when she must constantly be taking it before the Lord in prayer and asking Him to protect her heart and mind and give her the ability to respond in love.
More suggestions can be found in Can You Carry the Burden.
I would love to hear from others who could offer words of encouragement.