By T Kelly Mark. I can’t admit that I wanted to deal with any of this.
But when your 75 year old Mother-In-law is standing outside in her swimsuit and goggles and its December, you sort of have to confront reality.
It’s not unfathomable that she would be in her swim suit and goggles, we did agree that we were going swimming, but that was 2 summers back. She looks nice in her suit, we all had to agree, as we enticed her across the snowy lawn and back inside.
Later in the evening the scare she put into all of us disappeared from our minds as she was as lucid as she always was. Denial was a comfortable place, but the experience warned us enough to wake up.
I immediately started googling for help. I landed on two books, one that centered on a woman’s care for her Alzheimer Mom and another that focused on caregiving from the son’s perspective.
SUPPORTING PARENTS WITH ALZHEIMER’S by Tanya Lee Howe was the gift I bought for my wife. For myself, I picked up the CAREGIVER’S GUIDE FOR CANADIANS by Rick Lauber.
Both were Canadian authors which made a difference for me, since we’re B.C. based and defy it all you want, but U.S. authors just aren’t going to help us through the same medical system as the Canadians will.
My wife and I set ourselves up like a book club, reading chapter by chapter and discussing after. It made for some interesting discussions around the dinner table. Each time one of the boys piped up about the subject, the wife and I both echoed the importance of family planning for these kind of days. We excused them early from this dinner table discussions with the confidence that we were decades away from worrying them about us.
Christmas was a particularly challenging day, as my Mother-in-law struggled with faces and names, but thanks to the book my wife was reading, we got through it. Howe’s book gave my wife some tricks for helping Alzheimer’s patients cope with family gatherings. Better still, the book helped my wife manage her own emotions about her mother’s need to be cared for during these times.
At first for me, it felt a little too late to be reading a book about caregiving years after I watched my father pass. I felt a bit like a fraud doing my reading about it after, but instead Lauber’s book echoed a lot of my own experiences and alleviated my guilt.
Our parents are our guides for every part of our lives, except when it comes to caring for them. I’m a centered kind of guy, good with the logical, sound decision. I don’t mince words, I’m a straight shooter. Caring for my Dad, however, had me flummoxed for the first time in my existence. It was an endless sea of unrelenting waves to navigate and when it was all said and done I could only hope that I handled it in a way that would have made him proud.
Lauber’s book gave me that sense that I did and helped me to find the final fragments of peace I needed to fully mourn his loss.
As for my mother-in-law, we’re looking at our second Christmas with her and her Alzheimer’s. This time, the whole family – even the boys – have all the tools to make our time with her as special as we can. Thanks to both authors Tanya Lee Howe and Rick Lauber for putting their hearts on their sleeves so that we can truly celebrate our family during the holidays.