The Muzzle and The Load

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3 thoughts on “The Muzzle and The Load

  1. Cynthia

    I read and wept! You, better than most, know what I am facing. Please tell me how you dealt with the depression and gloom that hangs over an elderly person. There are times that I just have to walk away for my own sanity’s sake! What was the difference between your Grandpa’s and Grandma’s depression? Was it just that your Grandma felt that she was being judged, therefore she judged others by her standard? How exactly did you deal with your Grandpa’s depression and moodiness? Maybe I need to go back and re-read your book!
    I can see in your eyes and smile a true sense of release! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

    1. Thief Post author

      Cynthia, my heart really goes out to you because I do know what you are facing. The “telling you how” is a very long story in its fullness (maybe a couple more books) and there is no one simple way. A few short thoughts: Grandpa’s depression was turned inward, Grandma’s attitudes were more directed primarily outward at others. It is not easy dealing with either, but it is more managable when you have someone where their depression is turned inward since you are not being assualted as much by their lashing out.

      The first, and hardest thing, in learning to deal with it is coming to grips with the fact that you can’t fix it, you can’t make it all better. It is like battering yourself against an immovable wall, and if you try it will just exhuast and destroy you. Acceptance is vitally important on your part. Make peace with the fact that he will have moody days, and its not your fault, and you can’t fix it. As the care giver letting go of the patient is probably the most agonizing part of giving the care and that is part of what you are dealing with, and it will grow bigger as your Dad declines. As his condition declines more and more you will likely find yourself growing more and more moody and bleak and emotional! The journey of giving Alzheimer’s care is that at first you can fix most of the major problems (and you feel fairly good about that) but that as it progresses you can fix less and less and it gets to the point where (deep down) a part of you feels like you just want to give up a bawl because you can’t fix anything.

      I think there is a lesson for us in this painful experience to learning what it means to be a servant. Being able to fix things means we still have a certain amount of power over the situation. When it comes to the place when you can’t fix anything all you can do is serve in the most humbled way–and trust God that the service is sufficent for the moment (because it sure doesn’t feel like it!)

      In regards to your Dad, it is key to offer what you can, realize you can’t fix the situation, and realize that sometimes you have to step away. And you never, ever, can make it all better. Finding peace with that is extremely difficult because as a care-giver you want to make it all better.

      If your Dad is like my Grandpa and most of his moodiness is directed inward, then being cheerful, caring, and listening is the best start. While it might not make you feel good, letting him express the distress he feels is helpful for him–but if possible try to then direct the conversation in a positive way. For someone willing to accept physical affection I think hugs are huge. For someone with depression touch can say far more than words, and this is especially true for someone who is lost more and more in Alzheimer’s. Whether by explicit words or other means, let him know that you love him and you understand what he is facing, and you care. When able, direct his thoughts to better memories. For someone who believes in the promises of God it can be helpful to encourage him with the truth of the gospel, but as your Dad’s condition grows worse you will be less able to tell him about the love of God and you will only be able to show him through physical means.

      As a word of caution: whatever you say, be very, very, careful about any rebuking of his attitude. While your Dad is a sinner and is surely not handling everything in the best way, it is easy for us as caregivers to become like Job’s friends were to him and try to fix something which we understand so poorly we ought to just sit in silence. Saying things with the tone of “Shut up and be happy” or “Everything will be all right in the end” is incredibly unhelpful to the suffering person.

      But being that well of sympathy, empathy, compassion, and long-suffering patience is extremely, incredibly, draining in emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual realms. I still don’t feel like I’ve recovered from all that I gave. Only by God’s grace can you give what you can give, and you are not able to be all that your Dad wants, or needs. Trying will just destroy you. Only God can be all that. There came a time in Grandpa’s decline when he wanted me to sit with him all the time, to never leave him. But I couldn’t physically do that. So I had to determine what was the right balance of my time (and sanity) and just let go of trying to be absolutely everything Grandpa needed.

      You’ll have to navigate that path–not only in trying to address your Dad’s moods of depression, but also as his feelings of neediness get worse and worse. You can’t be wonder-mom, or wonder-daughter, and learning to have peace and acceptance of yourself in that small and insufficent state is a difficult challenge to face.

      You will continue in my prayers. Thanks for writing.

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