Hello again! Today we are going to learn how to choose our battles wisely. In other words, what are you willing to let go of in order to reduce your stress?
Step 1) Find some matches or a lighter and keep them handy until the end of this post.
Step 2) Get some paper and a pen.
For the past year or more, my husband and I have been picking up on subtle clues that something was going on inside his mother’s head. She began saying the strangest things, imagining someone or something was in her house, accusing me of taking her things, or putting my things in her house and on and on. Sometimes we’d go for long stretches where everything seemed quite normal. Then she became more possessive about her “things” and always ready to argue about one thing or another. On one occasion my husband asked to look at her check book and it became quite evident that she was becoming increasingly unable to manage her finances (having paid her health insurance premium four times in one month) or to keep track of scheduled appointments. So little by little we’ve been assisting her with many of her routine things and taking on more responsiblity for her care.
Before her mental status changed significantly, and two weeks after our daughter’s wedding, we went away for two nights. TWO NIGHTS for a much-needed get-away after months of planning a wedding and other business and catering activities. Our destination was just little over an hour away from our home. A few lovely days by a lake, good food and wine, fresh air and RELAXATION. When we arrived home, my mother-in-law was nowhere to be found. Her car was in the driveway and her purse in the kitchen. Something was terribly wrong! We searched inside and outside her home. We called her friends, and they hadn’t seen her. I said I’d call the hospitals and BINGO, she was in one, but because of all the HIPAA laws, we needed to be present at the hospital before they would release any information to us.
Sadly, when we arrived, what we witnessed was a once vibrant, fully capable and independent woman, now hallucinating about the “girl in her closet”, the “movie people” who built elaborate sets of clouds and snow with children falling from the snowy clouds in the sky just outside her hospital window. (It was June 18th – her 77th birthday) She said she saw an airplane that landed on the interstate highway and the trees were growing right before her eyes as the branches came in through the window. She was visibly angry with the hospital staff and was very distressed. She knew that she had called 911 because she was feeling shaky, and nauseous, but yet failed to call us. She forgot that she had a son and daughter in law! We were never notified that she had been admitted to the hospital!
Fast forward..she has been evaluated by two doctors. Her primary care physician and a specialist -twice. She has dementia of the Lewy Bodytype. Difficult to diagnose, even more difficult to live with. Taking away her driving privileges has been a nightmare! There is no reasoning, no rationalizing, no convincing her about anything that she sees as just the opposite. So we empathize. We validate. We change the subject. Outbursts of anger and rage are becoming more common. So there is that to deal with also. What does seem to work, is for my husband to take her to work at our restaurant a few days each week. She finds purpose there. She can cut vegetables for soup, peel potatoes, make burger patties, clean and do dishes. She enjoys it and it keeps her occupied. Then she complains all the way home about our employees. SHEESH!
Currently, she is able to tend to her household chores, take her bath, dress herself and make meals so we thought it best, and with her doctor’s consent, to maintain her in her own home environment. We live next door, separated by a barn and yard, so we are close by. The new medication (a daily patch) seems to be helping with cognition and hallucinating. To help her with daily orientation, I bought her a large digital clock that displays the day of the week, the month, the year and the time. She still says crazy things and makes stuff up, and I still am accused of taking her pants and wearing them…but it’s tolerable. It’s been weeks since she saw a horse trotting down the street and she hasn’t ordered anything from TV infomercials!
I know that many of you also deal with an aging parent or two, and all the additional care giving and issues that come with growing old. Some of you may be care givers to a spouse, son or daughter and feel that all your energy and mental reserve is used up. That’s why this chapter is so important. It helps to really whittle away what is worth using your energy in battle and what is simply better to let go. Learning to choose your battles wisely will ultimately be your prescription for a less stressed life. My husband is much better at this than I am because I’m the type that will hang on the cross to make my point! But this, this new chapter of dementia and all its horrible phases, has made me rethink my priorities and my sanity. Simply put everything doesn’t have to be a battle. With patience and practice we can take one day and one moment at a time.
I have to remember this and practice this every day, because when you are living with and dealing with someone who no longer thinks or acts normally and makes up the craziest stuff, it can drive you insane. It’s possible to take your stress and frustration out on the ones that you are closest to. So proceed with caution and ask forgiveness when your emotions and temper get the best of you.
Okay, now you can get your pen and paper and move to..
Step 3) Make a list of your pet peeves. Write down the things that make you anxious, sad or angry. Write the names of the people who upset you and why. Summarize a situation at home, work, church or elsewhere that creates the urge to make you want to scream!
Step 4) Light it up! Yes, take your lists and set them on fire, safely of course! Smile as the tension goes up in flames, the anxiety turns to ashes. That’s your assignment for this week. BREATH IN – BREATH OUT. Now give yourself a big hug..and here’s one from me >
B I G – H U G!
Blessings and Stress Less,