When I started my journey as caregiver to my elderly mother, I knew I had a long road ahead of me. First I had to wrap my head around what was happening to her so I could help her. Then I had to find a solution for each situation as it evolved. And I had to process my emotional responses and learn to cope.
Anger. Frustration. Confusion. These were my three primary emotional responses and still are to this day. Yet the toughest challenge I had to overcome was to learn how to properly play The Blame Game.
I could easily blame my mother. Or my only brother for bailing on us and dumping all the responsibility for my mother’s care into my lap. Or modern medicine and its professionals for not finding a cure for every condition that afflicts my mother.
But somewhere early on in my journey, some magical switch went off in my head. I knew in my heart that I could not blame my mother. It’s not as if she wakes up every morning thinking of new and devious ways to twist the knickers of her daughter. She didn’t ask for the dementia. She doesn’t want to be limited in her mobility because of the arthritis. She is angry and frustrated and confused too.
The difference is that she is the one living with dementia on a daily basis. I am just a participating, albeit concerned, bystander trying to help her. It’s not her fault. And if I want to get angry, I should target the disease. Not her.
And maybe my brother for being a jerk. However, I do admit that I have long since forgiven him. And not for his sake, but for mine. Well…I have almost forgiven him. Because I have embraced the right to keep a little bit of anger tucked away in a corner of my heart. For those tough days when I need it as fuel to power through a difficult situation with my mother. And so I don’t direct all that negative energy at the wrong source.
Maybe that is why I invented my mother’s invisible playmate, the illusive Missy Dementia. It gives me the luxury of venting to the disease and not the person afflicted with it. Because I know that I need to take care of my mental and physical health as well as my mother’s. Because I know at the end of the game, I will be the one left standing.