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Another shopping trip with Mom. New lessons learned every time.
She tries to control everything: the temperature in the car, the volume of my voice, the flow of my thoughts. She is stuck in her own mind by choice, or at 92 is there less and less mind and less and less choice? She looks like the mother I knew and loved, but that person doesn't exist anymore.

Maybe I could share one little experience or thought, I think and I try. She doesn't hear, doesn't want to hear it, criticizes it or me, in general, shuts the door. Bam.
Enter the new me: a shell of myself to pretend having a conversation with the shell of herself. How far are we going? 7 miles of awkwardess seems like an eternity.

At her apartment she forgot the keys somewhere. I use the pair I made for this purpose. It's happening more frequently. Certain things like how we open the car door and bring up the groceries are repeated every time. No lessons are learned from the last time for either of us.

How do I like the portrait she did of her best friend? I think it is as frozen and forced and unreal as we are now. "It's nice." is all I can choke up. I offer a few questions about it but she interrupts and has her own story about why it is the way it is and she is going on to the next portrait anyway. Can't talk about art anymore.

I give her a hug, but there is no response, recognition, or anything warm that is returned. Was mine that cold?

I walk away broken hearted. I bawl as soon as I get in the door.

I go to the bathroom and catch myself in the mirror. I dressed nicely for her. Did she notice? I talk to the mirror:

"Say, I like your hair these days. It was a great idea to grow it longer. And your outfit looks great. Thanks for dressing up for me. Your health does seem to be improving. You are brave to try out diets and improve yourself. Sorry to hear you are struggling with your business. But with your talents and persistence it will turn out alright. I am so proud of you
What a lovely and intelligent daughter I have!"

No. That only makes this worse. There goes the mascara. As the black streaks down my face I wonder, is she feeling this sad too? Or is that gone as well?

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Yes, you are a very talented and expressive writer! Thank you for putting into words the experience that many of us know too well.

Sadly, progressing dementia of any form seems to bring ever more narcissism and hostility in some cases (I choose to believe it is due to my mother's fear from sometimes being able to recognize her declining level of memory and control and not just the continuation of old, longstanding behaviors); it's plus side is she is gradually forgetting about things that used to be 'battlegrounds' for us: e.g., her foolish handling of finances and property, untruths she shared with others about me and my brother and my kids… However you think of your mother (i.e., a shell), odds are she is no longer nor will ever be again the mother you knew and loved. Continuing to care for her may require some mental, emotional and perhaps physical gymnastics on your part. Keep in mind you are the one learning from the "lessons" each encounter, not her.

The shell you have created for yourself is a GOOD thing as a protective, coping mechanism. That doesn't mean it always feels good or keeps the guilt or grief at bay. Those things don't die willingly; they have to be starved to death by feeding them ever less. Having (arrogantly) said that, my own tears and caregiver/daughter angst come less often now but I am not yet able to anticipate they will ever totally disappear. Perhaps it is better said that those emotions will never die but will eventually be stripped of their power to control us/our actions. Your post tells of your advanced wisdom in that already. Talks in the mirror are a tool I also use. Please avail yourself of all possible resources on this potentially long and often difficult journey.

Everyone on this blog sends you their hugs, prayers and/or best wishes and many great suggestions can be found here. Most would agree when I say, "Use it and us!"
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I would say acceptance comes, eventually, but certainly not before that painful period that strikes many of us. Watching a beloved parent dwindle is painful and that incredible emotional pain will slowly leave. Understanding that you do feel, that you do express, that you do cry makes you a real human being and a loving child. Be proud of that and take care of her as best you can and you'll have zero regrets in the future.
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Juddabuddhaboo wow you are a talented writer! Thank you for sharing this! You captured the day and the life of the caregiver of a dementia patient perfectly...
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Thank you everyone for your love and support. I am glad that by writing down my inner most feelings that this may do something for all of you. And I love the exchange here. Patariamc, Thank you for the shell advice: I couldn't understand why wearing my "shell" doesn't feel so nice to me. It's not that I am mean or anything: it is just that I don't have that kind of relationship with anyone else in the world (well maybe sometimes with the members of this family). I see the reason why though: it is not my usual happy go lucky, fun, enthusiastic, and humorous self. As soon as I see my mother, I brace for the unexpected hurtful things she will do, and fear that I won't know what to do. If she is in a decent mood, I don't give her much love because as soon as I do she becomes like a spoiled child or pulls me into her vortex. I don't enjoy her energy anymore.
Praying for them helps me. Praying for the SIL, the elder parent. Praying that my own attitude will evolve to whatever it is that my soul knows it should be, and knowing that God has no rush. Time is an illusion, actually.
To answer a question: I don't have much going on in my life but I am a videographer and I love that work so much, that is my joy.
It's snowing heavily here and it is a day I can be alone and do what I wish at my desk: work or make muffins.

Say, anyone try the Wheat Belly diet out there?
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my mother was so abusive when her health was better. she never missed a chance to degrade me for marrying my husband (he is overweight) and she insulted him every time she saw him.
my husband is a wonderful gentle person, and as fate would have it, often finds himself picking her up off the floor. his voice is soft and sweet, even for three a.m. potty calls.
now my mother says, "i don't know what i would do without you" to him.
are these changes sad? that she has gone from the matriarch, trying to run the entire family, to a woman who can't get herself out of the bed? yes, it is sad. but perhaps in the end good for her soul.
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The painful experience you describe sounds familiar. It's like somebody died, only worse. When people die, others join us in a process to put them to rest, physically and mentally. But with dementia, the person you knew is gone and yet their body remains. This is very confusing to the emotions.

For help, I would say to explore the same resources you would use in the case of an actual death. It's a matter of allowing yourself to go through the stages of grief. Then at some point we have to let go of any expectations of getting something from the dementia patient. Our loved one is gone and we are left to provide compassionate care for a needy stranger. God bless.
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You have a poetic soul. I believe that the capacity to express yourself with words will help you cope with the pain of watching your parent decline. I have had people compare the experience of caregiving to taking care of a baby or small child. I strongly disagree. When you are caring for a child, the process is usually one of hope, growth and progress. Caregiving of an elderly parent tends to be the opposite of that. It is not a progressive experience of growth. It is a slowing down, a dwindling of strength. It is agonizing to watch it. I do, however, believe that hope can still be a part of the experience, even when caregiving for an elderly parent. There is the jope that this day, this moment can be a positive one. There is the hope that you can handle this obstacle with grace. You seem to have a very well-rounded perspective of what is going on with your mother. You obviously strive to have a balanced viewpoint of things. This can only benefit you in the long run. Know that you are not alone in your experience. Know that you are doing good for someone who once did good for you.
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in the presence of such mental and physical decline you will deal with emotions that may take years to even put a label on. my shrink explained to me yesterday that since i spent a few years living with my mother my grief would more resemble the loss of a domestic partner. well duh ? previous unheard of emotions is all im saying.. putting your thoughts into print here may really help you sort them out..
you will begin to come to grips with your own eventual demise also to add fuel to the fire.
so, in rambling on, i read a great news story about iron mike last night and he was discussing the biggest battle of his life that is now raging. the intent to act responsibly for the first time in his life. what an interesting and uplifting story it was. perhaps these life changing events like elder care ( or 5 years in prison, lol ) are the catalyst's that force us to mature. loved mikes sincere story tho. hes 47 years old clearly has guts to publicly admit his shortcomings and try to fix them.
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Hugs to you Juddhabuddhaboo! I felt so for your sadness, I too feel like a shell interacting with a shell these days.
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Keep on writing/journaling juddabuddhaboo. It seems to be your path for coping and grieving and you take us along when you share it, helping us recognize our own unrealized sadness and grief.
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