A change in attitude makes a big differencePublished 9:39am Monday, September 30, 2013
Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf
“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” — Bill Cosby
Humor has not always been a part of my life. There have been many situations in my life where I have been dragged down and didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know now that I didn’t see the light because I was looking down instead of up. I was always looking and expecting the worst instead of the best.
Recently I had a review for my book “Granny Hooks a Crook” from a woman who takes care of her elderly father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She didn’t find any reference to memory loss, even feigned, funny. She stated that had I ever had to deal with a person with memory loss, I would not be able to write about memory loss with humor. I can understand where she is coming from because I was there.
I grew up an only child. My dad died when I was 20. My mom at the time was around 62 or 63, the same age that I am at now. We always had a good relationship with many challenges. We thought too differently, and it was hard for each of us to accept those differences. When my mom turned 90 and probably earlier, I didn’t want to see the changes in her memory. I got frustrated by things she did and the fact that she wouldn’t let me help her with anything.
In spite of all the differences we had, we always loved one another. During the time that I wasn’t seeing the changes in her memory, I was seeing the changes in her attitude toward me. She told people terrible things about me; she would tell people she hated me and that I was trying to do things to her that I wasn’t. I had people calling me asking me to control my mom and keep her from calling them constantly.
If you talked to her for few minutes she seemed fine. And people started to take sides. Needless to say, both our lives were turned upside down by this attitude. I didn’t understand, and I felt so hurt. I spent time being angry, seeing the bad and not looking up. It came to the point where she could no longer live alone and there was no one to make that decision but me.
Because she was so believable other people got involved and finally I had to get the court system involved so I could take care of my own mother.
I saw no humor in any of this. It was literally tearing me apart until I made the decision that I was going to change my attitude. I had friends that were good enough friends to tell me the truth. The truth was that I was depressed. I needed to get help for that.
Along with that help came my decision to change my attitude. I thought about all the years with my mother and the things she did for me and the way she cared for me. Yes, we had our arguments, but I knew that my mom would not choose to forget me. There were times I had prayed for her to die. I now realized that those prayers weren’t really for her, they were for me. I wasn’t praying for what was best for her, I was praying for an outcome that was easier for me.
My mom never wanted to go to a nursing home. I didn’t want that either, but because of her memory loss and her doing strange things, and the fact that she wouldn’t let me help her, she became a danger to herself in her home. Once I made the decision that my mom would never choose to forget me and I realized my anxiety was more about how she was affecting my life, I was able to see the humor in things.
I never knew who I was going to be when I went to visit her. On some days she would introduce me as the cleaning lady. On other days, I would be her daughter one minute and someone else the next minute.
For the most part she was happy in the nursing home. She would want to go home, but she couldn’t go home that day because there was something going on. She also believed at times that where she was living was a time when she was teaching in country schools and that was a happy time in her life.
Each person reacts differently when they have to care for a loved one that is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I finally, after many months of misery, got to the humor. I wish I had made that choice first. I would have saved myself and my mom needless anguish. I have a friend whose husband has memory issues. She deals with it with grace and humor. Humor is her way of getting through tough days.
So to my reader who can’t understand my humor, I want to say that I understand what you are feeling. I hope you reach out to someone to help you get through this, someone that can help you with your burden. Someone that can help you look up. If we are depressed we can’t always do that for ourselves. We can’t see the forest for the trees. Each person has to find the best way for them to deal with the situation. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. Humor was what was right for me.
The first part of the word caretaker is care. You can’t care for someone else, unless you take care of you.
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.