There are those who wonder why caregiving children speak to their memory-challenged parent like they are a child. Some also believe it to be a bit demeaning to provide child-like things for them to do as activities.
I get the concern. I’ve had that concern in the past too.
Now that I have journeyed alongside my mother (who had Alzheimer’s), I totally get it.
As Alzheimer’s claimed more and more of her cognitive abilities, it seemed that mom traveled backward in time to a time when she was much younger. Toward the end, she became very childlike. She often thought I was her mom. There was no use in fighting the role reversal—it was part of the disease progression.
Like a child, mom enjoyed coloring. When I first introduced adult coloring books, her coloring was magnificent and her eye for color was impeccable. She stayed within the lines and had the art of “shading” down pat. Now, as I look through her coloring books, I can see the obvious regression in ability. In the beginning, mom would use all of her colors; toward the end, she settled in on yellow and green. In the beginning, mom’s color choices would closely approximate the true color of the object she was coloring. As the disease advanced, the coloring books I purchased for her were simpler, in keeping with her diminishing artistic abilities and instinct for color. Ultimately, in the last few months of her life, much like a child who colors everything in their favorite color, she would color everything yellow or green.
Correspondingly, mom’s behavior changed. She’d have times when she was unhappy about something and would throw a childlike tantrum. Tears, pitiful pouting face, crossed arms and all. Mom reverted to baby-like play on the floor, preferring to crawl about on the floor, rather than tootle around in her wheelchair. Like the child running out into a crowded room butt-naked, inhibitions over inappropriate public behavior goes by the wayside too.
On those days when mom thought I was her mom, I soon learned it was in mom’s best interest if I would just play that role. Putting on the soothing “mom voice” was part of it. Likewise, when encouraging her to do what needed to be done (like changing her clothing), it was necessary to communicate with her as I would with a young child or (sometimes) like a toddler, using what I’ll call “simple speak.”
So, dear reader who has never experienced the role of caregiver, please be gentle and understanding with the caregivers you know. Your caregiving friend is living in an upside-down world juggling sippy-cups, adult-size diapers and discreet diaper bags, mealtime feeding issues, and lack of good sleep. Believe me, your prayerful encouragement and friendship would mean the world to them.
2 thoughts on “Becoming a Child Again”
Cindie, I’ve shared this on my FB page, in memory of mam, who’s gone three weeks today.
I love that you continue sharing your wisdom to bring awareness of Alzheimers to others.
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My heart grieves with yours in your loss, my friend. Thank you for sharing the post–it encourages me to keep writing.
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