Mondays with Mom: Cranky


Do you ever feel sour or cranky? You are not exactly mad at the world; you’re just grumpy enough not to want to deal with anyone or anything. Before medication (read here), I felt that way a lot. I knew I ought to feel blessed and grateful, but I didn’t and I couldn’t talk myself into feeling that way.

Mom acts cranky a lot some days. Today started out well, but the day has disintegrated into grumbles and mumbles.

“Mom, are you finished?” She’ll say no so I’ll try to feed her another bite.

“I don’t want any more, “she’ll say.

“May I clear your plate?”

“No. I’ll be finished when I say I’m finished.”

So I practice my Lamaze breathing. Incidentally, I never used that breathing technique that I learned in childbirth classes during childbirth since I had three Caesarians. I have used it a million times since in child rearing and caregiving.

After a few minutes, I’ll try again. “Mom, can I help you?”

“No, I don’t want any more.”

“Are you ready for me to take your plate?” “No.”

I’m not sure who says “no” more often: a toddler or a dementia patient. In many ways they are trying to achieve the same things; both want more control over their environment. For the one taking care of them, the intent is only to assist or protect.

I do try to let Mom do as much as she can do by herself. It’s much easier on me if she feeds herself, but for messy or hot dishes, I want to help. Sometimes my help is appreciated, but often it’s not. Of course, I don’t care for Mom so that she’ll appreciate me. I don’t need accolades any more than a mom who is for a toddler. However “no” after “no” after “no” gets exhausting and the relief of a “yes” is almost palpable.

Today, lunch is taking over 90 minutes. She let me feed her most of her soup and some of her dessert, but then she refused to open her mouth any more. Thus, the conversation as written above.

Cantankerous. Grumpy. Cranky. These are the words running through my mind. This is not the Ruth Bunn I’ve always known. Kind. Gentle. Caring. These are the words that describe her truly. However, this disease, this dementia, has changed her disposition. She is uncooperative and frustrating sometimes.

Now she doesn’t want to get up from her chair. She came to the dining room to eat lunch with us and these chairs hurt her back. She would rather sit in this chair and cry than be moved back to her comfortable chair. Although I am right her beside her, she’s crying that no one cares for her and she’s all alone. Dad tried to get her to stand up and so did I, but she told both of us, “No!” I know the longer she sits here, the more pain her back will cause and the harder it will be to move her.

So here is the crossroad: move her now against her will or leave her be for a bit and hope she’ll change her mind. The chances are slim for the second option, but it could happen. As her caregivers, we come to a dozen crossroads a day. Do this – or that – but know neither option will cause her happiness or relief. I always think of the Band-Aid dilemma; pull it slowly so it hurts less but longer or just rip it off as quickly as possible. My preference is to get it done – rip it off quickly even though it stings more. That way I can get over it and on to the next thing. Ruth Bunn, however, was always the take-your-time-although-it-takes-longer-but-hurts-less kind of mother.

So here we sit. Two hours after we’ve moved into the dining room. Now I’m the one getting cranky! So I do a few minutes of Lamaze breathing again.

Finally, I decide to bite the bullet and I take her against her will back to her chair. It’s a struggle and she fights me the whole way, but as soon as I get her settled and her blanket pulled over her lap, she’s asleep. Like a toddler, my precious mother was worn out – no wonder she was cranky!

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