Communication Lesson

The struggle continues living with mom, but every time I seem to reach an impasse, some little bit of wisdom trickles in, and I turn a corner.


Every Sunday I drive mom to church and drop her off and when the service is done, I pick her up.

Every Sunday, she tells me that she will pray that I return to The Church, as if that is God himself. Sometimes I just nod to avoid an argument, sometimes I try to explain my spirituality, sometimes I get mad because after explaining my relationship with God, she still calls me a heathen. Then she steps out of the car with bad feelings, I feel bad as I drive away, and the issue is never resolved and it's a lose-lose situation.

I've come to realize that mom is now incapable of rational argument and discussion. She no longer can understand the intricacies, convolutions, and nuances of a lively debate or even a normal conversation. When I tell her something, it has to be simple and to the point. She not only doesn't remember that we had the religion discussion last Sunday, she doesn't remember the discussion we had THIS Sunday. What she does remember is that I make her feel bad. She doesn't remember any discussions we have about anything, she only remembers how she feels after we're done talking, right here, right now.

So when she asks me a thousand times, when is my niece moving to her new home, and for the 1000th time I yell in an exasperated tone of voice, JULY 18th!!! she doesn't remember I already told her, she just knows I'm yelling at her for no reason and it makes her feel bad.

I have to start communicating for an outcome of feelings, not an understanding of words. My dog can convey everything she feels, without a single word. She can say I love you, where are you going, I'm hungry, I'm bored, I'm scared, I'm having fun, just by her body language. And I always respond, not with words, but with actions that make her feel good.

It's kind of like communicating with an infant. They don't know what you're saying, they only know how you make them feel. That's what I have to start doing with mom. It's not about the words, which are forgotten immediately, it's about the feelings that she never forgets.

So much to learn on this journey. But I find the lessons I learn here, I use everywhere in my life. Actually, who really remembers everything we talk about with our friends. We mostly remember how we feel when we are together with them. So is it really about old age, or is it just right human relations.

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Feeling Overwhelmed
by: Anonymousp

Thank so much for your insight. I went on line tonight as I sit here in tears after an argument with my almost 93 yr old mother who has been living in my living room for 13 years.

I have a single sister who lives about 20 minutes away - but is really stressed with work - I work full time and have 4 sons and a husband whose patience is failing.

I Had had it tonight after coming home from a great weekend and accosted by my mother that her walker was not working right - I'm like did you tell "my sister who was helping out for the weekend - she didn't want to bother her- I kind of lost it and I was told that I didn't care- Okay - 13 years later - I DON'T CARE - Really - I've just been crying here tonight - don't know what to do - so overwhelmed!!!!

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Learning to let go
by: Anonymous

Thank you for sharing this, I am going to try as well to let go of old hurts, and let go of the expectation that my elderly relative will be less self-absorbed.

I am trying to find the balance between knocking myself out to do everything, when I know nothing will be good enough for her, and knowing when to stop and say "This is all I can do right now, it is enough".

My last visit with the person I am caring for left me feeling as though she was sucking the life out of me.

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We Could Be Sisters
by: Anonymous

This is a response to "Communication in Training". I wrote Communication Lesson. My mom is also 92. Maybe it's a 90's thing...lol.

I wish I had worked for Mary Kay, it wouldn't have taken my two years to figure this out. I could relate to what you said about letting go of the mom we use to have. Conversation is so much of a struggle now, that I find I say less and less and at a time when it seems we should be talking about everything under the sun. It feels like we should be drawing closer as our time together is getting shorter but instead we are drawing farther apart.

We have to find that way to get close and connect based on feelings not words. This is a huge effort on our part, it will probably be a one-way street and no one is ever going to know, except God and ourselves, what we are doing to make this work. That's hard too, we don't get any recognition.

I liked what you said about your goal being a peaceful mind and a loving heart. I, too, live like she has passed on already, and how will I feel then and would I have done things differently. You and I do have this opportunity.

We have to learn to adjust to them, to where they are at in their lives. We wouldn't expect a child to have an adult conversation, but living with the elderly is a new experience. We've been around children all our lives, but most of us have never dealt with an elderly person on a day-to-day basis. It's an unchartered territory. We have expectations of them that aren't being met, and we get frustrated, and we have to learn new ways.

That's why this forum is so great. When I get feedback from someone like you who is going through the same thing, it totally supports my feelings, the very thing we don't get from our mothers anymore.

It's hard to be the one who has to give-in all the time and be understanding. It's also hard because it's a thankless job. One is very alone in the caregiving position. Nobody wants to hear you complain, they just want you to do it.

Good to hear from you. Thanks for the support.

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Sorting out what you say and how it might be heard
by: Communication in training

Thanks tons for the lesson!! It was Mary Kay that taught her crew: Pretend everyone you meet has a sign around their neck that says,'make me feel special'. And she also said, people remember how they felt around you: not what you did or said.

Sorting out being with my 92 year old Mom, I am learning what you just said: she can't really have a conversation anymore. It's all about her and she is the one who wants to talk. I have to let go of the mother who was my best friend. This is the underlying grief under my rage, resentment, indignation, and hurt. I have to let go of my best friend.

I am finding more appropriate friends who love me and support me and who are interested in my weekly accomplishments and so on. They are people whom I can nurture and give loving ears to. After all, when she passes on, I will have to let go anyways. Might as well face the music and consider myself lucky I can do it slowly now.

My mother also had a habit I call Triangulation: you're a demon, but so and so is an angel! Great tool to pry open guilt and any other delusions: mine or hers! But it doesn't get my goat anymore because it's like watching an old movie.

Mother is like an emotional 4 year old, but all else is perfectly functioning. Time for me to get a psychotherapist for myself to deal with how to best deal with this situation. My goal is peaceful mind and loving heart. My goal is not be so easily bruised, but process and let go of all the old hurts.

Meditation helps a lot to gain a peaceful perspective. I like to think, "Lord, I can't take this but you can. You understand. Let me tune in to YOU, and tune out to this verbal abuse."

Realize that the elderly do not even realize what effects they have on you. I think they can't feel compassion and sympathy anymore, especially if they have been habitually selfish and controlling people all their life.

I think of how much pain Mom might be experiencing: how lonely and scary it is to not have faith or a way to cope with death, or be able to think beyond herself.

Feeling compassion helps me deal better with her. But there are plenty of times I am ready to say good bye. My friend who lost her parents told me, "remember. Once they are gone, you don't get them back."

Let's hear more about what works for ya!

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