Self Direction

Over the last few days, Mom has asked what she can do to help. I always, Always try to find something for her to do. She is far happier when occupied, and far less likely to start instructing you how to do your task. The challenge is that she is unable to do/accomplish/self-direct the steps of the task I set out for her. The only task she is self-directed about is washing dishes so badly that we have rewash every single one. That, and doing the daily crossword in pen…

Example: Setting the table.
She can set the table perfectly. She can’t remember where any of the pieces are that are required for the task: Napkins, silverware, plates etc. I finally got smart yesterday morning and set those items on the table in a stack. When she asked where everything was, I was able to give a one sentence answer that she could act upon immediately.
Example: Following a Recipe.
She made the cranberry sauce for yesterday’s meal. From looking up a recipe (she used to make her own sauce from her head, the same recipe she used from before I was born), to trying to determine if it was enough, to picking through the berries, to re-finding the recipe on the page, to consulting (numerous times) about the progress of the sauce… I had to be involved with each step or it wouldn’t have happened. This is very different from shooting the shit while your mom whips out a batch of cranberry sauce. 
Example: Looking for things.
While looking for things certainly is self-directed, having someone, even your mama who you love very much, suddenly opening and closing every drawer and cabinet in your house is a tad distracting. So I ask, “Mom, what are ya looking for?” The answers are many and varied: Something to nibble on, Chocolate, Cookies (she’s acquiring that sweet tooth I’ve read about in dementia patients), A tissue, A pen, A screwdriver, A fill-in-the-blank. Most of the time I can direct her to what she needs or wants without having to move a muscle. Sometimes not.
This interaction leaves me exhausted and with an even greater admiration for professional care givers. When I care for my grandson (23 months old) I know that all I’m going to do is focus on him. I can cook a meal, dust or actually Do things with him because he has quite the attention span for a little guy, and doesn’t gravitate to chewing on electrical wires when better options are available. I don’t expect to get work done where I need to concentrate when caring for him, not yet anyway. With mom, I don’t have to worry about her running with scissors, but I literally cannot get anything done where I have to concentrate!! I can’t walk out of the room to move a load of laundry without her coming to look for me after a few minutes because she doesn’t recall where I went. I can’t do any multi-step craft, use paint remover, work outside (too cold for her), or turn the frozen raspberries into jam because she’s unable to easily participate, and I’m unable to easily augment the way I do these things so as to include her. So, I clean. And she wants to help, and I worry about what she’s going to break while reaching for a shelf that’s over her head. I’m emotionally exhausted and not proud of it (written at 10am PST from behind my closed bedroom door where I am ‘sleeping in.’ Time to greet the day and mom.)

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