"No" means... geez, I'm so sorry.
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Mom's been doing great the last few months. Sure, we have some bad days (Dementia Revenge), but since getting her on Zoloft, she's been pretty upbeat; our extended stays in Downer Town have been non-existent.
Still, The Other Girl and I have both noted the progression of decline recently. It's funny things - she understands much less of what I say to her now. Like "Get in the van, Mom" results in a perplexed look from her as she stands next to the open door, then she shuts the van door without getting in at all and looks at me as if to say "Is that what you meant?" (Oddly enough, her attempts to get into other people's cars in parking lots has increased substantially. Maybe she just doesn't like her van.)
Also, as recent as a couple of months ago there were certain tasks she could do to help with dinner like peeling garlic, stirring sauces, sautéing meats. Now she peels a garlic clove half way then bites into it which results in a comical facial expression, but not much usable garlic. She stirs ingredients once or twice then "washes" the whisk - leaving ingredients unmixed and dirty utensils placed on top of clean dishes in the strainer. This week she was sautéing chicken while I had my back to her cutting veggies. When I turned around she was picking hot pieces of diced, raw chicken out of the skillet and laying it on the counter (thank gawd she wasn't biting into those - or maybe she was and I just didn't see it).
She touches, picks up, opens, and/or moves, everything. Recipes are snatched off the counter and thrown out in the yard, kitchen towels can be found on the patio, toilet seat covers on the floor of the office, toothbrushes in the underwear drawer, remote controls gawd knows where...
Huh. I guess clean dishes now go in the fruit bowl.
While all this is not new, and it's certainly not the worst that's still on the horizon, it has increased substantially, and the constant vigilance required to make sure she's not touching, moving, opening, eating something she shouldn't or you need is beginning to wear on me and The Other Girl.
The upshot to all this is my now non-stop use of the word "No!"
And I hate this.
The Other Girl and I have been the masters of redirect and distract for the last two years. I made a mental vow at the beginning of this journey to communicate without negative correction. But with her increased confusion the aforementioned strategies aren't working, and I'm clearly not adapting to the progression fast enough. I'm letting my redirect/distract skills fall by the wayside in favor of the quicker solution; "No!" usually stops Mom in her tracks. "NO, Gloria!" works even better.
But to be rebuked so elicits a fallen face, a look of confusion, an actual sentence like "I didn't do it wrong?" It breaks my heart and makes me feel like shit. And while I usually follow up my "No!" with something like,"I'm sorry, Mom, but I need that [remote/recipe/towel/garbage can/take-your-pick-item]" that's not good enough.
She is not a child, and I am not her mother. "No" is the word I use when I don't want to do the work of finding a solution, and as a daughter helping her mother, not a mother scolding a naughty child, I need to find reliable, respectful options that I can pull out quickly, and often, so her sense of value remains strong... and so does mine.
I went back and reviewed the Caregiver's Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviours. I haven't read this in at least a year, and found the section "Tips on Communicating with a Dementia Person" again incredibly helpful, even if it's a little dry (not a single joke about dementia t-shirts or banana phones - sheesh!). I know after two years of full-time caregiving and as the progression increases, my resolve to be the best caregiver I can be is flagging, but I say "No" to half-assing this.
Wish me luck.