Landing the Helicopter
Last updated: October 2023
What can I say? I'm protective. A helicopter parent is one who hovers over their kids' lives, ready to swoop in at the slightest hint of danger or discomfort. We can't have little Johnny skin his knee or get his feelings hurt. Helicopter parents invented the participation trophy.
They can be hyper vigilant, and want their kids to live in a protective bubble. They have a running narrative for their kids, smoothing out the bumps in life's road.
From my kids to my parents
I find myself very protective and vigilant of my mom. When the new doctor looked at her chart and asked about the dementia, my mom looked at me wide-eyed over her mask, the concern telegraphing without words. I breezed over it and told her its just a medical term, it doesn't mean she's crazy.
She was appeased, but I had been dreading that conversation. She doesn't remember her diagnosis. I remember, years ago, she said she hopes she doesn't get Alzheimer's disease. I didn't want to burst her bubble.
Since mom has trouble with word finding, I have been her translator and interpreter. She used to be quite the talker. Beating around the bush is an art form for my Southern mama.
I was good at cutting to the chase and explaining what needed to be said, especially to her doctors.
Hovering over mom
I remember her surgeon before a biopsy wanting to ask her questions. I tried to answer succinctly, and the doctor challenged me, wanting to know if there was some reason she wasn't speaking for herself. I lifted my hands in surrender. Okay, I tried... To help the doctor. She didn't know what she was in for. Mom spent the next 30 minutes chatting with her, giving the long answer to every question!
The most poignant memory for me at that time was seeing my mom walk down the hall with the orderly, chatting happily, and I couldn't be there to interpre, mitigate, or anything. She was on her own and so was I. It was like watching your 5 year old go into their kindergarten classroom on the first day of school, happily talking with their new teacher and not even looking back.
Taking it to heart
Now words are even harder for mom. We have been going to a new church this last year and helping with the college program. They feed the local students every week after church. I try to enlist mom to help serve.
After everyone has their food, the staff can get theirs and sit down. We usually end up at a table together. Everyone is so sweet to ask mom questions. She does her best to answer. It takes a while. Her go-to stories are not as accessible as they used to be. I need to fill in. I used to jump in, but now I wait.
They are all so patient. They don't always save a place for me to sit by her! I have walked away and let people engage my mom without me. Big deep breath. I saw smiling faces around her, not anxious or awkward ones. Just gracious ones. I have seen a young college girl, with her smile full of braces at 18, sitting and talking with my mom, listening while mom tries to talk. At first, I was worried something was wrong when I looked over and saw them sitting together, but nope. Neither one needed to be rescued.
I thanked one of the men who had been kindly speaking with my mother at the table. I told him it was so good for her. I was thinking of the socialization, the practice talking, the mental stimulation, the physicality of serving food and walking up and down their stairs. He said it was good for them, too!
I am taking that to heart. It had not occurred to me that it would be good for them. I know it has been good for my family.
Landing my helicopter
So, I’m landing my helicopter. She does not need me to run interference. She does not need to make sense. We can all use this kind of grace and kindness and support and respect. My mom is still a person. And I am, too. I'm looking forward to next Sunday.
Do you relate to Kathy's situation when it comes to "helicopter-ing" your loved one with Alzheimer's?
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?