Preserving My Mom's Dignity: Respecting Her Perspective

It's easy to get all business like when there is so much to do for your loved one (LO) living with dementia (LOLWD also LOWD). You want to expedite all the processes to get them over with, so you can get to all the millions of things you still need to do for your own life and family. No one wants to linger over toileting, showering, pull-up changes, meal prep, laundry, or bed sheet changes.

My mom is living with us and we are caring for her. A lot goes into that.

Our roles may feel totally reversed now, but I still need to show her dignity and respect. It's good for her and it's good for me. Here are some ideas I have been thinking about on this topic as her disease has progressed.

It's all about perspective

The first, is managing my perspective.

It's not good for me, or her, to briskly get through these chores. They aren't just my "tasks." They are part of our relationship. It's actually bonding and connecting through care.

We are hoping to get a puppy soon, and all of those things are what bond us with the puppy as she sees us as the source of her well being. Good things come from us. When my kids were babies, it was all true of them too, as their little brains developed.

My mom is a lot like a kid these days. All of the things we do has value for more than the individual tasks.

Respecting modesty

My mom may not remember what toilet paper is for and is very puzzled what to do with it when I hand it to her, but she feels exposed and vulnerable when she farts or isn't fully dressed.

She's half naked, so it's convenient to pop in the shower, getting naked the rest of the way.

Mom falteringly shifts her arms around her body to cover her nakedness. I try to keep things moving and focus on the next step. I hold her hand to guide her into the shower, then draw the curtain closed. I have a towel and robe handy for when she is done. I try to respect her modesty as best I can, while still taking intimate care of her. I don't brush it off.

I try to care about what she cares about. Isn't that a basic of love?

Encouragement and praise

I try to praise her as much as I can. Being positive also helps me. When she successfully uses toilet paper or wipes and cleans herself off I praise her - good job! When she gets dressed on her own and finds those pesky sleeves - perfect!

I have recognized that she is a perfectionist and is unsure about what she does, and if it's good enough. I see her pleased or relaxed and happy when I tell her she did good.

Recognizing that she can't help it

She was sitting on the toilet, and I needed her to lift her feet, so I could put on a new pull up. She looked around. "Mom, where are your feet?" She looked at the toilet paper, at her knees, everywhere, but her feet. "Mom, do you know you are forgetting things?"

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"Of course!" was her matter-of-fact response. I had to laugh. Okay - there you have it. That helps my perspective.

Common courtesy

It's also easy to talk about mom in front of her instead of excusing ourselves and going to another room. We are sitting down, comfy, and don't want to move. She doesn't get it anyway. As my kids pointed out though - that's not cool.

Sometimes she does get it, and we might not know when. They didn't like seeing that. I don't want to offend anyone or be a bad example to my kids either. That's not the attitude I want to be modeling. I wouldn't talk behind someone's back. Again, it's not good for me to lapse this way, either.

Everyone can have their own list for caring for a LOWD. What's your top 5? Which do you have trouble with the most?

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