“Man Plans, God Laughs” –English translation of Yiddish proverb
I’m a big-time sucker for a good quote and Iove a good proverb. There’s something about the feeling when a quote, with a message that really resonates with you, hits you resulting in that “ahhh….they get me” moment. The proverb above fits that bill, except Mom and I’s version is “Man Plans, Mom’s Dementia Laughs.”
My day-to-day caregiving plan generally consists of only a few priorities. Stay positive. Actively listen to Mom. And stay positive. From there, I fill in the blanks based on what a given day calls for. Rather than over engineer things, I’ve found this works best for me, and more importantly, for Mom.
Mom’s Dementia Was Laughing
The problem recently was that my plan wasn’t working. I was beaten down by Mom’s dementia. Little tasks seemed like climbing Everest. I didn’t have the capacity I normally do to listen (really listen) to Mom. I felt emotionally drained and physically defeated. Mom’s dementia was laughing at me.
I’m still not sure why I was feeling that way. For now, I’ve settled on thinking of it as a brief spell of caregiver burnout. Understanding what the trigger was would be helpful but more important to me was recognizing how I was feeling, which in turn set me on a path to try and do something about it.
Once I recognized it, I took some personal inventory.
What kind of sleep was I getting?
Was I exercising?
Was I feeling guilty about something?
I talked with her doctors and community about their observations.
Figured out what people could help with and asked for it.
Mom’s dementia was still laughing at me because the inventory wasn’t any help. I didn’t feel any better. Still drained. And still defeated.
So I ramped up my go-to moves for snapping myself out of a funk. More time with the kids, more exercise, and more outdoor time. And I was still coming up empty. At a loss and by now feeling a little frustrated, I went back in time to the beginning of Mom’s adventure with dementia.
Thinking along the lines of things are never as bad as they seem, my intent was to force myself into thinking about the positives.
- Mom always used to tell things are never as bad as they seem but I’m pretty sure she’s not the luminary that coined the phrase originally.
- I like the saying a lot. While it doesn’t give me that “ahh….they get me” feeling, it was pretty fitting for how I was feeling.
What ended up happening though, as I forced myself to go back in time and think about the positives, was sweet. Without knowing it, I was painting a picture of what I love most about supporting Mom on her dementia adventure. As I continued, I began jotting my thoughts down. I now had a list of what was most fulfilling to me about caring for Mom. And the whole experience– thinking it, reading it, and writing it– left me feeling lighter. Refreshed. Renewed.
The laughter of Mom’s dementia was silenced. Because I reminded myself of what was most fulfilling to me about supporting Mom on her journey.
Seeing the sheer and unrelenting cruelty of the disease, it’s impact on Mom day-to-day, and the way she chooses to fight it in pursuit of living her best life, gives me perspective.
When I stop and think about it, suddenly whatever’s weighing on me at work, at home, or in my caregiving role seems trivial. If I’m nervous, scared, or angry about something, thinking about what Mom is faced with (and how she handles it) snaps me out of it real quick.
With this evolved perspective, I feel more compassionate and empathetic. I’m a better person for having it.
Paying a Debt
I owe everything to Mom. She brought me into this world and has given me more than I can ever repay. Before Mom’s dementia, in some ways I viewed raising my own children with as much love and devotion as she showed me, as one way to repay a little of the debt I owe Mom. And honor her, too. I still feel that way, but now I have another way to repay.
My role in Mom’s journey now is an opportunity for me to repay a little more of what I owe her. I know I won’t have the debt paid in full, but the feeling of fulfillment it gives me, deep in my bones, is unmistakable.
Four years ago I wouldn’t have thought the bond Mom and I share could have become any deeper or more solid. I’m an only child and she’s a single parent. How can it not be as strong as it gets? But I would have been incorrect.
Our present dynamic, where Mom relies on me for everything, has evolved our relationship in unimaginable and indescribable ways. Some of those ways are really sad, no doubt. But lots are beautiful.
As dementia has tightened its grip on Mom, I’ve had a window into her soul that I don’t think I would have had if it weren’t for us walking this path together. I wish we were walking a different path but am thankful for the palpably deeper bond I feel with Mom. I’m (more than) fulfilled by the thought that I’ll feel it until I take my last breath, whenever that may be.
I’ll continue to make plans. Mom’s dementia will continue to laugh. But now I have another tool to quiet the laughter. And support her with all the vigor I’ve got.
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