My mother is my most low maintenance, undemanding care receiver. A few years back, my mom enjoyed going out more than she does now. We did things like going to the botanical gardens, doing a boat tour of the local lakes and canals, going to a play or out to lunch. Now, my mom is not a fan of outings. They are taxing both physically and cognitively. She gets tired easily and because she has to use a walker, she finds navigating sidewalks and store aisles cumbersome. However, nothing keeps her from her daily walk outside after breakfast, because she can control how long it is.
To be honest, she enjoyed those outings in the past, but probably just to humor me. She is content to stay put. Often people ask me, “Why don’t you take your mom out more?” or “Why don’t you sign your mom up to go with the facility to that activity?” For a while, I felt guilty not suggesting and cajoling and accompanying more than I did. It took me a while to realize that it was my dad who used to like to go and do. It was never my mom’s personality. My mom stopped reading books a while back, which was one of her favorite activities earlier in life. When I asked her about it, she said it was just too hard to follow the plot or remember from one sitting to the next about the characters. Now she loves her word finds. Like, obsessively loves them. So, I keep her stocked up. I cannot make her who she was, I can only meet her where she is at now.
This past month I took her to a local high school production of The Sound of Music. It was a family favorite growing up and my sister and I were both in high school drama club, as is my niece now. Not only was it a way to relate to the past, but a way to picture what her granddaughter in Iowa is doing. It did my heart good that even though she did not remember much of the plot, I could hear her humming quietly along with the familiar songs. At intermission, she actually said, “I am happy,” which is not my mom’s norm to communicate feelings. It was not a novel experience or an exciting day, but it made her happy. Which made me happy. Afterward, my mom had no interest in going out for dinner. She had heard there would be peach cobbler at the facility and that was her goal. So, I took her home, because that is what she wanted.
So, this Mother’s Day, if you are blessed to still have her, I encourage you to take a step back and do something your mother would enjoy as the person she is now. Maybe that is just having lunch at the facility together. Maybe that is going to get a manicure together. Maybe that is getting her a word find or coloring book. Maybe that is taking a trip. All we truly have is today, let’s use it to love well.
Anita is the founder of Family Link and wants to share with you some tools and thoughts to help you with the complex responsibility of managing the care of aging loved ones while still managing the other aspects of your life.