Mom doesn’t really sundown. Not in the severe sense that I know some people do. Thankfully. I’m acutely aware of how fortunate we are that she does not, thus far, tend towards that particularly upsetting aspect of dementia. But if there’s a time of day when she might be more easily agitated for what seems to be trivial reasons, it’s in the evening.
That happened last night. She became absolutely incensed with me because I neglected to tell her she needed to give a urine sample, as requested by her doctor. And this was not her forgetting that I told her. I really hadn’t. There was no point. She would’ve just forgotten, and I didn’t need to collect the sample yet. So I just waited until I knew she’d be able to pee, and put the sample bottle out on the toilet for her.
Assume the Position
She went suborbital like a speeding bullet. All I could do was mentally make like a roly poly. Don’t engage. Don’t ever say, “calm down.” Don’t try to make her see reason. Just say, “I’m sorry” and take it on the chin.
It didn’t last long. A minute or two. Then we got the sample, and got her into her regular nightly ablutions routine.
The Predictability of the Unpredictable
Why she got so upset that I didn’t tell her about the urine sample is a complete mystery to me. That’s the thing about dementia. I never know what might upset her, but I do know things will upset her, and there’s not much I can do to predict what will or what won’t. The best and only thing I can do is help steer her through it to a place where she can be her normal, happy self.
That’s why when, a few weeks ago, a well-meaning cousin offered to have Mom spend the night with her, to give me a break while I was sick, that I had to refuse the gesture. It wasn’t that I didn’t relish the idea of an evening and morning on my own. Sick or no, I would have loved it! But I was worried that the odds were high of Mom freaking out about it.
She has a daily routine that she still can keep to, fairly well. She still has some muscle memory left in her brain; she knows where her toothbrush and make-up remover wipes are. Her bed and linens and cat are familiar, and she knows how to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night, if necessary. Taking her out of what is familiar for no reason other than respite for me would have just been cruel.
I know. I know. The caregiver has to take care of herself if she is to care for someone else. But with reason, and rationale. Overnight sleep overs in a strange setting are not reasonable, or rational. In this case, my job really was to put Mom’s needs before my own.
Some days seem like a breeze. Other days more like a gale. And no matter how much I deconstruct, I almost never know why.