Setting No Expectations
The leader of the Alzheimer's support group that Mom attends has spoken about not setting expectations when interacting with an Alzheimer's patient. If we do, we set ourselves up for disappointment. For example, during the later stages of Alzheimer's we hurt ourselves if we go in wondering or hoping if today our name will be remembered because it was last week or yesterday. The name may not be there when we have an expectation of it being present leading to our disappointment or pain.
A friend wrote to me before Mom and Lyn arrived with similar advice. She wrote "...remember that no amount of planning will make everything go smooth. But, do remember that even if you burn the turkey because you have a moment with Lyn or your Mom and forget it is cooking, (or if) you make a perfect bird but someone spills the wine causing a meltdown, or if, well, the human psyche just shuts off creating an odd sense of strained silence . . . roll with it. It is worth it in the end."
She points out that the perfection of the meal or the idealized vision of my family gathering is not the important bit. Instead, it is important to be in the moment, this moment, the here and now and right this minute moment because we won't get a redo. It is important just that we are here. The food is there to keep our bodies going. Our minds and our hearts are nourished by the interactions we foster with each other.
With the prescient advice of both of these ladies in mind, we're setting no expectations for Lyn any longer. Each day is different with her. Each day is another opportunity to take a picture, make her laugh or try to keep her engaged with the world around her. Some days, like Sunday, she meets it with flying colors. Some days she's going to struggle. Some days are in-between. Yesterday was an in-between day. We made it until the end of dinner before the tears came and that was good enough.