Saturday, August 25, 2012

Alzheimer's and Learning How to Trust


“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.”
-- Mother Teresa

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room


Alzheimer's and Learning How to Trust
Trust
Dotty has been known to tell some pretty tall tales. Wild and crazy stories that are loosely based on facts.

When Dotty first started doing this I couldn't wait to correct her, or tell the person she was telling the story too, it didn't happen. I needed to do that.

After I realized I had to change, and to stop making everything about me, I stopped doing that.

Once I learned to listen, rather than correct, I soon realized that Dotty's tall tales where usually based on the on truth that was stuck in her mind, and then on whatever information she could pull from various parts of her brain to make the story understandable. Understandable for herself.

For example. For a few years Dotty told anyone that would listen that Billy (my brother) had come to Delray Beach, came into the condo, looked around and left. This story by the way took place on Christmas day.

Now this story was a little crazy for the following reason. Billy lives in Philadelphia, about 1250 miles from Delray. Would he fly to Delray Beach look around and then go home? Doubtful.

Nevertheless, my mother told her best friends this story and they believed it. Some asked Dotty, why did he leave? This lead to a part of the story I didn't like. She blamed me. In other words, she told her friends I said something to him he didn't like and he left. It was my fault.

This lead Dotty's friends to ask me, what happened, what did you say? I asked them, does it make any sense that my brother would travel 1250 miles and then turn around and go straight back home? Of course they would answer no. I would then explain, there you go, it never happened.

This would leave my mother's friends perplexed and confused. I would then inform them, one by one, that it never happened, Dotty made the story up. Mainly they would just shake their head. Keep in mind these were the same people that also believed Dotty when she told them, I was starving her to death and wouldn't give her anything to eat.

Back to Billy. Here is what actually happened. Billy called my mother on Christmas day and talked to Dotty on the telephone. Later in the day Dotty remembered she talked to Billy but that was pretty much it. I guess her brain told her she talked to Billy in person right here in our home. If that was the case, where was he? To make sense of this I suppose Dotty's brain told her, he went home. Then when someone asked, why did he go home, her brain told her the only reasonable explanation, because he didn't like something. Turned out, that something was me.

Here is an interesting fact. Dotty continues to tell this story. Sometimes to my sister Joanne, sometime to a friend. In fact, she must have told that story to Joanne alone about 20 times over the years. However, in the modern day story when asked why he went home Dotty answers, I don't know.

Aha, she no longer blames me. Maybe this is just the way it is. Or maybe, Dotty now trusts me, so she doesn't blame.

Dotty is still telling and making up fascinating stories to this day. I say fascinating because of the look on the face of the person she is telling them too. They look really fascinated and mesmerized by her tales.

Me?

Unless they ask, I let them go right on believing every word she says. Why not. Dotty believes what she is saying to be true. I no longer feel the need to correct her.

In Alzheimer's World, Dotty's stories are true. Dotty believes them to be true, so they are true. No, Dotty is not lying.

In the beginning, I needed to correct Dotty when she told a story I knew was not "correct". I suppose I needed to show I was in control. I allowed the real world to dictate my words and actions, to correct a story that was untrue to me.

Once I started looking at the world from Dotty's point of view, and starting thinking about why Dotty was doing certain things or engaging in certain bizarre behaviors, I no longer needed to try and change what was. I learned to listen to Dotty for clues to what was happening in Dotty's brain. I learned to accept what is. Is versus Was.

One of Dotty's very best stories is about how she is 95 years old and has never taken any medication in her life. When she tells this story to someone that does not know her, and she tells it all the time, you should see the look on their face and hear the sound of their voice. They are fascinated and mesmerized.

In the old days, I would immediately correct Dotty. And then end up feeling miserable. Correction, we would both end up feeling miserable.

Now? I just let it fly. It never ceases to amaze me how Dotty's tall tales are so believable. More believable and more interesting than the truth.

Now I prefer to be an observer and listener. I end up feeling happy, sometimes elated.

After all, Dotty is extracting information from her brain. Must be something going on in there. And the tall tales are really quite good, most of the time.

Now to my point.

Once I started trusting and listening to Dotty, she started trusting and listening to me. I know to some people that might sound impossible. It is possible.

Yes, when this all started Dotty was mean, moody, paranoid, often dull, and was stressing me out like there was no tomorrow.

Now she is kinder and gentler. I am kinder, gentler and more understanding.

I know that some people think that Alzheimer's World is a bad, chaotic kinda place. A place that can drag you down. You can't catch Alzheimer's and you can't get stuck in Alzheimer's World.

Me? I think Alzheimer's World is a kind and gentle place. I know one thing for certain, I am a lot happier now then I was before I found the World.

The key here, I learned to trust Dotty, and now she trusts me.

Trust = Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. Confident expectation of something; hope.


Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room