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Cruel to be Kind?

Nan did so well this Christmas. She laughed and joked with us all, and was so happy with her presents. She didn’t want to let go of them! She managed to eat half a Christmas dinner, and tucked away a couple of port and lemons and a glass of wine. She found mum, my sister and I bickering and trading during Monopoly absolutely hilarious.

At the end of the day we were both exhausted, and as I was tucking nan in I asked her if she had enjoyed her Christmas, and she told me it was one of her best ever. Boxing day we had a lovely restful day, tidying up and chilling. We also watched a fair amount of Downton Abbey, another thing we’ve found to bond about.

Today though, not so great. I woke up feeling really cheerful, determined to have another great day. And then dementia happened. Nan spent ages sitting staring at the TV, I guess she had forgotten how to turn it on. But it felt like she was expecting me to do it for her. So we had a chat about how she needs to be doing stuff for herself again now. I picked up the slack while we moved but nan is able to get round the house and kitchen now without the signs on all the doors. Nan did not react well to being told to stuff for herself. She said she does. I was a bit rude and asked for an example, she said she hadn’t done anything this morning. No, no morning nan. I’ve been doing it all for you lately, you’re not even making your own cups of tea. And then she told me I should stop doing these things for her then. This was kind of the point of my conversation, I was hoping for a reasonable chat about nan taking back the reins of her life.

But of course I had not allowed for dementia nan making a sudden (although not unexpected) return. She then burst into tears, and I felt horrible. She told me I didn’t understand that her brain doesn’t work like mine. I held her hand and explained that I understand more than most. That’s why I’m being so harsh about this. It’s important that she does things for herself before she forgets how to. I’m here to help, not to do (this is a recurrent theme in my mind at the moment, I briefly touched on it in the Monopoly post).

I guess I thought I should take over and let nan concentrate on settling in. But she settled in quicker than me, and now I’m just doing things out of habit. But really she doesn’t need me to, she is just coming to rely on/expect me to do these things. And it has dawned on me that this is not what is best for nan. It may be easier for me, but it is just giving me more to worry and stress about and taking away nan’s independence.

A few nudges later she got up to check the calendar so she could put the TV book on the right date, but by the time she had got from the calendar to the TV book she had forgotten again so I encouraged her to go and check again and without any prompting she took the TV book with her. After picking something she wanted to watch I gave her step by step instructions on how to turn the TV on. So she did, and then made herself a drink. So I’m hoping she felt a bit more accomplished.

Am I being cruel to be kind? Or just cruel? Is this really what nan needs? For the greater good? Or is it just an excuse for me to not feel guilty about not wanting to do EVERYTHING?

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