Just say “Thank you! I greatly appreciated that you did that”
This seems simple. It is something that I have said intentionally and meaning every word many times throughout my life. And many of those times to my mom. Now with her living in our home and the disease progressing it has become glaringly obvious – she needs to be needed.
A dear friend first pointed this out to me about a year ago while we were at lunch and I was venting some frustration. More recently, my husband said the same thing to me one evening.
In the mornings I am in the kitchen before my mom comes out. I start the coffee and proceeded to ‘clean up’ the kitchen from the adventures that take place after I have long gone to sleep. (Oh the beauty of having teenage boys!) Then I take my coffee and usually leave the kitchen. Mom comes into the kitchen for coffee. Upon seeing anything out of place, she is derailed, coffee forgotten. Mom spends at least an hour wiping and restacking dirty dishes in the sink. (Side note – they are still in the sink because some child has not yet emptied the dishwasher from the night before.) Mom’s effort can be a help and greatly appreciated. (Yes, you read that correctly, they ‘can’ be a help, although not always necessary.)
Once our paths cross, mom mentions that she spent an exaggerated amount of time (exaggerated only she has zero sense of time) in the kitchen cleaning that morning. I thank her. When we happen to be in the kitchen throughout the day, it is brought up again and again. I am asked if I noticed? Or if it made loading the dishwasher easier? I respond yes. My response probably has an edge the more times the question is presented.
I do not think she really remembers. I can see it on her face – she has always been the woman that has given 110% of herself to her family, her church, her friends, and anyone in need.
This is the same woman who as a recent widow(1990), decided to go back to college (already having two degrees) and become a nurse in an 18-month accelerated program so she could help others. Then volunteered at a free clinic for years. The maintenance staff at her church was laid off and she volunteered to spend hours on her knees cleaning the marble floors by hand. After Hurricane Katrina, she rode to the Gulf with a group from another church and spent weeks working on rebuilding. These are only a few examples of her generosity. She has spent her life in service.
She continues in service even with her Alzheimer’s progressing. Before the pandemic she would spend hours Sunday after Mass running ‘coffee & donuts’, even to her own peril. Her desire to help has a different component now, the fact that she needs confirmation that she is needed and has helped. Just say “Thank you! I greatly appreciated that you did that”
I can hear people wondering why? Why I don’t just say it repeatedly to her as many times as she needs to hear it?
I am human and not living in a bubble. My life is pulled in several directions, as you know. So when my mom comes to me and announces that she has spent countless hours lining our backyard with bark (that she removed from our firewood) because one of the boys didn’t edge close enough to the fence. The bark will kill the longer grass, is her expectation. (No clue that it was due to the edger running out of string the day before!) Mom wants me to thank her as she is explaining to me what she has accomplished. I can’t even process what she is telling me – “Why?” is my first thought. What my mom needs to hear is, “Thank you! That is such a wonderful thing! I greatly appreciate your effort!”
It is hard to get the words out when you aren’t just focused on one person and one singular act. While processing what it is going to take to undo that task that didn’t need to be accomplished – because it was never a task – the words get lost.
Now I inhale and TRY to get the words out and then process later. I TRY. It is the best I can do.
While I am no expert in everyone’s situation, my recommendations:
- Be patient with yourself (I know this is a tough ask).
- Be patient with your loved one (this too can be a tough ask).
- Remember, they didn’t ask for this disease.
- They are trying to be helpful.
- They are trying to not be a burden.
Do you find any of this to be your experience? What is your method of getting through a tough moment? Do you walk away? Do you quietly say a prayer? Let me know, maybe it is something I can try! I certainly do not have all the answers.
Thank you for visiting. I hope to hear from you.
Patience is the companion of wisdom.Saint Augustine