I know you have been here – everything is indicative of a good day. The weather. The people. The food. The conversation. The to-do list. Then out of nowhere it all changes on a dime.
That is today. Good weather, checking stuff off the list. I returned from a quick trip to the market with the boys. John went outside to check on Granny – she was in the back 40 with a yard waste can. He returned and announced that she is mowing the grass in the backyard with her hands. I nodded. She is working on the broadleaf problem, I responded. John gave me a strange look, like “ya, no she isn’t”. So out I went.
Stupidly oblivious about what I was walking into, “Hi Mom!”, I chirped. “Hi nothing”, was hissed in my general direction. All of my body instantly jumped to alert – not quite DEFCON 1 – but 2 or 3 for sure. Each step from here needed to be carefully placed. I started with gentle questions in order to determine and defuse the situation. Her anger was not to be ignored.
This happens. It feels more frequent than it is, but the frequency and intensity has increased over the past 6 months. An innate activity sets her off, usually a chore she deems important and that my children have not accomplished to her satisfaction. In this case, the edging near the wood pile that follows the mowing. There are reasons and I was aware that it was not completed. Not the least of them being, Jacob is 15 years old. There were friends waiting to play Xbox, I’m sure. The adult solution would have been to come find me and tell me the trimming needs to be taken care of that it looks awful from their living room.
Instead, seething she decided to tackle it on her own, by hand. Literally pulling each blade out by hand. This caused additional aggravation, because her hands have been plagued with osteoarthritis and the fingers are bent. Making a fist tight enough to pull a blade of grass, I thought was nearly impossible. Never underestimate a Granny full of anger. By the time I reached her, she probably had been 40 minutes at work. I attempted to rationalize with her. That was only met with more ranting.
This indicates we are at DEFCON 4 (whatever the highest level is) and there will be no settling down. My next move is to remove her from the situation. Get her inside. A beverage. A deep breathe. Medication if needed.
Without engaging in additional conversation, I got her inside. I proceeded straight to my room to retrieve medication. When I returned to her kitchen, she was washing her hands and now had a hold of recycling. I could see what would happen next. The manic behavior was not going to settle itself. She was going to accidently end up needing stitches from slicing her hand on a can she was in the midst of washing for the third time.
I reached over to her and gently said, “You need to take this.” As I did she opened her mouth, I placed the tiny tranquilizer on her tongue. Then she bit down hard on my finger. Holy Crap Batman! I can not remember the last time I was bit! That hurts!! I extracted my finger from her teeth. This allowed her to say “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bite you.” I asked her to please sit and take a few deep breathes. Knowing she was safe, I went to wash and assess my finger. It was still attached!
To me, this confirms just how far down the rabbit hole she was with rage on this rant. The tranquillizer took affect. She rested quietly for a few hours. When she surfaced for dinner, she was back to herself. She was aware that she had been out of control but not exactly how or what transpired. Definitely no recall of biting me. This is typical for her, meaning when the rage escalates she can not recall any events that occurred during the episode.
While my mom was resting, I had the previously mentioned 15 year old, get out the edger and take care of the “grass so tall, I (Granny) could get swallowed”. Her words not mine. He obliged. Additionally, this great kid went and apologized to his Granny.
This is a typical example of how the disease impacts the entire household. John was the initial recipient of the rage. I know this affects him, even though he doesn’t say much about it. I was the second one in. I do not like to be yelled at by anyone. Then to be 53 years old and yelled at by your mom, it is a little demoralizing. I am hurt. I am sad. Third man in, Jacob. In this instance I am not sure if I yelled at him for not properly completing a job he is paid to do. I am sure I “mentioned” it. He is a sensitive kid. He got the double whammy. Mom and Granny with reactions. My husband gets secondhand me unloading and then me – in a trance trying to replay every moment leading up to and through the interactions to see what could have been different. Better. All plans for the evening meal have shifted to bare minimum.
The highs and lows of life.
I have friends who have faced so much more anger from their parents during their journeys. I understand this isn’t the worst. Again, just my reality as it is today.
My suggestions include:
- Document each episode for the doctor. Including what led up to it. Missed meal? Missed medicine? An argument with someone? No sleep?
- Try not to argue with your loved one when they have reached “the point”. This is difficult to do!! For me, my initial response is to defend myself. As soon as the response is out of my mouth, I pull back and employ the “do not argue” technique. Human nature, right.
- Remove them from the situation that is upsetting them. In other words, change their surroundings.
- Remind them to take a deep breathe.
- For us, I offer my mom a cup of tea (her go to), and it is hot so she can’t just swallow it immediately. It forces her to slow down. Even if she says no, I do it anyway.
- Talk to their doctor. For us, I have a prescription that I am able to judge the situation and administer the medication. (We had an earlier neurologist that prescribed the medication. At that time we were given the option to have her take it daily or just as needed. We chose as needed. Glad we did.)
- Once they are settling and safe, remove yourself, if you can and breathe.
Have you experienced similar situations of escalated anger? Reactions that aren’t justified to the situation? Have you established a method of dealing with them? I would love to hear from you. I know this disease is ever changing and what works for us today, may not work next week. That said – there may be a better solution for us today – let me know how you handle it.
Thank you for reading.
“Caregiving is a series of small acts of care that alter the course of someone’s life.”thecaregiverspace.org