Being the Wind, being the Sun

I read a story long ago of the Sun and the Wind arguing about who is more powerful.

Then they spot this man walking on a road below, wearing a cape, and decided that whichever of them could make the man take off his cape was the more powerful one. Wind took the first turn, and blew a gale hard on the man, hoping to force the cape off him. The man only drew it close around him, gripping tightly like his life depended on it. The harder the Wind tried, the tighter the man clung to his cape. Then the Sun took his turn, and shone gently on the man, and the man relaxed and took off his cape.

Of course, the story doesn’t make all that much sense if we factor in that the Wind did the only thing it could, and so did the Sun. But I always think of this story when I remember my years of caregiving for my mother.

It is relatively recently that I’ve really figured out how to make caregiving work. Before this, I struggled and did my best, and so, I am sure, did she, but somehow things were often a struggle. She seemed so resistant to accepting her problems or taking help. I tried to reach through to her but lacked the skills. I tried to make her understand the reality of her situation and accept it so that we could make things smoother all around, but she did not understand. Often she denied there was a problem and got agitated at me, blaming me.  She was obviously unhappy, but even though we managed to connect sometimes, those episodes were short-duration and not a strong foundation.

When I write of the peaceful and happy times nowadays, people who have never been caregivers for an illness like dementia are not likely to truly register how much had to change to reach this point. My current approach may seem to them like a natural situation in a family when there is love and concern, and it may even seem obvious that a child should take care thus of a parent with dementia. On the other hand, people who are caring for a dementia patient may not be able to imagine that a patient who was stubborn could start cooperating and expressing/ responding to affection…It is a struggle found all too often in families where a loved one has dementia, even if family cannot openly speak about it.

Fact is, I made mistakes for years. Not “mistake” type of mistakes as much as using an unproductive set of assumptions. The mistakes were not made  knowingly (is that a redundant statement?) but I did stuff that harmed more than it helped. Stuff I wouldn’t have done if I’d understood dementia better, or known the “caregiver essential toolkit” of how to communicate, how to help in activities of daily living, how to reduce or handle challenging behavior.

What turned things around finally defied my idea of “common sense” because the very characteristic of dementia went counter to my model of interpreting behavior or responding to it.

Just as it is important to share what works, it is also important to be open about the mistakes, and to see what shift in the way of thinking can reduce them…

The most prominent mistake I made in the earlier days was force-fitting patterns instead of looking afresh at facts, and seeing intention where the cause was confusion. There are many memories edging their way into my mind again; I shall wait for them to settle so that I can select some to blog about tomorrow.

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

One Response to Being the Wind, being the Sun

  1. Pingback: Not letting the tears go waste… « Swapna writes…

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