Morning problems, in my experience, have to do with getting started.
Food and drink
Those are Mom’s immediate needs when she gets out of bed. The problems arise when she refuses clean clothes, food and drink, and/or medications. If she refuses one, she will often go on to refuse all three.
Two actions are called for on those days:
1) I have to expect that — sooner or later — Mom will cooperate; and
2) I have to step back if she refuses, wait, and try again later as if it were the first time.
Taking those actions always produces positive results for me.
And yes, both are ACTIONS.
Expecting success has to be more than a thought. It must be a conviction: Mom WILL cooperate and she will probably do it right away. That expectation leads me to act in a certain way. Caregivers soon realize that their own stress and anxiety spills over onto their loved ones, and can complicate a good situation or make a difficult one even harder to resolve. Similarly, our expectation of success translated into calm, assured words and movements can influence our loved ones in a positive way. So foreseeing a good outcome lets me be relaxed. I can smile as I take Mom’s arm and lead her to the bathroom. If she refuses to cooperate right away, my expectation of eventual success prompts me to take additional actions: I watch for signs she’s ready for help; I stay prepared with clothes at hand, food and drink kept warm or cold, medications close by and ready. And expecting success gives me more patience, more energy to keep trying.
Backing away when Mom refuses to let me help is hard in a lot of ways. When she doesn’t want to get clean and dressed, the threat to her health from lack of hygiene is bad enough. But messes of all kinds can result from Mom not being clean. When she goes without food and drink after having nothing during the night, her physical/mental/emotional condition can decline quickly. And the need to take medication on at least a fairly regular schedule is critically important. So backing away when Mom says “No!” is very hard to do. But what is the choice? I never use my physical strength to get Mom to do something unless she’s in immediate danger. I can clean the messes later. And if I become concerned that lack of food, drink, or medication has gone on too long, I can call the doctor for help and advice. So I back away.
And wait. But again — this is an active waiting. I watch for a change in Mom’s expression, a look in my direction, restless movement, maybe shuffling her feet. I listen for a word, a sound. Those can be signals that Mom’s “in a different place” and might feel more agreeable. The more important point is that I let some time pass, usually just a few minutes.
Then, even if I see no outward indication of any change, I try again. Maybe I use different words. Maybe I approach the task differently. Or maybe I do things exactly the same way as last time. And maybe Mom will say yes this time, maybe not. But my actions and attitude are based on my absolute conviction that she will cooperate. Probably soon.
Finally, when I try again, I make sure to do it as though this is the first time today we’ve started this activity. I say nothing about Mom having refused earlier. I make no mention of time or being late. We’re simply doing what we do every day: getting dressed and eating and taking medications.
These actions work for me on every difficult morning. Of course they also apply to other situations at other times of day, but mornings are special, especially for caregivers. Our loved ones likely won’t remember in the afternoon or evening whether their morning went smoothly or not. But beginning the day well is a real boost for us caregivers.
Father, You have promised that when I call, You will hear and answer. I experience the truth of that promise daily.Thank You for allowing me to trust You completely.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3 NIV).