When Love Falls: The Dementia Chronicles

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I was barely awake, my eyes still closed, when I heard her crying. At first I thought it was a dream, but as I became more and more alert I recognized my mother’s voice, her sobs loud enough to reach the baby monitor across from her bed.

Quickly I got up and went downstairs, and found her lying face-down on the floor, bleeding profusely from the nose. She had managed to get herself completely dressed, including shoes, so there is no telling how long she’d been up. Or down, as the case may be. “Hold on, Mom. I need to get help.” I called the case manager, who told me to call 9-1-1. Then I yelled for Craig. Somehow we managed to get Mom into a chair. “Have someone put away any animals, get her list of meds, and wait out front for the ambulance” the operator told me. And get dressed, I added to my mental list.

As I scurried about, Craig kindly asked her how it happened. “I just didn’t want to be a burden any more. You already do too much,” she protested.

“But Mom,” I chided, as gently as I could. “You are family, and we’re glad you’re here. We want to keep you safe!”

At the hospital, they took x-rays and found that she had a “small break” in her nose, but that no serious damage had occurred. So we took her home and let her rest, and I wondered what more I needed to be doing that I wasn’t already doing.

It’s funny, and yet it’s not, that this is a question very similar to those I’ve asked myself in the past about the kids: What more should we be doing? How could I have let this happen? And my personal favorite: If I just love enough, shouldn’t everything be okay?

It’s a hard pill to swallow, that even the best and most loving caregivers won’t get it right 100% of the time. There are going to be times when … well, when it feels like love falls down on the job. Why? For the simple reason that loving someone is not the same as controlling him or her. We can choose our actions, but not the consequences.

I can wrap my loved one (young or old) in bubble wrap and bed restraints. But that is not love, though it is the only way to ensure their safety 100%. But love? Love is a lot harder. Love is what makes you stand with them after the fall, and help them find their footing again.

It’s probably the hardest lesson in caretaking, figuring out where my will should end, and theirs begin. Giving Mom room to stay as useful and self-reliant as she can, even if it means that sometimes we fall together. And to teach my children the same, so they don’t look to me to do for them what they should be doing for themselves.

Today I was reminded that, even at its best, sometimes love will fall.

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7 thoughts on “When Love Falls: The Dementia Chronicles

  1. I’m so sorry for all you’re going through! This certainly was not your fault and as you say, not everything is preventable. I will continue to keep your family in prayer.

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  2. Oh, Heidi, my heart emotes with yours. Love never fails – but must fall sometimes. God bless you and Craig for the most holy love of all – sacrificial!

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  3. Even at its best, love can never be fully protective. Not even God’s perfect love keeps us safe from falls that damage us. It’s how we handle the ways our loved ones cause their own problems that matter. My dad decided to walk down our long driveway despite us telling him he’s too weak that very same morning and multiple times before. By the grace of God, literally, I was home when he snuck out and broke his neck. He now has pins in his neck and never got back home again except for visits, because he got weaker in rehab and now needs more assistance than our backs can handle. But by the grace of God again, a room opened up for him in a small assisted living house just 2 miles from our home. God’s timing ensures that our love can do its best.

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  4. My demented mom fell on March 14, 2018. She was subsequently admitted to the hospital & then to rehab & then to hospice & died on May 12. She’d lived with us for 22 yrs. Within the last 2 yrs, we had to have a security system installed, padlocked the gates outside & had the doors re-keyed. She still managed to get out & was furious when she was found.
    Long & short of it is that, as bad as it sounds, I learned that you can’t take care of someone who doesn’t want to be taken care of. She completely wore out the family she loved.

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