It may be impossible to forestall unknown diseases like dementia, but when one cultivates a life of peace, love and mastery of their reactions to bad and unexpected situations, this often rewires the brain chemistry over a period of time. Hardwired habits continue, even in sickness, to retain these reactions even in the most advanced years. I learned this in quite a “hands-on” way over the weekend.
I have recently taken up the service of caring for the elderly. My first job with a local senior care agency turned into a hard lesson learned that I am still recovering from physically and emotionally tonight.
I accepted a position over the weekend which had the promise of being a good bit of income over this past week, but turned into me quitting after two nights. Upon contemplation into why my charge was so difficult to get along with, it wasn’t hard to see why when I also looked at his family. I was told the man was “cranky” and had “dementia”. While the scientific mechanics behind the plague that is dementia is still eluding scientists, I am convinced part of the reasons lie in the man’s life path, also reflected in his family’s behavior during those difficult two and a half days. There is much truth in the saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. This old wisdom simply states that a tree’s fruit (i.e. it’s “children”) are much like the tree it came from. Before I tempt confusing you dear readers further, let me get into the nuts and bolts of what I encountered, then describe the family and perhaps things will become clearer.
My charge – we will call him, Roby (which is not his real name), was angry, hated his children, claimed they were only around to take his money, stole his and his wife’s cars and were never around to care for him. Having been around my mother growing up (17 years) who had been paranoid/schizophrenic and my mother-in-law (28 years) who had been manic depressive and dementia-ridden in her final years, I was ready to forgive Roby his behavior until I met the family. I discovered that not only was he to blame even though he had a mental illness he could not control, but it was not for the reasons I believed! The family held the seeds to his paranoid rants – his son-in-law had borrowed money and was indeed late paying it back, his grandchildren borrowed his car and one of his two daughters had borrowed his wife’s car and one of those daughters had lived with him three months before fleeing back to the sanity of her own household while the daughter that had hired me through the agency had been able to endure only two months with her difficult father.
In a sense, they had planted the seeds for their father’s demented rants in the first place by their behavior…never mind that that Roby had indeed told the granddaughter she could borrow it in the first place in that particular case. While the dementia and forgetfulness had twisted this last reality into a paranoid unreality, it was indeed based on a grain of truth in that the girl had borrowed the car in the first place. Now, while you might side with his two grown two daughters who ran exhausted, stressed and frustrated from such an unmanageable situation, it still all falls back to a man who by his very nature was nasty, surly, mean and self-centered.
How do I know this since I have known him only two days? He gave me clues all along the way that this was and had always been his personality. One disturbing example came in a moment of absolute clarity when he was not ranting at a relative and was actually pleasant to get along with. He talked about knowing that one day, God would purge all the homosexuals from the Earth, that they were not natural, etc. This very statement, echoed by another elder I had known years ago who was not demented, points to a severely intolerant personality of anything different from himself. Now that you know his behavior and that of his family, you might wonder why I said I was ready to forgive Roby completely for his behavior until I met the family, but not for the reasons I believed. This is why: Yes he was demented and yes his family were giving his dementia fuel, though unintentionally. Of that there is no doubt. And how can I still say after all this that I can still blame Roby when he has dementia? Easy. Because his nature of nasty, surly, mean and self-centeredness had shaped the very behavior in his family that was the fuel for his twisted view of their actions!
Let me clarify this further: A person’s behavior is learned from their parents. If a parent teaches a child that it is okay to borrow a car (instead of paying for their own and keeping it maintained), then passes this lesson on to his (Roby’s) granddaughter and she does it, well, is it the parent at fault or the grandparent for the child borrowing the car? The answer is it is both. The child’s parents okay’d it and so did their parent (Roby)…the parents learned the lesson from their parents.
If we do a little digging, we find a person’s tendency to drink, beat their children, etc. are either reactions to the actions of bad/evil parents and/or are learned traits 90% of the time. The same is true of lesser tendencies, like borrowing money, cars and leaving a situation when it gets bad. I am not arguing in this article nor taking sides on the issue of homosexuals, borrowing cars or senior abandonment. They are merely real-life examples that fuel the twisted view of a man who was very nasty and unpleasant even before the onset of dementia. I merely had to meditate and dig deeper to see who and what was really to blame here.
If you can wrap your head around the lesson of this digging behind the answers for the real answers you can see why it takes the wisdom of a Crone to understand it and why it is actually possible to not suffer so in our golden years, even if you have such debilitating illnesses like dementia. “Fear leads to anger, Anger leads to hate, Hate leads to suffering.”