When Mommy Becomes a Child

Question Mark In Maze Shows Confusion And Puzzled
Helplessly lost in maze of confusion

It’s frightening. You feel helpless. Your mother who took care of you as a child has become a child herself. And it is you who must care for her now. Not just physical care. That would be difficult but still easier to handle. Now she needs you to guide her, to explain things like she did for you when you were small. To tell her again and again and again what she seemed to know yesterday. To guard her from danger – from a hot stove, from busy streets. And like a small child, she doesn’t want to be guided. She may lash out in fury. Not unlike you did at age four. But unlike a small child, she is not gradually maturing. It gets worse each day.    

How do you switch roles, relinquishing your place as a child and becoming a mommy to the one who represented ‘mommyhood’ to you all these years?

And what do you tell your children who used to love it when Savta visits and now are confused and terrified?

Handling your dual roles is tortuous. You ache for someone to be there for you – to explain, to support, to empower. There are thousands like you and that is why, after intensive advance work and collaboration with local municipal Social Service Departments, the Shaked Center, and the National Insurance Institute, Ezer Mizion Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Family Support center hosted a gathering for care-giving family members on the subject of “Dementia.” An overflow crowd of hundreds of care-givers and family members attended!

The gathering opened with a presentation of the various services available in Israel that provide for the needs of care-giving family members.

Next, Dr. Yael Zilbershlag, occupational therapist and gerontologist, delivered a fascinating lecture on the topic of “Memory and Forgetfulness and What Lies between Them.” The audience was extremely focused and asked many questions.

Following the lecture, there was a “Playback Theater” that modeled coping situations for effectively dealing with dementia patients’ challenging behaviors. Witnessing scenes that had been happening in their own homes behind closed doors, scenes that they had been embarrassed to discuss with anyone, enabled the care-givers to realize that the incomprehensible behavior was not Mommy but the disease. The many coping techniques empowered them to handle previously tortuous situations. Leaving the event, they felt galvanized and eager to put all that they had learned into practice.

This event was an important and exciting opportunity for Ezer Mizion to provide an additional response to care-giving relatives who cope with their loved one’s dementia with unflagging devotion and courage.

A special thank you to Aviva Schwartz, Tzipporah Fried Center social worker at Ezer Mizion’s Bat Yam-Holon-Rishon Lezion branch who contributed much to the evening’s success with her dedication and professionalism.

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