I bought Mom a beautiful fake flower in a glass bowl. My mother loves flowers, but we can’t have any living plants in her room because she pours water on them continually. There are some problems with that.
1. Plants die if the roots are submerged in water. We have lost a few.
2. Eventually, they begin to smell.
3. She uses the water she is supposed to drink, and then it’s impossible to track her water consumption. Water is a vital part of what I manage because one of the first things to go with dementia is a sense of thirst, and dehydration is a real issue.
The day I bought this lovely plant, I entered her room to find the pot filled with water! I felt irritated and explained to Mom that it wasn’t a living plant, it didn’t need water, water might ruin it, etc. Then I cleaned out the pot and the mess on the dresser. I refilled her water glass.
When I returned, she had again filled the vase with water. This is what dementia is, and it isn’t her fault, but I was tired and felt angry to have another mess. I knew she couldn’t recall our previous conversation, and if I said it all to her again, she wouldn’t remember. However, if she kept putting water in the vase, I would have to remove the plant from her room. I mean, it was a fake plant and didn’t need water. Right!
Later, standing at the sink washing dishes, I had this thought, “What does it matter?” I was astonished and stood thinking about it. What did it matter? If water were in the vase, it would just be there. The stems were plastic, and the vase was glass, so water shouldn’t hurt. I didn’t want water in the vase, it was out of order. But what did it really matter?
I returned to my mom’s room and said, “You know Mom, if there is water in this vase, it doesn’t hurt anything. It doesn’t matter. Why don’t you put some water in the vase, and then you won’t worry about it.” She poured water in the vase, and it made her happy. After all, to her, it was a living plant. She sat back in her rocking chair, and I said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I can get grouchy.” She smiled and replied, “That’s OK.” Then we hugged. Eventually, the water evaporated, and she never refilled it. It was only on her mind that first day. Not a problem at all.
As I thought about this experience, several things came to my mind.
•There isn’t just one right or OK way to do a thing.
•Flexibility when working with others smooths our daily interactions.
When something seems wrong, bizarre, or dangerous, we need to stop and consider if that is a story, we are telling ourselves or if the facts indicate it’s true. If it’s true, then we need to act. However, if it’s just not how we would do it or if it seems out of order to us, then we should step back and see how it could be made manageable.
When we do this, it can impact our relationships in a big way. It is freeing to us and validating to others when they are allowed to make decisions for themselves even if they are different from what we might do. My boys and their bedrooms are a good example.
Managing a Boys Dirty Room!
I am a very tidy person, and I like order. When I was younger, I felt this was right and the only way to be. That caused me some problems because order and tidiness aren’t important to everyone. Take my three boys for example. Their rooms, in my opinion, were pigsty’s. The floors, dresser tops, closets, bed, and every space in their rooms were littered with stuff.
Of course, I spent lots of time yelling about their messy rooms. I had consequences if the rooms were out of order. It never made a dent. Even on days when I wouldn’t let them leave till their rooms were clean, by that night, they would be in disarray and cluttered again.
I finally got tired of yelling and how it made me feel, how it was hurting my relationship with my boys. I knew there had to be another way to handle it, so I prayed and pondered the situation. I came up with a plan that worked perfectly for many years.
I sat the boys down and told them how their messy rooms made me feel. I told them that I knew they didn’t feel the same way, so here was how we were going to handle our differences.
If I couldn’t see the mess, I would leave them alone. That meant they had to keep their doors closed with nothing spilling into the hallway. Maybe they would clean them occasionally, but that was up to them.
The caveat was this, every six months the room had to be deep cleaned. I would tell them when the cleaning week was. They could clean the room, or I would. They could decide what stayed and what went if they cleaned their room. However, if I cleaned their room that decision was up to me.
My sons Barry and Seth never cleaned their rooms, and I was more than happy to go in every six months and dung them out. Cleaning is my thing and I like it. They didn’t care if I junked stuff. It was perfect.
My son Andrew didn’t want me in his stuff so every six months he would deep clean his room and I stayed out. That also worked perfectly.
I know this wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but for us, it was a great way to handle the issue. No more yelling, no more Saturdays with upset boys sitting in their rooms feeling angry. And every six months I got to do my thing. As I said, for us it was perfect. Don’s Christmas ornaments are another good example.
Don’s Christmas Ornaments
Don loves decorations at Christmas. I used to go all out. Our home looked like a Better Homes and Gardens picture. But I’m older now, and I don’t care about most of the trappings of Christmas. Much of what I do these days is for Don. I would buy a big poinsettia and call it good. LOL
Last Christmas, as has happened for many years, Don didn’t want to take down the tree. He would leave it up till April if he could and did do that one year. : ) I, of course, wanted the tree down and all the paraphernalia put away. You know, back in order. But he was firm in his desire to be able to see his favorite decorations longer. What could I do?
Again, I prayed and pondered the situation. One morning I saw this picture in my mind; all of Don’s favorite ornaments hung on the wall behind his desk. And that is where they hang year-round, to this day. It isn’t what I would do because it is cluttered to me. However, I can live with it, and he is as happy as a clam because it’s how he would do things.
My daughter Jodie, has a wonderful saying that she lives by. I have seen her use it consistently in her home, and I know the results. I am often amazed at her yeses, and I have learned a lot about flexibility watching her with her children. Her belief in this saying has paid off many times. I work to remember this more often and it helps me focus on people, not things, and my way of how it should be done.