Can Mom really not do certain tasks or does she just not want to?
Answered by Karen Garner
Mom, diagnosed with moderate cognitive impairment, who has never had a strong healthy regimen, is starting to lie to me about performing tasks (that I know she is capable of doing), and I find myself constantly asking, is this something she can't do anymore or won't do anymore? Examples: wash your hands with soap when you are done going potty. She will turn on the water and stand there without even putting her hands under the water and then lie about performing the task. She can dance (quite vigorously) to songs she likes without getting winded but doing simple leg lifts while using the counter top for stabilization sends her into hyperventilating after only 10 reps. What's going on here?
One of the most difficult parts of my journey with Jim was being witness to his decline in many ways, including simple tasks that normally could be done with seemingly little thought. It is very possible your Mom thinks she has washed her hands. She turned on the water and that may be what her mind is letting her do.
With cognitive impairment, the brain isn’t connecting the way it used to or should. Imagine a train going down the tracks and all of a sudden there are parts of the track missing. It must stop or run off the track. Eventually, a new piece is put in and the train can continue. But as the train progresses, more and more pieces are taken away and it becomes harder to move forward.
Unfortunately there will come a day when your Mom won’t even be able to turn on the water. Please keep in mind, she isn’t telling you a lie. She is struggling in her own mind to understand what is happening to herself, trying to remember who she is, where she is and what she is doing. Anything above and beyond is going to be pushing her limits.
I encourage you to stop, take a breath and assume she is doing the best she can at that very moment. Much easier said than done, and I will be the first to admit I often would succumb to the quick reaction of getting frustrated and angry. If she can’t do the leg lifts, then just stick with the dancing. You are probably scared as well because each time she can’t do something, it reminds you she is sick. I am sure that there are many moments throughout your day with her where she may seem fine and then all of sudden you are watching her change before your very eyes. I am sorry you are going through this, but you are able to be a supportive and helpful daughter which is just wonderful.