Her mother was a patient on our ward, a specialized unit for older adults (75+). The daughter had been passionate, caring and dedicated. She would drive for hours back and forth, three times a week, to support her mother. All of this while working and having a family of her own. I sympathized with her and said she had been a real support for her mom, my colleague said her mom is lucky to have her. She broke into tears. She told me that “she had been the best mother”. That stuck with me. I wondered, what would my daughter say in a situation like this?
Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash
The daughter’s statement didn’t come from a one-off situation. It doesn’t mean that her mother never made any “parenting mistakes” either. She didn’t tell any of this. But, to feel and act in this way, she must have experienced a lot of love, care and sacrifice from her mother. A consistent pattern of behavior and attitude that send the message: I love you, you are good enough, and I’m here for you.
Dementia and Old Memories
Many of our patients have dementia, some are more advanced than others. With dementia, people struggle to learn new things or remember recent events. Things that happened a few days, weeks or months ago are the hardest to remember and the first to go. Many patients will still remember events from 30, 40 years ago or much more. They also tend to tend stories, many times with great pride, humour, or pain.
Photo by Gert Stockmans on Unsplash
Some of the most heart-wrenching moments for me is when patients recall and ruminate about traumatic memories. One patient who had only mild dementia, knew he had dementia. He told me he wished it had taken away the “painful stuff first”. Many of these memories, unfortunately, related to growing up. Patients in their 80s or 90s would still recall emotional or physical abuse by parents or family. Some don’t remember the details, but would indeed remember how it made them feel. How it still made them feel.
Again, I’m not writing this to make myself or other parents feel guilty. These painful experiences are always about consistent patterns of abuse, cold or hurtful parenting. It is a reminder of the great responsibility we have, and that our actions can have long-lasting effects on our children. This is also true if you are a teacher, or a social worker, or anyone who works with children and youths.
I leave you with this quote:
Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. — Charles R. Swindoll
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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