At beach yoga, we sometimes tell our students that the hardest part of the class is already over when they arrive at the beach. That is, the most difficult move they will make, is showing up for class. The same is true for exercising, eating better, being kinder, more patient, or tackling any task that takes us out of our comfort zone or off the couch. Yeah, we know what we should do, but it’s just so much easier to put it off until later, or tomorrow, or never.
I remember reprimanding our oldest son when he was a teenager. I can’t say exactly what the infraction was, but he was on the receiving end of a parental lecture. When it was his turn to speak he said simply, “Mom, I know the right thing to do, sometimes I just choose not to do it.” Hard to argue with that. More often than not, the right choice is more difficult to make and to implement than the status quo. And more recently, no one understands this concept better than my husband, because the vicissitudes of dementia has descended on his mother.
My mother-in-law has a generous disposition and a deep affection for her family. She would share her last crust of bread. She would open her home to a stranger. She is also a nervous talker who fills gaps in conversation with idle chatter, and often the chatter is poked with fabrications, and sometimes wisps of fantasy. And while her heart might be in the right place, her fervor for babble shoots holes through any filter that might spare the feelings or opinions of her audience. But in the last couple of years, the chitchat has become laced with confusion and the darts of poisonous accusations.
The loss of familiar cognition is like sliding into a dark hole. The bright light of recognition and memory becomes gradually smaller as you are pulled deeper into the gray matter of jumbled memory and paranoia. I helplessly watched it happen to my own dad a few years ago, and saw the effect it had on my mother, his caregiver, and the recipient of his demented tirades. While the body and the face of your loved one are present, the barren gaze of their dementia exposes the slips in comprehension.
So, for my husband, it is time to design a plan. How much longer should his mother be on her own? When should the keys to her car be seized? Who will pay her bills? These are the questions he has been asking himself and his four siblings since he took her to the doctor six months ago. “Dementia” the doctor said. “She needs to be looking at assisted care,” he prescribed. “She will begin to decline quickly,” her doctor accurately predicted. Yet, my husband is a soldier of one. His brothers and sister aren’t ready to make decisions or change the course of what’s familiar. This family has reached a milestone that begs for action. Difficult decisions will not recede. The progression of this disease will not reverse. The family will soon rely solely on loving memories of their mother, as the woman who lives in her body becomes an exaggerated version of her least-lovable character.
It is with deep compassion that I share this. Knowing the frustration and grief that come with making impossibly difficult decisions on someone else’s behalf. But the option in this case is not an option. Because inaction, in the words of my husband, “is like witnessing a crime but doing nothing to stop it.”
So, he has laid the foundation of change, and started down the path of most resistance. His siblings will eventually fall into line or fall out in protest. The words of Theodore Roosevelt sum it up best: “In any moment of decision, the best thing is to do the right thing, the next best thing is to do the wrong thing, and the worst thing to do is nothing.”
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 391 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.