But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children. Deuteronomy 4:9
Mom’s diagnosis with dementia came to us after she had her first stroke. We had noticed her memory lapses prior, but she had covered it all up well. After the second stroke there was no hiding anything. Her memory was gone and her world and ours changed drastically.
There is something that the medical world calls “confabulation” that dementia patients do. Confabulation is a type of memory error in which gaps in a person’s memory are unconsciously filled with fabricated, misinterpreted, or distorted information. When this happens it is very difficult. Sometimes the error contains bits of reality, but it is so distorted that it is unrecognizable as true. So for example, my mother did actually live at the beach, but she is convinced we are there now. The stories are often so outlandish that it is key to to keep a sense of humor about things. It is sometimes the only way to get through the pain.
When mom and dad first moved in and mom began telling these stories, it was very difficult. First, I didn’t always know if what she was saying was true. For example, one day mom started talking about meeting the Princess of Wales. I thought it was a lie until I remembered and dad verified that mom did actually meet Princess Diana when she worked closely with the Reagan White House.
But other stories I know not to be true like when she told me she was a cupcake maker just after watching a Hallmark movie about a cupcake maker. Mom is also, at least in the evening, very convinced she has small babies and she gets anxious looking for them.
When all of this started happening, my first response was to correct her, to tell her the truth. I would say, “no mom, you aren’t a cupcake maker, you are retired and live with me. I am your daughter.” She would become so angry and agitated, like I have never seen before. She would call me a liar and dig her heels in. She would accuse me of conspiring against her. After watching some videos a doctor made on dementia patients we learned the term “confabulation” and that in her mind she is not lying. That because of the damage to her brain from the disease, her brain has found a different reality to help her cope and that reality can change from day to day. Any mention of the truth can throw her into a state of extreme agitation and anger. The advice the doctor gave was to either go along with it or to try to distract her. These are the things that keep the peace. I even went to a Priest to ask whether doing these things put me in a situation of lying or if it was okay to “go along with” the distortion. After pulling out the catechism and reading Saint Augustine about lying, he assured me it was okay to go along with it to keep the peace in my household.
One of the worst parts about confabulation is when your mother accuses you of things that are so very not true. Often in my mom’s eyes, I am keeping her trapped, in prison. If I have to change her or shower her or try to help her she yells at me that she can do it herself and I have no right to do these things. Never mind that she cannot walk or dress herself. In her head she often thinks I am imprisoning her even as I try something as simple as keeping her clean. She has called me a liar more than once and she accuses me of taking her freedom away.
After months of now dealing with this, I began to see that this is how God must feel about us. From my perspective I am caring for and loving her. I give all that I have to her. My home, my physical work of my hands, my things, whatever she needs, what ever I have is hers. But because of the damage to her brain her reality is distorted and she blames me for her problems and rails at me (at least some of the time, not everyday is this way). The more I would try to tell truth, the more she refuses to believe it, so I let her be. I try my best to always respond in love to her no matter what it is she may be saying to me. Some days are harder than others, but thus far I have handled it well with the help of my wonderful husband.
In mom’s case she can’t help it. A disease has ravaged her brain. But when I look at the world I see something that reminds me of dementia. People have had their thoughts so distorted by the enemy that they believe lies. God gives and gives and gives, and people rail at Him, accuse Him of their suffering, accuse Him of taking their freedom, all the while their brains have been shaped by the enemy who is actually the liar. In mom’s case she cannot help it. In our society we have chosen to believe lies and we run away from the very one who can heal us, or even worse we actually stand in pride in front of the healer and tell Him His ways are wrong, stuck in our own pride. Just a sampling of the lies we have chosen as a society to believe and we can see it is no wonder we are in the state we are in;
Politicians believe that they are actually helping women by paving a way for them to easily kill their children.
Parents and educators believe they are helping their child by allowing the purpose of sexuality to be twisted or even worse transitioning them into a sex that they are not.
Scientists and doctors believe they are helping mankind by stopping our fertility with contraception and by making vaccines on the backs of aborted children.
The distortion is displayed out in the open now.
And anyone who tries to tell them the truth gets railed at and canceled. They rage at the God they do not know who is only trying to make them clean. God says let me love you. I want to give and give and give blessing to you and to care for you. And society screams “no” making their decisions based on fabrications and distorted information. They see God as the jailer all the while they have handed themselves over to the jailer who comes from the pit of hell.
And so it is here dear brothers and sisters, that those who see the truth must ask ourselves a question. Can we love the individual in front of us anyway?
With my mother it is easy to keep loving her. She is my mom after all, and I see what has happened. I know it is a disease and it is not her fault. I know how well she loved me even when I was a bratty toddler, teenager, and sometimes adult. Mom sacrificed for me, so the sacrifice for her becomes easy.
But with the person you don’t know who is wrapped in lies can you still love?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36
Mercy and love are the answer. This doesn’t mean “going along with” the lies as you might go along with a dementia patients confabulation. We must stand in the way as Jesus did. But we must also understand the persecution that comes with that. This is because they don’t want just your love, they want the acceptance of their sin. They want you to tell them their sin is good. But we can’t. God alone is good and the sin is destroying them. So we must be ready for what comes when you stand against sin.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
In time I suspect that mom will totally forget who I am. It seems our society has totally forgotten who God is, how good God is. Let those of us who know him not forget and shine light in the darkness for others to see.
Psalm 103, a Psalm of David
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live[a]
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.