I don’t want to toot my own horn, but how cute is my apartment?! This is the first place I’ve rented entirely on my own and I’m so proud of the work I’ve put into painting, decorating, and affording it. I feel like such a grownup! After all, nothing screams “adult” or “accomplished” quite like a stenciled accent wall (confession: it’s not worth it.. do yourself a favor and go with wallpaper).
This may seem like a humble brag post, but there’s a reason I’m mentioning both my apartment and my affinity for it. It’s not just my place that I love right now, it’s my life. I’m head over heels for my job, my friends, my galavanting, and for where I’m at in general. It breaks my heart, then, to know that when my loves say they “want to go home,” this is where they mean. Nine times out of 10, they’re not referring to the house they’ve lived in for the last 30 years, and they certainly don’t mean the nursing home in which they currently reside. This “home” isn’t even necessarily a tangible place; it’s their life.
Nonnos and nonnas with dementia often have their long-term memories intact despite everything newer being a mess. “New” doesn’t have to be last week, either – it can apply to anything within the last, say, 30 years. As a result, it’s not uncommon for them to revert back to a much earlier time in their lives. Your 97-year-old nonna may truly believe she’s actually a broke twenty-something living in a one-bedroom with her dog Max and debating about whether or not to paint over her accent wall. She may look in the mirror and feel both confused and deceived, as there’s no way she could possibly be staring at her own reflection. She could look at her son, a grown man, and wonder why this creepy middle-aged guy is calling her “mom” – her baby boy isn’t even walking yet!
As caregivers, we have to be willing to let go of what was to sanely and effectively embrace what is. Trying to convince your mom that she is home will only further instigate an argument that you will never, ever win. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to bring your dad to the home he seems to miss, it likely won’t suffice; he’s yearning for the life he lived there, too.. for the friends that surrounded him and the times that they shared together.
As difficult as I know that it can be, try not to fight with your nonna when she insists she doesn’t live with you. Instead, ask her about her home and what she loves the most about it. Encourage your nonno to share stories of his angsty teens. Put yourself in their shoes and empathize with their confusion. If I woke up in a strange place with same-colored walls and an 8lb poodle at my feet claiming to be Max, I would be crazed, especially if imposters insisted I was home.
*note: to my future husband, if you happen to read my blog.. you’d better plan on moving to the apt pictured above because i want this to be my life forever. sorry in advance for the zebra print.*