Am I “normal,” whatever that is? Why doesn’t anyone seem to care about me? Can’t they ask about something other than my in-law?
Those of us “stuck” with being the son or daughter-in-law of a dementia patient often ask these questions of ourselves and the world around us. What are we to do? It seems all of the world’s information is written for the biological sons and daughters, other caregivers, and grandchildren of the patients.
This very feeling of being left out of the loop once my mother-in-law forgot who I am to her and her son led me to write the book, “Don’t Forget the In-Laws: The Other Side of Dementia’s Fence.”
As the family found out her diagnosis and began to navigate its ramifications, I wrote a series of essays. It began with how what my pastor described as the grieving process affected me.
I looked up, for a refresher of what I had learned in psychology classes, the phases of grieving. As I did this, I saw myself in each one, sometimes one at a time and sometimes several at once, as different events happened and I logged them into lists of what my mother-in-law said or did or how the family felt about those things.
I looked simultaneously online for information geared toward those where I found myself as the in-law of the patient. Some friends recommended various books they had read as their own parents fell into dementia’s traps, or books for the children to read.
However, once I could no longer provide regular care for my mother-in-law and she began to forget I belonged to the family, I wondered where besides my pastor and a few other folks at my church I could find information or support. Finding none online, I decided to begin writing out what happened to us and how it made me feel.
I wanted to educate others in the ranks of dementia in-laws and show them that none of us is alone in the fight.
Checking Amazon and Google for that seemingly nonexistent information only led me to finish the book of essays more quickly.
BookLocker.com published the book, with cover art by a family friend, in November 2014 after I won a contest in which the reward was a publishing package through their company. In addition to the series of essays on how the grieving process can affect a dementia patient’s in-law, I wrote a section in the book on other questions that pop up among the family, and one on ways even an introvert such as myself can cope with the situation.
It always seems so much of the world is geared toward extroverts and others who talk to everyone that more introverted people either get ignored or do not know how we can get our points across to others when situations such as being asked too much about our “favorite dementia patient” get to be too much for our systems to handle and we need to discuss other topics.
I hope that in reading “Don’t Forget the In-Laws: The Other Side of Dementia’s Fence,” people who find themselves in this compromising position will learn coping mechanisms. I would also like for them to see that none of us is alone.
I don’t believe there is a “normal” person or family in the fight against dementia, nor do I think anyone needs to be enslaved to it. If we come together, we can fight the valiant fight for a cure and all educate and support one another.
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