Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Different Perspective

One of the porcelain dolls Mom has made.
On Black Friday, in order to spend time together rather than fall into the shopping frenzy, all five of us went to Artist for a Day, where you paint your own pottery. The last time we took Mom there, she did not paint anything because she thought she would not be able to paint well with her hand tremors and trouble concentrating. However, she has been doing some painting at the local senior center and she said she would paint this time. I was very excited because I love to do things like this, and I especially like to go with Mom because she and I used to go to places like this every once in a while.

When we got there, Mom picked out a ring and jewelry holder to paint for my sister. The paint she picked was three different shades of rose, because my sister loves roses, and Mom wanted the paint to fade from dark to light. I thought this would be a fairly doable project as there was no detailed painting. However, this proved to be a bit too confusing. Mom could not remember where each color was supposed to go, or  how to carry out her vision of the fading paint colors. I tried to help by checking in with her on how she was doing. I also traced the outline of the piece on paper and set the ring holder on top of it. I highlighted the three sections and numbered each color to show Mom which part of the ring holder should be painted with what color, to get the shading effect. However, it was still a bit to hard for her. What she ended up doing was not what she envisioned, but it still turned out beautiful.

While we were painting, I really wished there was a way I could help her better. I felt bad that I could not figure out how to make it easier for her. I was also saddened by the fact that while my Mom used to paint the detailed, beautiful faces on porcelain dolls she used to make, that this was so hard for her now. It was great fun to be together and work on our projects, but I felt a bit sad at what Mom has lost the ability to do.

When my Mom gave the ring holder to my sister, she was so happy. She mentioned to Mom that there still are things she can do, she has not lost her ability to do things she loves. My sister mentioned that painting things like this is something Mom could do as gifts for us kids and her grand kids if she wanted to.

I was grateful for my sister’s different perspective than the one I had. I loved that Mom could still paint, but I was focusing too much on the abilities Mom had lost. I was focusing too much on the difference between the detailed faces of the porcelain dolls and the more free-form art of the ring holder. Living with Mom every day, I see so many things that are different than before. So many things she can no longer do, and that makes me sad and scared. I am scared about what will happen in the future. Will Mom forget us? How bad will her dementia get?

My sister, on the other hand, was able to see what Mom can still do. Her perspective made things less scary. It was easier for me to appreciate what we still have instead of worrying about what else we might loose as Mom’s dementia progresses.

It is helpful to have different perspectives when dealing with dementia because it is easy to get caught up in either denying that it exists, or being terrified of what the future holds.


Rev. Katie


  1. Thank you Katie... what a beautiful picture you painted of your mother's struggles to paint. Letting her discover what she could do was probably the best way you could help her.

    Yours in faith,