The mundane prerequisites of everyday life; the niceties that are required from birth that represent the rules of engagement of a civilized society. "Good Morning" ..."Thank You" ... "Have a good Day" are examples of such rhetorical commentary that is always just at the surface. Nothing too personal, nothing too intimate, not a true show of love or concern, but, to be sure, this is the social highway that allows all of our cars to drive the path of least resistance.
These congenialities between strangers and friends happen more often than not. But what happens when more is required? Therein lies the rub. What if you say "Good Morning" and all you get back is a shoulder shrug? What if someone has something in their teeth and you know you should say something, or heaven forbid someone's zipper is down? We have all experienced the anxiety that overtakes us when we have to break out of one of our four or five canned responses that we use daily. Now imagine that you are responsible for someone that has no filter; no social norms at all. Then comes the anxiety of "should I explain the situation?" What if this awkward way of life was the rule, not the exception?
Living with, and caring for, someone with dementia breaks the mold. The rules of engagement change monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly. There is no normal! The right response on Monday could be the wrong response on Tuesday. Words are meaningless and empathy is gutted and redefined. "Don't tell me it's a good day!" Chaos, indifference, misunderstanding, sadness, and despair are the realities I fight. But, tomorrow may bring a beautiful sunny day, and while I drink my coffee and catch my breath, at least for a moment, I don't care if someone's zipper is down. -Todd