5 good things alzheimer’s brought me more of

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150615 Mom and me

Fellow blogger Rena McDaniel ran a post entitled I’VE BEEN ROBBED! on her blog The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver in which she described the devastation Alzheimer’s disease has wrought in her life.

I know where she’s coming from; so do millions of others. I strongly believe we need to change that. We need to change the way we think, write and deal with the disease and the people who have it. After I read her piece, I challenged Rena to write a follow-up about the ways in which being a dementia caregiver has been a blessing in her life. She responded with this list of blessings which include:

“I am blessed… that everyday I don’t have to worry that she is being neglected, abused or uncared for. That I am able with the help of my wonderful husband to provide…a safe, comfortable… environment for her to relax in with no worries.”

Me too Rena! I also wrote about some of the blessings I received as a care partner to my Mom who died on August 17, 2016:

1) Time

Had Mom not developed dementia, I likely would have stayed overseas for several more years. On my return to Canada, I would probably would have chosen to live in another part of the country, further away from her, somewhere far to the east or west. Because of her illness, I spent about three months a year with her from 2005 to 2011. I lived with her 24/7 in her own home for a year (2011/12) and saw her virtually every day after she moved into a nursing home in November 2012.

Dementia gave us the priceless gift of time. I’m grateful to destiny for this thing that was meant to be.

 

2) Depth

Many people experience dementia as the gradual and painful loss of someone they love. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is often described as “the long goodbye.”

For me, it was a long hello. It afforded me the chance to more fully understand who my mother was as a person. I saw it as a peeling a way of layers to reveal the essence of someone I’d known my entire life and who I grew to know in a different way. Our decade together from 2006 to 2016 gave me the opportunity to know her better than I ever would have otherwise.

Diving deep into our relationship has been scary, rewarding and unexpected.

 

3) Healing

In the process of being her care partner and understanding her better, I was also been able to explore aspects of our relationship that were hurtful and harmful to me. I found ways to let go of those parts and to grow others that better served my higher self and I hope hers as well. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have cleared negative feelings from my side of our relationship before Mom left this world.

We had some amazing conversations and incredible experiences together. Many of them profoundly touched my heart.

 

4) Practice

Living “in the now” gets a lot of lip service. Living with someone who lived with dementia forced me to practice the principles of being aware in ways I had never done before. Dementia has no past, present or future. It is this second, this minute, this moment in time. There are no yesterdays or tomorrows; there is only today. Now is it. No more, no less. The practice of being more present in pain as well as joy is a great gift. It creates a deeper connection with self and the universe.

 

5) Opportunity

The experience and the process I went through with Mom taught me a multitude of new things about dementia, music, compassion, conflict, communication and more. Had I known in 2006 what I do now, I would have done things differently. On the other hand, I now have a huge opportunity to help others do better than I did.

I can take what I’ve learned and use it to reduce others’ suffering. I can contribute to the pioneering movement to change the way we engage people who live with dementia. All of these things are great gifts, and I have still more to share — stay tuned.

In the meantime, take a look a Rena’s post to see how she’s been blessed in different ways than I have been.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Yes, yes and yes! As I finish polishing my mother’s eulogy I too am reframing our relationship and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis made a lot of the positive things in our relationship happen. No more time to hold onto and nurse grudges and resentments. Instead I found redemption, grace, forgiveness and love. Not the way I would have chosen, but at least we got there in the end.

    • “I found redemption, grace, forgiveness and love. Not the way I would have chosen, but at least we got there in the end.”

      yes, me too. And that’s why I can never “hate” this disease, because in a way it was a vehicle that brought us both, mom and me, to all of those things. And I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that she felt it too. Had she died suddenly, swiftly, without this story that goes along with the evolution of the disease, well, I don’t even want to think about that… We’re lucky Heidi. Also, to give ourselves credit, beyond the “luck” lies a willingness to go places that are hurtful, uncomfortable, unknown, and frightening. Good for you, good for me, good for our moms <3

    • Di, I’m not ALWAYS positive either – I have my ups and downs. But overall it’s important for me to find meaning in the challenges, suffering and often less than ideal circumstances of life, so that’s what I try to do. It makes a difference for me and I hope it can make a difference for others too. Always love your blog and thanks for writing it.

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