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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.