Family, Poetry, Real life

6 priceless gifts you could give people living with dementia (and everyone else for that matter!)

These gifts are inexpensive (they don’t cost dollars and cents, so everyone can afford them), and yet priceless (because of the fact they can’t be bought, and must be given from the heart). Even better, they can be gifted all year round!

Please consider giving one, several or all of these gifts this year (and always) to people who live with dementia in your family, your community and around the world.

Respect

You could treat people who live with dementia like the human beings they still are no matter what “stage” of the condition they are living with. You could treat them like adults, not children. You could respect their wishes, wants and desires. You could believe their lives still have value, and you could demonstrate that belief in the way you interact with them.

Love

You may have been told that people who live with dementia become empty shells. But that’s not true. They are people with rights and needs just like the rest of us, and they need to be loved just like the rest of us do. Share your love.

Time

You could give them the most precious gift of all: the gift of time. Carve out a space in your busy life and go to visit someone living alone, or someone who rarely gets visitors even if they are living in community. Once you get there, sit and stay awhile. You don’t have to do anything – just being with someone is often enough.

Understanding

People who live with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are widely misunderstood, stigmatized and marginalized. If each and every one of us took the time to educate ourselves and to really understand what’s going one with people who live with dementia, and what causes them to behave the way they do, we would all be a lot better off. If you haven’t already begun learning, start educating yourself now.

Compassion

Imagine what it might be like to be experiencing brain changes in which your memory and your ability to understand the world are shifting in ways that make it hard for you to navigate reality. Imagine what it might be like to experience stigma and isolation, to have other people take control of your life. Imagine what it might be like to walk in their shoes, and then give the people you interact with who are living with dementia your compassion and understanding.

Advocacy

People who live with dementia are often treated like objects, like pieces of furniture, as if they are less than human. Many are unable to speak up for themselves. We need to be their voice. We need to ensure that they are treated with dignity, and that they get the care they have a right to. When you see people who live with dementia being neglected, abused or treated in ways they shouldn’t be, SAY SOMETHING! And then keep advocating until things change.

These are gifts that money can’t buy, but that we all have the capacity to give.

Please give generously.

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Care Partnering, Hope, Joy, Life & Living, Love

5 good things alzheimer’s brought me more of

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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