Alzheimer’s and personal growth

I never imagined that the most important lessons I would learn from my mother, would be imparted without her even realising it, during the stage of her life dominated by Alzheimer’s.  I am sure she would be surprised too if she knew how much she continues to teach me, from her wheelchair, with her mobility and speech almost gone…

My mother has helped me get to know myself better and every day she shows me my light and my shade without judging me. She invites me to get the very best out of myself and also challenges the most limiting aspects of my personality. An example: that habit of mine of always doing something, of keeping myself active and productive, impatient, always thinking of the next thing to be done.

When I am with her, this doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because if I want to feel close to her, I must enter into the bubble she inhabits and which is called NOW.  I get to the care home where she lives, I say hello, I search for her eyes, I sit down next to her… and everything stops. Even her afternoon jelly at six becomes an event requiring my total presence.   My mother has taught me that not everything is about Doing, that simply Being is much more important, above all when it comes to creating closeness and intimacy with the people we love.

And this thing that happens to me, this act of confronting my own patterns of behaviour, is what I also see when I hold workshops for relatives of Alzheimer’s patients with the Moving your Soul team.  Other fathers, mothers, spouses, siblings are unwitting teachers of life for these family members that look after them and who, in one way or another, watch over them.

One of them must learn to let go, another to say “I love you”, a third to look after him or herself, or to ask for help… each of us brings to this illness, to this school of life, our own particular notebook, in which we must learn how to write a little better.  To humbly return to the role of student and learn the lessons we didn’t quite get to.

This is why, at Moving Your Soul one of our most fundamental beliefs is:

Opening ourselves up to dementia is also opening ourselves up to the opportunities for personal and relational growth that come with it.

And the fact is that our approach comes from the discipline of coaching, which seeks to unlock the potential of each and every human being, in search of completeness and growth.  Even in the most adverse circumstances of life.

Olga Romanillos