This afternoon, I was with my father at the residence where he’s been for the last three months. He has dementia that is compatible with Alzheimer’s. It was a special afternoon. Now that I’m writing these words, I feel truly moved.
The relationship I have with my father has always been very powerful, and there was even a time when there was great misunderstanding between us. I’ve always known of the love he has for me, and the love I have for him.
The two of use were seated in front of the doctor when the doctor said, “Your mother (as if she weren’t sitting right there) has a premature aging of the brain.” And that was it. That was all that was said. I entered into a state of mental block, almost shock. “God Almighty – now what?” And the doctor said: “Now…patience.”
That was a number of years ago, and I still remember that moment when I had the certainty that if there is, as we say, “a before” and “an after,” this was the after of the before. My father had passed away several months earlier, and, little by little, my mother started to go too. My relationship with my partner ended up disappearing, too, hurt by love, diffused and confused. At that moment, I thought that patience was only one of the many allies I was going to need to take on that long road.
I feel more connected with my mom when we laugh together, when we hug each other, when she enjoys eating something delicious. This creates an intimacy that allows us to communicate at the level of the essence. No words are needed..
When I was young I was too busy with my life and my complaints about my mom that I couldn’t see who she really was. The irony is that now I know her, wonderful, generous, big hearted woman with a great passion for life. I feel so much love and appreciation for her. Continue reading
Dementia is a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. I work in home health as a physical therapist and occasionally have patients with some form of dementia that impacts their independent living. The role of rehabilitation with these patients can be very challenging depending on the stage of the disease process. Summer of 2011, I had a series of patients with the diagnosis of dementia that opened my eyes in a way the mind has difficulty explaining and goes beyond the standards of belief today. I experienced an awareness of connection of all of life to the universe. Moreover, as I work with the body I am beginning to see and experience a great relationship to the eternal soul. Continue reading
When I had him evaluated by an elder care program, Dad did indeed prove to have mild cognitive impairment. He was characterized as an “Emerald” in the kind GEM system they used. Each impairment had its own gem symbol. And that was how I came to view my Dad in this new light – as a gem!
Dad and I found new ways to communicate during this time. One of our favorites was just hanging out with each other – just being together. I remember particularly sharing a cup of coffee, sitting in the health center staring out at beautiful Lake Superior. Words were unnecessary – it was just our togetherness that mattered. Continue reading
“When life hands you Alzheimer’s, embrace it.” I was my mother’s primary caregiver to Alzheimer’s. And if I had heard that statement while I was in the thick of care giving trenches, I would have quickly dismissed the advice as superficial and one-dimensional. But as a recovering caregiver, I realize the power of that statement. Unintentionally and unrehearsed, I did embrace Alzheimer’s during the early stages of this journey, and that very act fundamentally defined my experience, converting an otherwise stressful journey into a mindful and meaningful series of life lessons. Continue reading