Your father is late today

“Hello mum”.

“Hello Darling.  Here I am, waiting for your father who is late today”.

“Don’t worry mum, he must have had a late meeting.  You know he is always longing to leave the office to get home to you. (When she hears this, Maria’s face lights up)”

“Yes, he is a very good man; when we were dating there was never a day when he didn’t come and see us when he left the office and it was a long way away too.  What a man!  (Maria has a big smile on her face)”

“But he’s late today…….I’m going to start laying the table (her expression becomes worried)”.

“Yes mum, let’s go into the dining room, I’m getting hungry”.

“You have always been such a good girl, you take after your father.  By the way, it seems that he is late today”.

“Yes, it’s strange; he must have had a late meeting.  Because he is always longing to leave the office to get home to you. (Maria’s face once again lights up, while her daughter Raquel gently takes her hand and leads her to the care home dining room)”.

It is not unusual for someone with dementia to become immersed in scenes from their past.  At those times – minutes, hours or days – it can difficult for us, their family members, to communicate with them; because even with the best intentions in the world, we think our only option is to correct our loved one’s “error” and bring them back to “reality.”  To our reality.

But, what error?  What is reality other than the present moment?  That sigh that follows on from the previous one and that never returns and never left.  And what about if we were to travel with our mother to where she is? If she has an 8 year old daughter and is impatiently awaiting her beloved to eat dinner, why can we not open our minds and meet her there?  Let us become that 8 year old girl who, with her mother, excitedly awaits the arrival of her father.  And let us enjoy the brilliance and wonder on Maria’s face when she realises how much her husband loves her.

Susana García

Moving your Soul

The Impact of Emotions

Someone once said: “It is easier to erase a bad memory than the emotion generated by that bad memory.” Our feelings and emotions color our lives, from the cradle to the tomb and this ability to feel moved and to experience a wide range of emotions: love, joy, fear, anger or pain persists until the end of a human being’s life. This is, of course, also true of persons affected by Alzheimer.
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Receiving more than giving

Ever since Alzheimer showed up in our lives to stay, my husband and I have become more affectionate with one another. Now he shows me every day that he loves me as I show him, and not only by taking care of him daily. Until not long ago, when we would sit side by side in the sofa alone, he would look deep into my eyes and with that Andalusian accent of his and that smile of his that has always dazzled me, he would say: “you are the most wonderful woman in the world.”

These days when words don’t always come out, we simply kiss, we stare into each other’s eyes, we hold each other’s faces; we speak with gestures and smiles. During those moments, I feel truly fulfilled.

Although taking care of him throughout these years has not always been easy, I feel I receive much more than I give. He makes me feel secure.

Trinidad Pinto, España

Heart broken open

I met and married my soul mate Jim fourteen years ago. He was everything I wanted in a relationship and we made wonderful plans for our future together.

After two years of marriage he experienced his first bout of cancer where he had his upper left dental arch removed. Fifteen months later he had another more serious bout of cancer which required removing his lower left jaw, replacing it with his fibula, and radiation. His recovery took a long time.
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From reason to emotion

I feel especially connected to my father in the moments when I get him to smile, and that tends to happen when he comes to greet me, when I arrive at the home. It also sometimes happens when he shares his jokes with me. His sense of humor is pretty incoherent, but it’s still there.

I can perceive how strong my father’s need to communicate is. To a great extent, he’s aware of his cognitive deterioration; he knows he has difficulty expressing himself and that it’s an effort for everyone else to understand him. My tactic is to be especially attentive to everything he says. He sees the effort, and appreciates it, which helps take the conversation that much further. Knowing what he likes and his points of view also helps me immensely. Thanks to that, starting from words that don’t seem to be coherent, I manage to get what he’s saying and maintain a certain level of dialogue.
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Magical things happen

I am 63, my mother is 90. I am still working. She lives near me in a retirement home with extra help. I see her everyday and see myself as her general coordinator rather than her caretaker.

Before I can feel connected to my mom I must make space for it.

This is after I have had some time to process my own grief and come to an acceptance of what is, her loss of her former self, and drop my own agendas, both emotional and domestic. This is only one sentence, but it is hard work. To feel connected, I must sit with her, and let everything go: the laundry, the grocery list, especially my own impatience or fatigue.

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Letter to my Mother

You have distanced yourself from the past and maybe you don’t know about the future anymore. But for me, you’re here in the present.

I still feel your mother’s love, with the certainty that it is more intense than before. You still give me shivers of happiness in exchange for nothing.

Your memories disappear, and I try to rescue them to bring them to the deepest parts of my heart. I refuse to let time be responsible for forgetting.
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Transforming my feelings

My mother has Alzheimer, so-called stage 4-5 If I am correct. This means she has almost no memory for facts . In general she is only able to follow a conversation for the length of two sentences and she increasingly has difficulty finding the right words. Last week, she kept on praising the “Blue Rain”, and it took a while before my brother understood she meant the beautiful blue sky.

Writing this, it would seem there is few possibility to have any sense making and meaningful conversation with her. However, the opposite is true.

Yes of course, when I focus on real facts and happenings, reasoning and argumentation, analysis of options, decisions to take, checking the truth quality of her stories, there is no way on earth we could have a satisfying conversation at that level of reality.
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