One thing Alzheimer’s has taught me is the importance of living in the moment and finding joy in the small things. I’m one of those people with a tendency to spend too much time thinking about what happened yesterday or fixating on what might happen tomorrow. Staying in the present does not come naturally to me, but I am certainly learning.
Constant Change Becomes the Norm
When your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, particularly in the later stages, no two minutes are alike. Things are constantly changing, and it puts you on the wildest rollercoaster ride imaginable. It takes awhile, but you come to realize that in order to survive, you must live in the moment and appreciate each and every good thing that happens, no matter how small. And admittedly, sometimes you really have to dig deep to find the good in a lousy situation.
The interesting thing is that the bar is constantly moving. That thing that may have seemed completely insignificant a month ago can suddenly become the joy that gets you through the day. This becomes more apparent to me with each passing day, as my mother moves from one stage of Alzheimer’s to the next. A month ago, the fact that she had four glasses of juice in a day was nothing; this week, when I hear she had two glasses I feel like shouting from the rooftop.
Gratitude – Even Through the Darkness
We’re reaching the point where we see fewer and fewer of those bright moments, but ironically, at the same time, I’m finding more and more things to be grateful for. I suppose as the disease progresses, our expectations decline, and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. I’ve become acutely aware of every little smile, every touch, and every “I love you.” Today, I heard outright laughter, and though it only lasted a minute, it made my heart sing. Oh, the things we take for granted every day of our lives.
The more time I spend with dementia patients, the more I appreciate all those things that I wouldn’t otherwise even think about. When you hear one of these precious ladies ask, “What do I do that’s worthwhile?” you realize that even she knows something is missing, and it’s something that we all need – a purpose. It makes you think about how much you still have to accomplish in your own life and the fact that time stands still for no one.
Putting Things Into Perspective
Ten years ago, I could never have imagined the joy there is in spending time with these folks, and how much wisdom they can impart if you just pay attention. Now, I can’t imagine life without them. While you can’t do enough to please the rest of the world, these lovely people are thrilled for you to sit for five minutes and hold their hand or listen to one of the old stories they love to tell.
So the next time that work has you tied up in knots or your family is driving you crazy, stop for a minute. Step back and think about every little miracle you encounter each day. What would you do differently if you knew that Alzheimer’s was on the horizon for you? It’s something we should all think about, for as my mom used to say, tomorrow is not promised…