Four months. In a way, it’s hard to believe she’s been gone that long. And yet some days it feels as though it’s been forever. I think I miss Mom more with each passing day. In fact, perhaps it is only now that I’m beginning to comprehend the magnitude of my loss – the years worth of hopes, expectations, and dreams Alzheimer’s stole from us.
Be Positive But Realistic
While it would be very easy to sink into a place of anger and bitterness, I’m increasingly compelled to do whatever I can to inspire and support families dealing with the disease right now. More than anything, caregivers need to know they aren’t alone. Whether you are caring for a loved one at home or overseeing their care, it’s common to feel isolated. But, for every thought and feeling you have, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between, I guarantee someone else has had the same thought or feeling. You are not alone.
I talk a lot about focusing on the positive and taking pleasure in each small victory; every smile, every hug, every “I love you.” In my heart, I do believe that aspiring to that sort of outlook is critically important to our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. That being said, I’m also a realist…
Is Self-Pity Knocking On Your Door?
There will be days when you wake up fresh out of things – even tiny things – to be grateful for; days of self-pity and sadness. This is normal. There will be days when you feel like you will go stark raving mad if your loved one asks you one more time when she’s going home or what day it is or tells you the same thing eight times within an hour with no recollection of the repetition. If this didn’t drive you crazy, I don’t think you’d be human! Yet these feelings are often a source of great guilt.
Caregivers think they should be perfect, but they’re human. They think they should be superheroes, but alas, their special powers only go so far. Some days, your patience will be thin (or non-existent), your energy will have left the building, and any sense of optimism will be fleeting (if not completely gone). You can beat yourself up on days like this, or you can just ride it out and move on. One thing you can’t successfully do for long is to deny the negative feelings.
The Road to Acceptance
As with a million other things in life, tips and advice will be plentiful, but all of it falls under the category of Easier Said Than Done. I’m still struggling with guilt about the days I just didn’t want to face visiting, couldn’t find it in my heart to be more patient and understanding, or felt angry with Mom despite the fact that I knew none of this was her fault. Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to leave some of the guilt behind and arrive at a place of acceptance and forgiveness, but I know it won’t be soon and it won’t be a straightforward trip.
At the end of the day, I think we all do the very best we can in each moment. Dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia – or even just watching a parent age – is demanding at best and grueling at worst. It tests our will in ways we’ve never been tested. Our task is in learning how to deal with the good, bad, and ugly without persecuting ourselves. Go easy on yourself… you’re amazing!
What do you find most challenging about caregiving? Have you found a helpful way to deal with it? We’d love for you to leave a comment sharing your experience!