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…


  1. Mary Ann Ballengee

    Ann you are a beautiful writter. I love the way you have of putting reality in simple words while helping everyone understand that as long as we have our love one we have a gift. You are an amazing woman that I admire a lot!! Mary Ann Ballengee

    • AnnNapoletan

      Mary Ann, thank you – that means a lot to me. I’m so glad we’ve been able to connect again via FB. 🙂

  2. Mary


    Wonderful article, it actually brought tears to my eyes. YOur such a good daughter, just always remember how much your mom loves you.


    • AnnNapoletan

      Thanks for the kind words, Mary. I appreciate all of the support you’ve given us since we’ve been back in touch. So thankful for Facebook reunions. 🙂

  3. Vivian Hazen

    Your Mom would be so very very proud of you. Telling your journey will touch so many people in such a good way. I have always enjoyed everything you have written in the past and now so many more people will be able to experience what a fantastic writer you are. Stay strong and know that you are loved and appreciated more than you could ever imagine.

    • AnnNapoletan

      Viv, thank you so much… I enjoyed our day together more than you can imagine, and I’d like to think my mom felt all the love in the house that day, too. Thanks for being her best friend for so many years …and for always being there for Jess and I, too. We love you.

  4. Anonymous

    How beautifully written that is. I’m just coming ’round to understanding how to deal with my Mom and her dementia. So much to learn in so little time. But one thing I do know now and always have…don’t waste time on what if’s and if only’s. As you say, live in the moment and treasure the gifts as they come. Every day there is something to smile about. You are a wonderful person and thank you for saying so well what so many of us feel.

    • AnnNapoletan

      Thank you very much for the kind words. It’s such a struggle at the beginning – so much denial, frustration, anger. I wish I’d had more patience back then. Those were hard times. There comes a point, though, and I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you reach acceptance and you become the nurturer. You literally switch roles with your parent. Sometimes when I’m sitting with her while she sleeps with her head in my lap, it’s as if I’m on the outside watching this odd scene, but I don’t even know the people in the story. Very hard to explain. In any case, I wish you and your mother all the best on your journey. Stay strong and remember to find the joyful moments.

  5. Tim Mills

    Thank you for sharing your journey.You are an incredibly strong and loving daughter.
    Keep writing these incredibly moving articles you are going to make a global impact for familys dealing with this horrible disease.

    • AnnNapoletan

      Thanks Tim. It’s people like you who have helped inspire me – you’re doing such wonderful work, and I hope that at some point in the future, we can partner to do more great things. We love you.

  6. DanaLarsen

    This post really does put things in perspective. Thanks, Ann. My family is struggling with Alzheimer’s, as well, and it has been so challenging witnessing my grandma’s deterioration this past year. I get frustrated because she no longer knows who I am, but I definitely see glimmers of her old personality on some of my visits that brings tears to my eyes. It’s all about savoring the memories and wanting the best for them for the time they have left.

    • AnnNapoletan

      Just enjoy every minute, Dana. Talking to you the other night gave me a little insight into my own daughter’s perspective on watching her gram’s struggle. I lost my grandparents when I was very young, so I don’t know what it’s like to have that relationship into adulthood, but they had such a special bond. My mom was still living independently when Jess graduated from college, and I’m so thankful she was able to share that day with us. 🙂

  7. Deb Farmer

    I am a better person for having met you and the joy of being a part of your mom’s life just can not be put into words. You are an inspiring writer and your journey is one that isn’t easily put into words. I will always hold dear the moments spent with your very loving mom. Deb

    • AnnNapoletan

      Deb, I feel the same way about you. You have been an “angel” in our lives, and we can’t thank you enough for your care, love, and friendship.

  8. Joni Baptiste

    Hi Ann,
    Well look at you….writing your wonderful words for Care Givers. You write so eloquently and from the heart. It gives solace to other care givers who struggle to hold on and learn to let go of some of the ways that disappear from our every day lives with parents who have dementia. I miss my mother who was so vibrant and capable; a woman who could do anything she set her mind to. Now it is so different. When I go to visit her, I almost wish that she’s resting….eyes closed…because that’s when we have our most successful conversations. I truly believe that the visual stimulation around her prevents her from thinking clearly. One our best conversations recently was when I found her cat napping. Just like it used to be. Ask a question….get an answer. How I miss those days. Your mother would be so proud of you. I miss her giggle and our chats and her noisily stirring coffee just to get a rise out of Randy’s dad. Hugs and love to you and Jess and of course Auntie. Joni

    • AnnNapoletan

      Thanks for the kind words, Joni, and for always sharing a story about my mom that makes me smile! Sending love and blessings to you and your mother – may you continue to enjoy special conversations in those quiet moments. (((Hug)))

  9. Leslie

    What a wonderful story, I, for some reason being drawn to the alzheimer’s patient appreciate the loving communication you share with your mother, these individuals are lost within themselves, they need not be lost in love.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Beautifully said, Leslie. They deserve so much love.

      • Leslie

        I work in a nursing home, the lack of understanding concerning these people trouble me, I recently recieved my B.A. in Gerontology, now trying to decide what to do with it, as stated I am drawn to these individuals, so perhaphs I will continue my education focusing on the Alzheimers patient. Many times I feel the caregiver does not know enough about the changes that occur and furthur education is needed on the caregiver’s part, these people need a special kind of care with special understanding.

        • Ann Napoletan

          You are so right, Leslie. It takes a very special person to deliver that kind of care and understanding – and there aren’t enough of them out there! Kudos to you for wanting to place your focus on this important area! I’m actually looking into a degree in Gerontology. I have a B.S. in Finance, but elder care is where my true passion lies. Best of lucky to you.

  10. MaryKathryn

    Hi Hanne and Willi,

    I wanted to share this article with you. “Alzheimer Patients, What Can They Teach Us?”

    I found it very helpful. Even though my husband’s short term memory is pretty well gone, from time to time he speaks a sentence that makes a lot of sense and it makes my heart smile that there is still something within him that lighted up the path to speak those words to me.

    • Ann

      Blessings to you and your husband. Hang onto every one of those wonderful moments. 🙂

  11. Ella

    What a beautiful writing, thank you Ann for sharing your feelings, aiding me in my thoughts.

    I became a caregiver to my Dear Brother, diagnosed in 2011 with memory loss, (hate the A word). He is 66 years young and this has been life changing for him, for us. He goes thru many emotions, (having the right to), sharing them with me, moreso. I have found anger and cruel words to be hard,(ruining my day,wondering if I should give up the role), and once again remember this is the disease, not him, not really. I cherish when he is happy, smiling, laughing, reaching out to me for assistance, realizing it’s ok to ask me “What day is it?” I realize he trusts me, that he can be himself with me, knows me still, Thank you God. He is in denial with many, trying so hard to hold on, alot of work for him I am sure. He’s always been independent and strong, alittle tough at times, these traits inherited or from his military days during Viet Nam. God Bless him.

    The progression is sad to watch but I am committed to aiding him as long as I can,family matters. I continue to educate myself, (as much as I am able), with the disease and medications available. This is now my job, a wonderful one presented to me, who are we to wonder why? I am not missing my corporate sector, a big knot most of the time that I remember.

    My Brother thrives at daycare, attending every day, wanting to go, so we do. The constant engaging and socialization a lifesaver, it really works. Like you, I have realized that we can make a difference to those affected, a smile; hello by name; some easy conversation meaning the world to his new friends, who have become mine as well. I look forward to seeing them, enjoy conversing with them and appreciate the acknowledgement they so willingly give to me. I cherish an elder woman’s wisdom, a flirteous nature from a fella, bringing me memories of the past, my own Dear Parents, RIP. I wonder if I may have missed my calling career wise, no doubt I did. It’s hard to remember if my daily grind made a difference for someone, possibly, I hope so. I believe I am now, seeing smiles, hearing a hello and a how are you are priceless to me these days. I know I am making a difference in my Dear Brother’s life, I believe that, and most of the time grateful for this time with him, trying to bond as siblings.

    “Life is not about what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.” I have realized this is so true and life with each passing day is a blessing. We should all try and make each day a better one, realizing the importance of caring, it’s not hard.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Ella, what a beautiful story. You sound like an amazing person. Blessings to you and your brother as you travel this journey. May you continue to strengthen your bond and find many joyful moments along the way. (((Hug)))

  12. Ella

    Dear Ann,

    Thank you for your blessings and kind words. Your acknowledgment means alot to me, it is evident you are experienced and knowledgeable.

    I have come to realize, as you stated, the importance of, “living in the moment.” This disease, as cruel as it is, has slowed all of our paces down quite a knotch. There is stress, a different kind, seeming more mental than physical, coming and going, a day or a moment being good or bad. We are thankful for the good, challenged by the bad, learning from it; when it’s gone moving on, no dwelling on it, no reason to.

    I remember, before my Dear Brother joining us, my husband and I were on the run, focused on the 9 to 5 crind, passing each other like ships in the night, waking up to do it all over again. Stress free, no,

    Dynamics have changed, perhaps an unknown force involved, for the better I believe. The hustle has been replaced with structure and routine, open to change. We realize calmness and kindness work. To listen and think before speaking, to know when something needing to be said or done can wait. There is encouragement, humor, laughter and reminiscing in abundance. My Dear Brother says,”I need to rest my brain,” cherishing his week-end. The pace has slowed down, we now realize the importance of rest and relaxation, with no permission needed for naps. I feel more love and caring present, like times past. It feels good, right.

    As younger sister, older brother goes, our relationship at times was a rocky one. His moods are a wake up call to our past, (to this disease), and I know there is a calmness before the storm; so I cherish his antics and laughter, our 1 on 1 talks when we are brother and sister once again. I respect his courage and determination to fight. I realize he loves and trusts me still in this turmoil.

    Your words are true, I/we are on a journey, (him as well), one with a “fasten your seatbelt,” kind of ride, but all together we go.

    I believe in prayers and faith.

    Ditto to the hug to you and all caregivers out there, we’re a special bunch, God Bless.

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