Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…    ~Alfred Tennyson

Here we are, on the dawn another new year; it’s incredible how quickly time passes. In what seems like the blink of an eye, 365 days have passed and we’re another year older and hopefully a bit wiser as well.


This past year has been a mixed bag, but ushering out 2012 feels more bittersweet than usual. I witnessed my mom’s boundless deterioration and thinking back, I’m amazed at the difference those twelve little months made. Less than a year ago, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that she would live another ten years. Sure, her mind had been failing for a long time, but her body remained relatively healthy.

Alas, ten more years was not meant to be; nor was ten more months. In September we saw a marked decline, and though things seemed to improve slightly in November, that didn’t last. By Thanksgiving, it was apparent that we were transitioning into yet another stage – perhaps the final.

No Way to Prepare

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, we know how the story will end.  What we don’t realize is what watching them slowly slip away, day by day and bit by bit, will do to us. Mom had not been well for so long, and there were times in recent years when I thought I was prepared for this moment. I thought I had mourned her over and over again, year after year, until there was nothing left to let go of. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So many years to prepare, yet still, her passing left a massive void in my heart. Oddly, I find myself filled with a deep yearning for old times – for the years before the illness consumed our lives; times that, in a way, I guess I had put out of my mind while the disease progressed. Now I need some time to work through all of those emotions, and I want to find a way to do that without spending too much time in the past.

New Beginnings

I’d like to get to a point where 2013 does feel like a new start, where I’m at peace with the fact that Mom is in a better place, free of pain and suffering. I want to make this coming year about honoring her legacy and keeping her memory alive, whether through writing, spending time with Alzheimer’s patients, or passionately advocating for families and caregivers. While looking back is, to some degree, inevitable, I will continue to remind myself that she would want me to look ahead; to focus my energy on what life has in store.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of making New Year’s resolutions, but I do like the idea of the New Year provoking an awakening of sorts. Call it a reminder that there’s more to life than plodding through the same dull routine day after day. Life is really about finding purpose, staying inspired, figuring out why we’re here and how we can make the world just a little bit better.

We’d love to hear what some of your goals and aspirations are for 2013! Feel free to share in the Comments section below.


  1. Jayn Albury

    My plight is a bit different….it’s my husband who requires my care, not the parents I always “knew” would age and depart. It’s my partner whose personality has escaped and whose memory is totally dissolved…..with whom I can not hold a simple conversation. It’s my spouse who doesn’t remember how to spell my name or that his dog is a guy, who sprinkles my multi-vitamins over the dogs’ food and swears it never happened….who asks me the same question relentlessly all day and never retains the answer. It’s the man I’ve been married to for 30 years who denies putting the pots and pans in the refrigerator or locking every door and window the minute I leave the house. My husband who swears no one has ever told him to stay inside the gated community, not to walk his dog out on the highway, and that dementia is not a reason for me to have taken his car away. My husband who claims the doctors never said anything was happening to his memory and that I am conspiring with them to keep him from driving. My spouse who heads for the kitchen to get a dog’s treat and returns with frozen foods, several jars of salsa, ice cream, and a few boxes of baked goods…who puts butter on his jello at the salad bar and tries to keep all the table settings from the restaurant. My husband who hides the mail, including checks, and has no idea what he did with the bank’s check with which he closed our account. We know he cashed it….but that’s all we know. My husband who canceled his life insurance policy, my health insurance, and a few annuities before I could get someone to believe me and get this man diagnosed ! I’ve had Power of Attorney for 4 years, now that there isn’t anything left for me to exert my power over. So what do full time caregiver spouses say they experience most ? Frustration, sadness, exhaustion ? Maybe….but most of all resentment. My life can not unfold because I am responsible for an elderly man who has no idea life is even OUT here. And people tell me I should get some help. That’s hard to do when the guy with whom I need that help refuses to believe there’s a problem.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Oh Jayn… my heart breaks for you. I wish I knew what to say. Have you tried an Alzheimer’s and Dementia family support group – perhaps through your nearest Alzheimer’s Association chapter? At a minimum, I would call the help line and see what suggestions they might offer. It’s a wonderful source for information, and it’s free. There are also lots of great online boards. ALZ Connected is a good place to start.

      I wonder if talking with ALZ spouses would be particularly helpful. Everyone is different, but I found comfort in talking with people in similar circumstances – it made me realize I wasn’t alone, and that all of the feelings I had were “normal.” You are right – dealing with a spouse with the disease elicits much different emotions and thoughts than dealing with a parent or a sibling. Talking with others losing their parents to the disease confirmed that I wasn’t crazy even when I was convinced I must be. Also, people who have been through it often have suggestions that may have never otherwise cross your mind.

      As difficult as it is, it’s so important to find a bit of time for yourself. Hopefully, you have someone nearby who can stay with your husband for short periods of time so you can recharge and clear your mind.

      Sending prayers that you will find some assistance and be able to ease the strain of your situation. ~Ann

  2. Ella

    We all need to make priorities for the new year and try to follow thru with them, but I must add, to the best of a caregiver’s ability. Taking care of my brother for the past year, I would find my intent wouldn’t occur. If he was/is having a bad day/moment it affects me, my emotions; ranging from sadness (for him/me) or resentment (since I’m on the receiving end of his anger/harsh words). I change from happy to sad. My day can become doom and gloom. I have found the caregiving role can be more mentally tasking than physical (but both capable of depleting my energy). I have realized the importance of educating myself on this disease (to make it easier for me/him) and reaching out for help. I commend you on your suggestions Ann. The Alzheimer’s Association, available 24 hours, is a life-raft; eager to listen (crucial), offer suggestions (usually on target), providers of excellent reading material (sent asap). A support group has to be the right one, stories shared may be informative or sad (opening up a flood-gate of tears). Respite (with no guilt please) can’t say enough.

    I ask you, I have heard the importance of us caregivers having empathy for ourselves. Is it ok to feel sorry for me? Sometimes I do. My emotions change when he says no to my invite for a leisure meal out together or commands me to rip up a birthday card (monies spent) or ready to blame me for something missing (him hiding it). I remind myself it’s the disease, vow to be less sensitive (develop a tougher skin). Is that possible? After all I am who I am. Does one ever get used to the wide range of emotions of this terrible disease? I’ve had people (meaning well) question why I took on this caregiving role? “This is your brother, not your parent or husband,” they have said, or, “Would he do this for you, role reversed,” asked of me. I find myself rehashing my reasons. I long to be able to bond (at this crucial time) as sister and brother. Is it possible, is it too late? Remind myself to cherish the good days/moments (in case).

    I have goals for 2013, not resolutions, and will attempt them. They are not carved in stone and it’s ok if they become altered. I realize, more than ever, that life and health is a blessing, family (in one’s corner) precious. I will remember my favorite mantra, “Life is not about what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.” Take care of one’s self, live each day happily, thanking God for another one.

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