Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other As We Age


Finding Your Way on a Difficult Path

A Time For Remembering

This past weekend, Americans celebrated the holiday of remembering—Memorial Day. A day for honoring men and women lost in American wars. These foot soldiers battled against injustice and fought to protect and preserve liberty and decency.

As a caregiver, you are a foot soldier. You stand in the trenches with your boots on the ground. Every day you relinquish, abandon, deliver, capitulate, submit, assist, attend—and you serve.

You may find yourself upended and uncertain about what comes next. Unable to see how circumstances will unfold. You navigate, with no map or compass to guide. As you tread toward uncertainty, sometimes you struggle to find a foothold. It can seem that you have lost your way. But you are not way-less.

Accepting The Way

When struggling stops and resistance ends, you discover a new way of seeing. Using all you’ve learned and your intuitive resources, a path appears leading you through difficult circumstances.

In our monthly caregiver support group, I’ve heard many caregivers express sadness when a loved-one’s personality changes. These changes can indeed be sad and disturbing. Accepting change is a challenging part of caring for your loved one with dementia. Particularly because personality changes are likely to alter your customary relationship in significant ways.

Adding to confusion, your loved one may not be aware of their condition. You might have noticed, along with many other things they are forgetting, that they don’t remember they have a disease.

It is common for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of brain injuries, to be unaware of their disability. This is called anosognosia—from the Greek word meaning without disease knowledge.

When diseases alters the brain changes in behavior, mood, or thinking occur. Finding your way through changing conditions becomes easier when you understand the conditions you encounter.

Unusual behaviors reflect changes in biological conditions within the brain. Disease or injury to anatomical structures and disruptions to biochemical functions lead to the forgetfulness, confusion, disorientation, and unusual behaviors you witness.

The ability to accept changes in behavior and thinking, and to understand associated needs, develops from the practice of caring. Acceptance and understanding will pave the path for your relationship to grow in new ways. There is no right way or wrong way of caring. There is only the way that works. Finding this way becomes your path.

Caring is a practice, greatly supported by the practices of mindfulness. You never know how things will unfold, but you can be certain that difficulties will occur. No matter what you encounter, you are on the path of caring when you remain present and engaged with whatever arises.

A Mindfulness Practice For You

  • In what ways do you resist change?
  • What learnings have strengthened your acceptance of change?
  • Name the strengths and efforts you have witnessed in your loved one.
  • What efforts foster your growth as a caregiver at this time?
  • In what ways are you caring for yourself?

In her beautiful little book, Creating Moments of Joy, a Journal for caregivers, Jolene Brackey reminds us: “Grasp the moment and search for the blessings in every situation. You will be surprised what you find. Look for the blessings, as simple as they are. Once you do this, you will find you have more energy to make the changes to enjoy the moments.”



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