For the Alzheimer’s caregiver, accepting the affected person in the present moment is paramount.
Focus energy on the person behind the disease instead of what the disease is doing to him or her. The person with Alzheimer's is always changing, is different in many ways, but accepting that person at every stage of the disease eases the circumstances and makes the journey enduring.
As written in the familiar Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Alzheimer’s disease will continue to progress. It is up to the caregiver to change his or her own behaviors, ways of looking at the disease and the individual, and to be comfortable with that acceptance of everything.
Patience is essential to daily life and having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of exasperation or adversity. The caregiving journey, for the most part, is filled with stress and anxiety, and the caregiver needs to learn when to step away from a situation and find ways to channel self-care and relaxation, which are critical for the caregiver to be patient and loving with their loved one.
In the upcoming new year, find ways to create meaningful experiences for yourself and for your loved one.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, Holocaust survivor and writer, once wrote that there were three ways to make life more meaningful: through what we give; through what we take (experiences); and through the stand we take toward a fate we no longer can change, such as an incurable disease like Alzheimer’s.
Find times of meaning during caregiving through stories, and find times for reflection and celebration that can be woven in during the caregiving journey.
Be forgiving of yourself and the disease. Offer your loved one the best version of yourself (which is why self-care is so important). Redefine success by making more moments that really matter with your loved one and identifying what is most important for the both of you for the new year.
Trust your instincts. Avoid being a people pleaser. Appreciate and value yourself. Let go of things you can’t control. Understand that the need will always be greater than the resources. Never give up on your hopes and dreams. Remember to take care of your mind, body and spirit so that there is something left to give to your loved one. Seek ways to reach out to your loved one through their long-term, joyful memories and enjoy that present moment together.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.