Alzheimer’s disease is a truly life-changing illness, not only for the person diagnosed but for their entire family as well.
Nurturing hope when confronted by it might seem like moving a mountain. However, hope can help deal with the disease and help sustain quality of life. Self-reflection, coping skills and continuing to make positive contributions are all ways to build hope during the disease journey. Cultivating hope is an act of resilience.
In the movie, "Shawshank Redemption," when Andy DuFresne is asked after 60 days in solitary confinement how he survived, he answers, “hope.” Hope was his driving force to live.
Someone with Alzheimer’s is not totally defined by the disease any more than someone is defined by a broken hip. Individuals with this disease still have gifts and abilities to bring to the community in which they live. They have a name, a spirit, feelings, a unique personality and a life story. They still give and receive love and attention. Inside they are hopeful creatures. And so are their caregivers. Their spirituality and hope keep them going.
Hope implies that there is a meaning to what the future holds. Hope is linked to trust and meaning and often associated with patience. It is linked to trust and belief in God or some other higher power who is ultimately compassionate.
And, hope is linked to meaning and purpose in life. Hope is very often found when everything else is stripped away and when there seems no logical reason to hope. At the very center of spiritual well-being is the hope.
“To be hopeful is to look on the future positively, to see opportunity in challenges (rather than challenges in opportunities), to look on the bright side of life,” reads one affirmation at thedailymeditation.com.
Maintaining or nurturing hope can be a natural stress reliever, help strengthen the immune system, improve relationships and allow individuals to approach problems with a mindset and strategy to withstand his or her difficulties.
Though the progression of the uncontrolled symptoms of the disease — fatigue, anxiety, social isolation and loneliness — are significant threats to maintaining a sense of hope and peace, there are ways to keep hope alive. Suggestions include getting involved with nature and gardening, listening to favorite music, reminiscing, intergenerational activities and keeping connected with others and the community. Hope also can be stimulated by breathing, sleep, prayer and meditation, as well as by witnessing acts of generosity and kindness.
Viktor Frankl, noted Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor, eloquently summarizes hope: “Life may take what a person has, but not what a person is. I can lose my ability to use symbols or words. I may lose my ability to make myself understood, to write or use my mouth to talk. These are but instruments. A person may be impaired as to the instrumental or expressive function of their organic makeup. But no one can be impaired in their innermost core as a human being.”
Ask yourself, “What brings you hope?” Know and nurture that.