Statistics tell us that more than 35 million people are afflicted with Alzheimers disease. Practically every family is touched by this cruel illness that robs people of their loved ones long before death takes them away.
My own family is dealing with Alzheimers on several fronts. My cousin, Edna, from Maui and I spent several days together last week discussing how she is coping with her mother’s illness. Edna left her career and her beloved Memphis last year to return to the islands to care for her mother, my aunt.
Suddenly, I am faced with similar circumstances and Edna’s philosophy on dealing with the disease was invaluable and endearing. It has given me hope and an unique insight on the healthiest, least stressful means of treating an afflicted loved one with dignity, patience and love.
“It all comes down to openness, honesty, and LOTS of humor!,” she exclaimed. “Rather than be secretive and hide the truth of her condition we decided to be open with all. This has resulted in the delightful display of watching Mom accept her departing memory with laughter and love.”
“It’s both amazing and infuriating to see how lots of folks react to our treatment of Mom with the disease–they appear disgusted as if we are harming her in some way because we don’t feel shame. Such is the horror derived out of fear which sustains the engine of denial fueling the inability to embrace acceptance,” she explained. “This is not our Path to follow–our Journey is one of deepest compassion. Thus we simply live and let live.”
“Others’ fears are their own lessons to learn in this lifetime. We don’t have time to fret over their drivel and drool–time is of the essence, especially when one is living with Alzheimer’s (as you know all too well). This is certainly not an easy road to travel, I have had my share of battles I’ve waged on behalf of Mom. There have been many who have denigrated my name and questioned my choices made. I understand their concerns, but again–I have no time to devote to their fears.”
She concluded: “I have grieved the loss of my Mother as I had always known her–the woman who was my friend and confidante has left. We can no longer communicate with stimulating, meaningful dialogue. Now I care for the Mother who has cared for me, making sure that she receives the best of love and nurturance. She is all I have left of who she once was. There are fleeting moments of memory–but they slip away almost as quickly as they dart in. This is an insidious disease, to say the least. There is anger and frustration, but where do such emotions get placed? The confusion of the disease can impact loved ones’ emotions as well–they can be misplaced just as objects are.
I think Edna is one of the wisest people I know, and our time of sharing was uplifting which helped calm my own fears of the disease.Perhaps her thought s might help someone else out there.