Tag Archives: caring and sharing

Share the road, people

During my morning walk, I passed a sign this morning that made me pause.

Share the Road

Is not our whole life’s journey about sharing the road?

Perhaps our politicians and world leaders need to take a pause and reflect on the mantra share the road.

As part of a cycling campaign to promote road safety and well-being for everyone – cyclists, motor vehicles, and pedestrians alike – not only do our roads become safer, but our communities and cities evolve when we cooperate and support each other.

When we become aware of the power of these three little words – share the road – their meaning or significance to our world’s health and well-being becomes central to our actions.

We share ourselves with others every day. We share our ideas, our creations, our kindness and compassion, and our love. And we share our energy. If we exude a peaceful or balanced energy, we share a peaceful presence; if we are angry, we share our anger.

Like road rage, toxic energy hurts all of us. Toxic energy lingers and when it settles in for the long stay, real harm occurs within our bodies, and later, spills into our families: our health suffers, as well as our circle of influence. An angry co-worker taints the workplace. An angry parent damages a child.

Many of us read blogs that motivate us to do better – writers share ideas, experience and expertise that teach us, expand us, and push our boundaries. In sharing, bloggers and writers share pieces of themselves in every post, article, column or book. As faithful (and interested) readers, we accumulate and expand our knowledge, our creativity, and our perceptions as we assimilate these new, and sometimes, provoking ideas and thoughts.

A shared idea or expertise is an opportunity to transform another being – that’s a pretty powerful thought.

From my experience, every day when I tune into another how-to paint video posted on-line, I am not only grateful for these gifts, I am truly motivated to share my joy of learning how to watercolour from these talented people. (Check out videos and tutorials on YouTube – watercolour painters, Peter Sheeler, Grahame Booth, Steve Mitchell, and Grant Fuller…the list is endless.)

We  significantly impact others when we share the road.

The verb share, I believe, is an exchange of energy – giving and receiving – an energy that reflects only one part of the bigger whole. One part. Share means partnership or a connection to another part. A connection.

One part. A connection.

What if when we share, we are connecting to another part of the whole – the whole being the Oneness of the universe?

What if when we share, we are connecting to the Oneness – of you and of me? Perhaps that connection to the Oneness of life is why we feel such satisfaction and joy when we do support others?

When I share my ideas or my creativity, I can feel the expansion within; that expansion comes from my inner self which is realizing (in part) my potential. When you share something of value – your ideas, thoughts, creativity, experience, expertise – begin to notice how you feel. Does it give you a sense of well-being, a sense of purpose, or joy? If the answer is yes, you are sharing (connecting) to a greater part of the Universe – you are impacting others, and your soul is loving it which is why it is so satisfying!

For those of us who volunteer, we already are aware of our impact – we share our time with others and benefit greatly from the interactions. Volunteers will tell you that it’s about sharing; sometimes, as volunteers, we feel selfish as we receive so many benefits, more than we give! It’s an exchange of energy that is like nothing else on earth. (And if you are not feeling it, then you are probably in the wrong kind of volunteer work.)

My daughter-in-law and my son are very creative people (art and musically inclined) and they are keen on weaving their careers, their home, and their passions with the care of the earth. Every decision is based on the sustenance and well-being of the environment. They buy in bulk and store beans and legumes, rice and staples in plain, glass jars with screw-top lids. When I offered to plant their front-yard garden with perennials from my garden, they gratefully received my offerings, as long as I allowed for plenty of space for home-grown vegetables. If last year is any example, peppers (all varieties), kale, spinach, cucumbers and squash will find homes in friends, neighbours, and fellow staff members’ kitchens. Old, past their prime shrubs, are pruned, instead of dug out and discarded. Every decision is based on a careful philosophy of reduce, re-use, recycle.

Their shared philosophy of environmental awareness has spilled over to our lives. Here’s the thing: their actions have influenced my own decisions. We are constantly re-thinking purchases: Do I really need this? (Don’t I already have a set of watercolour brushes?) Can I re-use these old shutters or give them to a vintage store? Do I really need to replace my worn cloth napkins?

I no longer buy cases of water bottles or coffee filters (a reusable one is just fine); we’ve reduced our weekly trash bags to one small bag; we’ve reduced our cleaning supplies to only those that are natural or home-made; soaps and shampoos are chemical-free; and we’ve reduced water to minimal usage (alas, my hydrangea are thirsty often).

Small actions, but as I mature, my actions grow, and so does my influence. Small actions are like seeds – they sprout.

Our philosophies impact others every day. I may not embrace everything that my son and his wife do, but their actions have taught me to pause before I act or commit.

We share the road from birth to our last dying moments. Surrounded by family and loved ones when we give birth,  the circle of life continues when our loved ones join us at our final good-bye.

When I sit with a resident who is dying at the long-term care home where I volunteer (and where my mother lived for two and a half years), I share many moments with either family or friends who drop in, or other residents who want to say goodbye.  Staff, and sometimes other volunteers from the palliative volunteer team, join me during our vigil.

And always I walk away from the experience with a humble, but wondrous feeling that I have shared in a transformative moment. In those hours (or days) of sharing, I am humbled by the gifts that the staff, and others, and I share – compassion, kindness, love, generosity, wisdom, and giving. Each of us has this capacity to give and share, even when someone is dying. Perhaps because someone is dying. Even at our most vulnerable, we share.

Even at our most vulnerable, we want to connect. When we share a piece of ourselves, we expose our vulnerabilities – and that is when we are our most honest and authentic. We connect with others because they sense (sometimes at a subconscious level) that we are sharing a piece of our true selves, and their vulnerability recognizes our vulnerability.

One thing I do know: that it is in the gift of sharing this road – that the transformation occurs. It is in the sharing that we meet our greater selves.

In awareness, let us move throughout our day and take note of how much we share the road. We cannot move through our lives without it. We cannot meet our potential without it. We cannot transform without it.

Share the road. Share yourself. And you will find yourself accepting an endless supply of gifts.

If only world leaders could learn this simple act. Just share the road.

 

 

 

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You are amazing!

You are amazing!

When I open the card, it reads You are amazing!

My husband and I just celebrated another anniversary and we exchanged cards. And even though it’s been a few days since I received his card, I am still enjoying the afterglow. Ha!

Because a funny thing has happened since he gave me the card – I feel really amazing!

When he enjoyed the simple tomato sauce on his pasta that I had made last evening, I tell him well, I am amazing!

When I screwed something up during the day, and then fix it later, he says well, you are amazing. We laugh over the screw-up.

When I discover a box of half-eaten ice cream in the freezer, we both exclaim hey, I am amazing!

So while I am walking along the river this morning, trying not to leave rivers of sweat on the sidewalk (because it is so humid today), I remind myself well, sweat or not, I am amazing!

Hmmm. Apparently compliments – in writing – have a lasting effect. But only if we pay attention and give the words awareness. Because it is in the reflection of the words, I realize that we are all amazing beings.

I think I am onto something here. I think we should begin to tell other people how amazing they are. Maybe we could distribute little cards – business cards – that just say, “You are amazing!”

We all know amazing people – my hairdresser who juggles a job and four children (whenever I see her she is smiling) – she is amazing! She has the funniest stories to tell about her children; I sit in her chair and belly laugh throughout the whole visit.

The woman who owns the tailor shop where I take my pants to be hemmed – we always have a nice chat. She is from Scotland and has interesting stories. We share a love of birds and birdsong – she reminds me to Google warblers and nightingales. I think she is amazing!

My neighbours on either side of our house – one is blind in one eye, and always tells me interesting facts about the weather, birds, squirrels and raccoons. He grew up on a farm where he watched the changing sky and birds come and go;  his weather predictions are so spot on – I have no need to turn to the weather forecast on television.  So is the family on the other side of our house – they are raising two children; their daughter has special needs. They are all amazing!

When I watch the personal support workers at the residence where I volunteer, I know they are amazing…their acts of kindness go above and beyond their daily routines. I once sat in a room with a resident and heard a personal support worker singing You Are My Sunshine to a resident who has Alzheimer’s. When I went into the hallway to see who was singing (and who the lucky resident was) I found them walking arm in arm. She is amazing (as is the resident)!

And I think my husband is pretty amazing – after all, he gave me the card. Ha.

No kidding…it takes attention and awareness to see the beauty within each of us. We have to begin to look beneath the superficial, to listen to the words and intonations, to become more insightful and understanding of others. In short, we have to stop and spend some time with people, instead of rushing by them without a glance. When we begin to spend our time enjoying people and their stories, that’s when we begin to live in the moment. And we’ll surely begin to see how each of us matters, how we are all interconnected, and that we are all  awesome.

In Neale Donald Walsch’s Communion With God he writes:

“Which snowflake is the most magnificent? Is it possible that they are all magnificent – and that, celebrating their magnificence together they create an awesome display?  They melt into each other, and in the Oneness. Yet they never go away. They never disappear. They never cease to be. Simply they change form. And not just once, but several times: from solid to liquid, from liquid to vapour, from the seen to the unseen, to rise again, and then again to return in new displays of breathtaking beauty and wonder. This is Life, nourishing Life.”

Let’s begin to appreciate one another for the simple pleasures and the simple gifts that we all hold. Whether we are loving parents or grandparents, creative artists, kind neighbours, inspiring teachers, helpful volunteers, cheerful postal workers, supportive counsellors… oh, the list is just endless…we all are unique, beautiful and amazing in what we do and who we are.

Let’s shout it out: You are amazing!

 

 

 

 

We are meant to share our stories because they connect us!

Immigrated to Canada

Immigrated to Canada

When I showed up at the designated time to sit and record the resident’s life story at the long-term care facility where my mother lived before her recent death, the activity director informed me that my resident was ill and that our visit was cancelled. I was skeptical. This has happened before. So I asked the activity director if I could just pop in and say hello to the resident.

I knocked on the door even though her door was wide open, and I was told to come in.  My friend, the resident, was lying in bed.

She told me that she wasn’t feeling well and that our interview should be cancelled indefinitely. Yes, I suspected as much…anxiousness about the interview.

“Another day,” I assured her.  And because I suspected that her stress regarding our interview had caused her to feel ill, I asked her if she had second thoughts. “My story isn’t very interesting anyways,” she admitted. She sat up a little in bed.

I chuckled and reassured her that when the activity director told me a story about the resident’s trip to Canada, solo, as a young woman, that I found it not only interesting but courageous, and that I was anxious to hear more stories.

She sat up straighter in bed. “Now take a seat. Where’s your recorder? Are you going to take notes?” I burst out laughing and asked, “Is the interview back on?”

I prompted her with a couple of questions, and she elaborated about her family growing up in Europe, her trip to Canada, and her marriage. I was enthralled. Like many of us who grew up listening to stories about our parents who immigrated to North America, and sat in wonder as they told us about their  childhood and lives – so very different than our childhood lives, her stories reminded me of my own parents – their childhood in England, and their immigration to Canada and adapting to a new country. Her stories gave me pleasure; my reward – wonderful memories of my own parents’ stories now connect me to her stories.

During my visit, I noticed that my friend has sat up in bed, made herself comfortable and she has leaned in – she was vibrant and quite aware that she had a captive audience of one.

It was time to leave (an hour is optimum for a first visit) but I inquired first if I may return to hear and record more stories and she agreed wholeheartedly.

And now the confession: She admitted to me that she felt ill about our visit, and that she worried that she was not very interesting.

My intent from the beginning of this project, I assured her, is about the residents and their stories; it’s about fun; it’s about remembering the past with fondness and about seeing the connections – who we become and the moments that changed us. And most of all, it’s about recognizing that our lives matter – to our loved ones, our friends, visitors and volunteers, and to the staff.

I assured her that if the story-telling isn’t fun or if she doesn’t think it is worthwhile, then the project isn’t worth pursuing.

When I left her room, it occurred to me that in the beginning of this story-telling process, it’s vital to reassure the residents and perhaps to relate a couple of stories of another person’s life. That’s when the magic happens – all of us, young or old, like to hear stories. And when the stories are true – autobiographies in the making – we are all fascinated to capture a glimpse into the past and see inside one person’s life. At least, I know I am.

Because at the end of the day, we are all so unique, and not so unique. Once the stories flow, we can see how we are all connected – even though our stories are different. When she spoke of her family immigrating to Canada, the ship’s journey and final stop in the port of Halifax, I immediately thought of my parents’ arrival to Canada and wondered if they, like my friend, were scared, too.

We all think that our own individual lives are rather simple and mundane, and that in our own eyes, that we are not very special. But a funny thing happens when we share our stories with others: through the reflective lens of another, we begin to value the meaning and worthiness of our own stories. Through the lens, we see and understand the significance of our journey.

I believe that is the true gift that we receive when we share our stories.

I trust that my friend’s pleasure and joy in talking to me allowed her to see the significance of her life; I know that I received joy, inspiration and wisdom. And I cannot wait to visit her again.

But most of all, I am always so grateful that when we pay attention to people (and to their stories) we focus on their spirit – their true essence. And that is what connects us. Our spirits are all connected. We are all connected.

When we pay attention to another person, we share a part of us and in sharing we begin to care…our compassion, our kindness, and our love within grows. And that is the true gift!

 

 

 

 

Caregiving is a gift

snowdrops always return in the early days of spring

snowdrops always return in the early days of spring

Winter doesn’t last forever.

Since I am still wearing a cast for a broken wrist, I have decided to add an excerpt from my ebook that is offered free on my site, The Gifts That We Share: Caring for my parents with Alzheimer’s –

Excerpt:

Like many others who look after a loved one, I am neither a nurse, nor am I a personal support worker. I have no experience in any of the professions of “caring” for patients in any way. My sister, my mother (in her 80’s at the time) and I cared for my father when he exhibited signs of dementia (later, a physician in the emergency ward told us that it was probably Alzheimer’s disease – my father, and my mother who was Power Of Attorney at the time, refused to allow us to take my father to a physician). In the last few months of my father’s illness, my mother began to have hallucinations and exhibit paranoia and when my father died, we had barely returned home from the funeral when my mother showed further signs of a dementia, too.

Because my experience looking after my father was too heartbreaking to face again, I became determined to do it differently. Since I felt I hadn’t done a spectacular job the first time around – I was worn out most of the time – I decided that there must be a better way. There is. The journey is still challenging and wrought with sadness and grief, but it’s also one of understanding and acceptance; and for me, that has made a world of difference.

My sister laughed when I told her that I was going to write about our experience of caring for both our parents – she worried that it wasn’t very healthy to want to re-live a painful experience. I disagree.

What I do know is that something inside me keeps telling me to do this. And one thing I have learned is that I must listen to my inner voice.

My inner voice is the gift that I received (or found) after my father died and my mother became ill. It is not the only gift that I received; I received many others and continue to do so. But the greatest gift that I received is my inner voice became more vocal. And since I believe that we all have a spirit, I now know that my inner voice is really just another word for spirit or my soul.

Caregiving is a unique and profound experience – an awakening; an awakening or realization that we are all here on earth to look after each other as we are all connected. Some of us learn the lessons and are open to the “gifts;” while others do not learn the lessons and do not understand why I would call the experience – a gift.

Since I have opened my heart and my mind, I have discovered and heard new stories of love and kindness and how they transform our lives, each and every day. When you are on “high alert” for new experiences, they fall into your lap! In fact, my mother’s hospital roommate was in her room for only a few hours, when the roommate’s daughter told me a beautiful story that resonated with me. Since her mother had become ill with dementia, various family members would crawl into the bed with her mother and snuggle up beside her until she fell asleep. On one of these occasions the granddaughter said to her grandmother while lying beside her, “Grandma, do you know who I am?” My mother’s roommate answered, “No, I don’t know you. But I can feel the love.”

This ebook is written for those of you who want to learn the lessons and be open to a new form of communication or connection with your parent – a deeper, more profound way of communicating in understanding the behaviours, because the behaviours of a person with Alzheimer’s becomes the “new language” – that is how the person communicates now. If you want to learn the “new language,” you will need to interpret the behaviours and learn to “read” your loved one.

If you intend to communicate or continue to “connect” with your loved one, you will need to open your mind and your heart; we absorb our most profound and transforming lessons when we are open.

Allow me to warn you that caring for a loved one will change your life!

When I read Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (2006, Penguin Group) I was inspired by the author’s description of personal energy. She spoke often of how a visitor, or attending physician or nurse, would either bring their positive (and sometimes kind and loving) energy into her hospital room, or that at other times they would bring their negative energy and how it would “suck” her energy and leave her listless and fatigued. Her story roused questions in my mind about patients and their needs and led me to wonder…

What if a person with Alzheimer’s can understand people, but intuitively, not intellectually? What if a person with Alzheimer’s can hear you and want to say things but cannot? What if we sat down with our family member who has Alzheimer’s and looked into their eyes and said words of comfort, “Please don’t be afraid. You are not alone. We will go through this journey together. I will ensure that we take time to understand each other. This isn’t the end of the world…but it is now a different world.”?

What if we followed the theme of the movie Avatar and we embraced the words and what those words mean…”I see you.”? (If you haven’t seen the movie, the words “I see you” are used as a greeting; metaphorically and literally, a person sees or understands in a physical and spiritual sense who the other person is.)

What if our words and acts of understanding could transform the disease from one of fear and loss into a journey of “connection” with our loved one – who is no longer in the world of sense and reason, but who has entered into a new realm of sensitivity and emotion? Now that’s a radical thought! Or, is it?

Lastly, when I owned my children’s clothing store in my past life (before looking after parents) I often would re-iterate to my staff – “Whenever a customer is unhappy, just look them in the eye and say sincerely “What can I do to make things right?” Now I believe that similar words can soothe someone who has Alzheimer’s. Because most of the time, I have learned that our customers did not want the moon, they only wanted to be heard. They wanted to know that we understood that they were not happy; that they wanted us to validate their feelings. And, I believe that the person with Alzheimer’s wants the same thing. It’s what we all want – validation – to know that we matter.

Take time to stop the busyness of your life, take time to be in the stillness of that moment – “Dad, you matter to me…whatever it is that you need or want, we will help you as much as we can. All is well.”

You will see the frustration drop. You will notice the person’s body will relax and lose its rigidity.

We want to know that we matter still. Our loved ones, our parents, our husbands and wives – all of them just want to know that there is still a joyful life ahead. You can make that happen – and that’s why caregiving is a gift. It’s a gift to them and it’s a gift you give yourself.

In grief, find peace

My garden in early spring

My garden in early spring

It was my sister’s birthday a few days ago and because my mother has been sleeping more than usual we decide to visit her with tea and donut holes, instead of having a party.

I have bought a birthday card for my mother to give to my sister as choosing a card herself would be a task that my mother could not handle. The simple act of signing the card takes my mother an inordinate amount of time; often it is signed incorrectly or illegible. But she still understands that she should sign it.

We sit together and enjoy our cups of tea and I hand over the birthday card to my mother to give to Sue. My mother laughs and says thank you and begins to open it. Laughing, I remind her that it is Sue’s birthday, not hers. She laughs again. Then proceeds to open the card. I lean over and take the card from her.

“Mom, the card is for Sue. It’s her birthday today. Not yours.”

Mom takes the card from me and replies, “Of course, I know that.” But again, begins to open the card. (My goodness, this card is becoming worn now.)

Once again, I lean over to take the card. Finally, Sue interrupts us both and grabs the card herself and thanks Mom. My mother is still puzzled. Finally she wishes Sue a happy birthday! Hallelujah!

Minutes later, mom leans over and hugs me. “Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”

Oh, boy….we all laugh. Sue and I both thank Mom, in chorus.

These are the very times that are so wonderful and funny. But we didn’t always laugh during these “exasperating” moments. When our loved ones who have a dementia repeat themselves or repeat an action or ask a question (not once, not twice, but over and over, non-stop), our first reaction is puzzlement. Why is our parent doing this? After some time, our patience and confusion begins to turn into intolerance. Now we become annoyed; sometimes, resentful and angry. What really motivates our negative reactions?

I believe we react out of fear. Fear. Whether we are distressed, confused, stressed…the underlying emotion is fear.

When I cared for my father in their family home, I was anxious every day. I arrived about 8 am and stayed all day until my sister (who worked full-time) arrived after work. During those eight hours I stressed over everything…my father didn’t eat his breakfast (it’s my fault that he is losing weight); my mother sleeps all day – what is wrong with her?; my father is moving around upstairs…is he attempting to come down the stairs on his own?; my mother has an appointment with her physician, but she insists that I mustn’t breathe a word about my father’s health situation (just in case he is taken away from her); when I take her to her appointment, who will stay and care for my father?

The above is just a short synopsis of my daily routine and stresses. It should not be a surprise to anyone (especially caregivers) that my body could not keep up with the daily stress load. And I say this with complete love and forgiveness (for myself), that I subjected my body, mind and spirit to this daily stress because I lived in Fear! I could not (and did not) acknowledge my new reality which was that my father had Alzheimer’s and that my mother (in spite of her insistence that she could cope) clearly, could not!

The very simple fact is that I lived in fear, instead of labelling it “fear” and then dealing with it.

The Buddhist nun and prolific author, Pema Chodr0n, in When Things Fall Apart describes acknowledging our fear as if we are running from a monster (in a dream) and suddenly we stop, turn around and just face the monster. This metaphor describes fear as a monster perfectly.

At the risk of sounding trite, when we do not face our fears, the monster becomes bigger and bigger. For me, if I had acknowledged my emotions so that I could deal with them, I would have made better decisions.

I was running so fast that I ignored my mother’s symptoms, and I relinquished good decision-making.

If I had asked for help (which I did not because my mother insisted that she did not want any “outsiders” in her home) then I would have learned some important Alzheimer’s facts and management of the symptoms. I would have realized that Alzheimer’s can affect eating habits and I would have realized that many of the spouses of someone with a dementia-related disease ignore and avoid the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s; instead, many spouses “pretend” that nothing is wrong. I also would have understood that her resistance of physician appointments is often another symptom of the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. (Many resist because deep down, they fear the diagnosis. They suspect something is wrong, but they are unable to face it.)

But because I did not ask for help, I did not learn that sun downing is a symptom of Alzheimer’s that prevents a good night’s sleep; I did not learn our mother was exhibiting some early signs of her own dementia and for that reason alone, I should not have followed her wishes.

Because I did not ask for help, I did not understand that my father was in the palliative stage long before I recognized that stage; and lastly, that all the love and kindness in the world was not going to heal my father.

I now understand (I get it!) that my family (my mother, my sister, my husband, our children, and myself) were grieving for our loss – long before our father actually died.

Grief walks with us the very moment that we hear the diagnosis and prognosis of Alzheimer’s or any dementia-related disease. We say good-bye repeatedly and that is why the experts have coined the phrase, “The Long Good-Bye” when they discuss the ramifications of the disease.

The person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related disease begins to change from the initial onset of the disease. Abilities that once were strengths diminish. (Our father used to excel at map reading or directions. In the earlier stages, he became confused in the grocery store. Later, the layout of his own home completely overwhelmed him.) Talents and passions disappear. Hobbies are discontinued. An avid book reader no longer reads. Someone who loved to spend time with the grandchildren shows disinterest in family gatherings. Often that person will shun family and friends.

In the later stages, our loved one with a dementia can no longer remember how to communicate, read, dress himself, etc. Many people are surprised when I tell them that Alzheimer’s affects the different parts of the brain, so that the simple act of sitting and watching TV is no longer possible. My mother rarely watches the TV because she cannot sit still. Often the images confuse and disturb her and that fuels her hallucinations, delusions and dreams. She cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy on television. I have noticed that other residents at the long-term care residence where my mother now resides “attach” themselves to a particularly sad or horrific news story and morph on it over and over. (Television should not be turned on unless the programs are monitored.)

When these symptoms appear, if you do not have any information about Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diseases, as family and as carers, we are frightened. And sad. There are few things worse than watching a loved one become child-like, dependent on others.

When we react with sadness to our loved one’s situation or circumstance, that is grief. Grief. We mourn for the past (what our loved one used to be) and we mourn for the present (what our loved one is now) and we mourn for the future (what will never be).

Both my sister and I have learned to recognize our grief and we have learned to “honour” it. But mostly we have learned how to let it go.

Each of us have our own unique ways of handling grief. Nature is our solace – for both of us. Sue visits the beach, kayaks and walks throughout the wetlands or forests.  I turn to my garden, bird watching or sit by the water. Any water. Thankfully we live in a wonderful city that boasts of a river and a lake! Water connects me to my stillness; my connection to my soul.

Often I grab my husband and pick up coffees (sometimes not in that order!) and we drive to the waterfront. There we sit and watch the water, talking and sipping our coffees. Other times, we sit in silence.

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more…John Burroughs

What we have learned is that grief is an emotion that is constant during Alzheimer’s; but that recognition of it is the first step to healing. Then, give it its space. Space will honour it (and our loved one and ourself). This simple act will lead you to “letting go” of it. And lo and behold, peace takes its place.

Another gift! We have learned that the journey that has led us here (to the Now) makes us who we are today.

And we have learned that when our loved one changes before us (and yes, eventually dies), those changes do not change the essence of someone. Their soul is still there. We have learned to connect to their inner essence; and to let go of their outer shell.  That is what matters now.

We laugh and we enjoy the Now with our mother. The birthday card didn’t matter. Nor, my mother’s confusion over birthdays. That is the gift we give her when we spend time with her; it is the gift that she gives us when she spends time with us.

We have learned to connect to her essence, and that gives us peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gifts That We Share or Caring For My Parents With Alzheimer’s

In 2006 when I began to look after my father who had Alzheimer’s, I was not prepared for the journey of caregiving, and in fact, I struggled every day with its demands. I was torn between my more compassionate and loving side that wanted to “heal” my father and comfort my mother (who at the same time was struggling with her own memory issues), and my other side, my other me, that wanted to follow my own dreams (and caregiving was not one of them).

When my father died and my mother began to show obvious symptoms that she, too, had dementia problems, I made a choice: I chose to “do it better.” And once I made the momentous decision to “do it better” the second time around, everything shifted for me. Now I could see. I opened my eyes and my heart and all the lessons that I had struggled to learn while caring for my parents (in their own home) coalesced.

When I talk to other family members that have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or a dementia-related disease, some of them ask me point-blank, “What on earth can we learn from this disease?” My answer is this:

  • to love more
  • to be kind and more compassionate
  • to appreciate another’s “essence”
  • to connect with a person’s “essence” – sometimes just a simple smile and rubbing their hand connects us. Look past the symptoms, see the person.
  • to appreciate each moment, to pay attention to the moment and to savour it
  • to trust in the Universe
  • to trust in ourselves
  • to love and accept ourselves (exactly as we are)
  • to honour our body, mind and spirit
  • to appreciate our own basic abilities, such as dressing ourselves, washing ourselves, eating…all without another’s help
  • to laugh, play and engage with others
  • to write and share (when you have learned the lessons, tell others)
  • to forgive and let go of all the hurts
  • to accept our reality (what is…is)
  • to accept all others (that includes non judgment)
  • that acceptance of others leads to knowing that we are all connected
  • We are all one.

There is not a day that goes by without my expressing gratitude for the simple things in life that many of us take for granted. Life, itself! I wake each morning and say “Thank you. I’m here.”

Throughout the day I am thankful for my health, my family, my friends and my home. I try to see everything as a “gift” and as a miracle.

Walt Whitman said, “To me, every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”

When we begin to live our daily lives in gratitude, we begin to see everything as another reason to say thank you. My garden, the birds, our daily walk along the river, the wonderful personal support workers who look after my mother now, the residents in her long-term care facility…each a miracle!

In my heart and in my soul, I know without a doubt that I was supposed to be on this journey. My parents gave our family much love and support as my sister and I grew and it is now our turn to return the love and support. Caring for our parents has been an opportunity for both of us to receive so many lessons; an opportunity to grow and become more aware, more generous, stronger and more content. Throughout this on-going journey, we have learned how to love more and forgive; we have both forgiven ourselves for the decisions that we made in the past and we have let go of the guilt that we carried.  We truly recognize that we are doing the best that we can…and we are okay with that.

These are all gifts, my friends.

 

TheGiftsThatWeShare