I had a conversation recently with someone whose mother died of Alzheimer’s disease a few months back and we discussed the enduring spirit of those living with this disease. Having suffered the loss of my own grandmother due to Alzheimer’s I understand how difficult this disease is on an entire extended family.
What helped me was to focus on the enduring traits, abilities and strengths that remained for my grandmother despite her devastating illness. Being mindful of your loved one’s remaining abilities, instead of all of their pronounced losses and Alzheimer’s symptoms, can be a powerful tool for caregivers. This is the bedrock of our Compass Memory Support Neighborhood programming and care, and it is what we remind families who have loved ones living with us to remain focused on.
We know a lot about the changes in the brain that happen due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, each and every day people living with the disease get up and try to cope as best as they can. In your day today, take note of what your loved one can do, what endures and where strengths are visible. Is it a lifelong stubborn trait that makes providing care a challenge, but for years provided a “good laugh” in your married life? Perhaps it is a passion for gardening that persists, a dance step long remembered when a favorite tune is played, or an evident tenacity in the face of dementia.
Whatever it is, pause and notice it. Of course, this won’t change or reverse the losses that have happened, but it may affect your mindset. Recent research suggests that having a positive attitude enhances overall quality of life, protecting us from depression, boosting our immune systems and potentially adding years to our life. It even, possibly, might make your everyday caregiving feel a bit less burdensome.