It has been way too long since my last post. I have let the stresses of being a caregiver get the best of me lately. I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been working out less often. I’ve been eating poorly. I haven’t been sleeping well. My moods have been running amok. It’s time to pull it in. This is going to be a long one and will be all over the place. Just hold on and go for the ride… :-)
There is this sense that one should be quiet about Alzheimer’s. There is a stigma or shame that many attach to Alzheimer’s. It is very reminiscent of how we use to whisper the word “cancer” back in the day or just not speak the words “AIDS” or “HIV” (many conversations about AIDS and HIV are still laced with homophobia and judgement but we’ll talk about that in another post). I REJECT ALL OF THAT COMPLETELY! I refuse to add the weight of shame and silence to an already overwhelming journey though Alzheimer’s. My mother has a disease that impacts her and everyone involved in her life. There is nothing shameful about this. I am grateful for family and friends who still answer my calls, reply to my texts, wipe my tears, and understand when my silence or harsh words are really a cry for help. I am even grateful for those who don’t really get it, but hang in there with me anyway. Mostly, I am grateful for those who hold me accountable for my words, actions, silence, lack of action and push me to do better, be better, to operate at a higher level and live a life that speaks to my greatness.
For any number of reasons there is also an isolation that comes with Alzheimer’s. This isolation is shared by the patient and the caregiver. It is worsened by this sense that we just shouldn’t talk about it. I believe that not talking about it will kill us. Internalizing and not processing the stress, grief, myriad emotions, frustrations, challenges, joys, triumphs, tears, laughter, and more will kill those of us serving as caregivers before our loved one dies.
Not knowing the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s and the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s is another reason why many get diagnosed until advanced phases. For my family, we attributed Mom’s early indicators to aging and her ever evolving broken-heartedness over the loss of her soul-mate. I embrace that we could not have prevented her from developing Alzheimer’s while also embracing that there are some things we could have done early on in terms of planning and preparing though. (I told you that this was going to be all over the place. LOL)
It was not until I shared the information about my mother’s diagnosis that I learned about the number of people in my life who also had loved ones, spouses, siblings, co-workers, friends, etc. with Alzheimer’s. We never talked about it. If we did talk about it, I was not listening…AT ALL…and I regret that.
Everyday with Mom was baffling in the beginning. I simply wanted her to eat well, recover from knee replacement surgery, and get back to being herself. My delusions may have been bigger than her’s at that point! Then I got angry and that anger led to me getting focused (that’s just what I do when I get angry). I started doing research, reaching out to the Alzheimer’s Association, reading books and articles, subscribing to blogs, following different folks on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, posting on social media, and connecting with other caregivers. I clung and still cling to anything that gives me a sense of control while on this out-of-control journey through Alzheimer’s. Being informed gives me that sense of control that I desperately need. There is a whole world of information, resources, support, and inspiration out there and I try to take in as much as possible. I hope that you do too. We do not have to be uninformed or isolated and we shouldn’t be. I also had to do some things to help me let go and embrace the complete lack of control I have over what is happening to my mother. Faith and trust in God have been a major part of my journey. Attending church, strengthening my prayer life, meditating regularly, and studying the bible and other writings have been key. Information and Spirituality are my yin yang.
You still with me? It’ll be over soon. You’ve gotta check out Seth Rogan’s testimony before the Senate too though. I hope you like it as much as I do.
This Alzheimer’s Journey has taken me through some emotional hills and valleys and lots of twists and turns. It has led and continues to lead to the reexamination and redefinition of relationships, especially my relationship with my mother. As I wrote about earlier, it has also solidified my status as a “daddy’s girl.” I have chosen to let this journey alter the trajectory of my life, career, and finances. My health and fitness journey was kick-started by me realizing I needed to be much healthier if I was going to serve as my mother’s caregiver. This journey has led me to pursue a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. This journey has put me in touch with my anger and helped me heal. This Alzheimer’s journey is profound for the patient, the family, the caregiver(s) and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. It has impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined.
I hope that this post motivates a caregiver to reach out for help on his/her journey. We need help. We need support. We need each other. This Alzheimer’s journey…
Whew, you survived the ride. Thanks for hanging in there to the end. :-* I’ll be more focused on my next post…promise.
My church has started a support group for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s (isn’ t that cool!). We have also started a team for the 2014 Walk To End Alzheimer’s – PG County, MD. Please go to: http://act.alz.org/goto/DelmarieHines to learn more about the walk and to make a tax-deductible donation. All contributions are appreciated. My goal is to raise $5,000 to support patients, caregivers, research, and to find a cure. The End of Alzheimer’s Starts with You and Me!