Caring for our Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s disease is one of, if not the most difficult challenges a person will ever have to face in their entire lives.
Caring for your Loved One has the ability to take so much away from us, including, but certainly not limited to, our health, our financial resources, our dreams, our happiness.
- It compromises our relationships with our friends and families.
- Exhausts us and tests our mettle in a way that has probably not been tested before.
- Is painfully slow and exhausting, and it is constantly changing, causing us to have to adapt to ever shifting and worsening circumstances.
- Our identities perish, forcing us to have to redefine ourselves in a way we could never have imagined.
- Our laughter grows feebler, our ability to see the beauty in a sunset becomes diminished and our sense of wonder for life becomes muted.
In short, we change because as caregivers for Loved Ones with this dreadful disease, the entire lens of our lives changes its focus to tending to the needs of our Loved One, who is becoming increasingly more dependent on us.
- What can be more heartbreaking than watching someone whom you love, who has been an integral part of your life, disappear into a place where you can no longer reach them, yet they stand right in front of you?
- How sad is it to witness your mother who brought you into this world, or your father, who taught you how to ride a bicycle, or your spouse, whose eyes you looked into when you said your vows, when they no longer remember who you are?
- How heartbreaking is it to explain to your children, why Mom, Dad, Granny or Grandpa is ‘different’ now?
The best strategies involve learning how to adapt to the challenges and even leaning into them in a way that they become fuel for growth and understanding.
I can personally say that there has never been a challenge in my life as great as being the caregiver to my wife Linda, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of fifty-one. Nothing could have prepared me for the hardships, the levels of fear, despair, depression and resentment.
After the initial shock wore off, (and let me be honest with you, it took a while), I was determined to have this be an experience of growth, knowing that there was an opportunity I was given to come out of this with a deeper understanding of myself and a way to translate that into a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
It’s as if there was something inside of me that was pulling me towards the light, towards wholeness. I knew from a level beyond my comprehension that there was a right way and a wrong way to deal with Linda’s illness, and the choices quite naturally laid themselves out before me.
There is a line from the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls that says:
“Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable; and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.
I wrapped my fear around me like a blanket.
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it.
I’m crawling on your shore”.
So many of us struggle with and resist growth and change.
Resistance limits our transformation and the possibility to see and experience life in a new way.
I found myself in the center of a life altering experience. I had to turn my heartache, my challenges, into something meaningful and essential. Not just for my sake, but also for Linda’s.
THE 9 STRATEGIES FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL LIVING ARE TIMELESS AND CHANGELESS.
Transformative Living is about a “coming home” to rest in the most basic nature of ourselves. In the midst of struggle, there is the path to peace.
In Buddhism, they say that there are two kinds of suffering: the kind that leads to more suffering and the kind that leads to the end of suffering.
While we outline the 9 Strategies in our book, the recommendation is that you choose any or all of them that resonate with you. When faithfully and diligently applied, they can bring us, the caregivers, to a place of purpose and fulfillment.
- Be as sober and realistic about this process as possible.
- Remember that there is no substitute for being deeply engaged in the process.
- You have two goals here. Recognize this as an opportunity for growth and empowerment and take the necessary steps to emerge on the other side of this challenging time with the best parts of yourself still intact.
- Be kind to yourself.
YOU MUST INSIST THAT YOU DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO CREATE
A COMPELLING ENOUGH REASON FOR YOURSELF TO NOT JUST
SURVIVE CAREGIVING, BUT ALSO THRIVE AS A RESULT OF IT.
The opportunity to cultivate the attributes of patience, empathy, love, understanding, gratitude, inner strength, faith, courage and wisdom are greatest when they are forged in the fires of a struggle of this magnitude. We can never pretend or presume, that just because we are open to such potent teachings that the process is made any easier. It certainly isn’t, although in caregiving, quitting is never an option. Some days it is simply about searching for the courage to put one foot in front of the other, while on other days you discover that your well of compassion has become so deep, it’s actually beginning to feel like a reason for optimism.
One of my favorite quotes by Jack Cornfield:
IF YOUR COMPASSION DOES NOT INCLUDE YOURSELF, IT IS INCOMPLETE
Your healing comes from treating yourself with love and reverence
at a time when exhaustion and despair taunt you!
These 9 Strategies offer you a guiding light on your path as a caregiver! I started out by saying that I am a caregiver. I understand just as much as you the suffering of this illness, and I understand just as much as you the call to want to live a life that is a testament to the lessons we have learned.
Life is indeed precious, and we owe it to our Loved Ones, to ourselves, to our higher self, to take a swan dive into the deep end of the pool of possibilities and be a shining example of how to grow and prosper emotionally through our profound challenges.
For caregiving to be a healing journey towards transformation, I believe with all my heart that it must also be a spiritual quest. It is not enough to have steely resolve as a caregiver. Doing what needs to be done by placing one foot in front of the other will get you to your destination. Our destination is a future filled with the quiet joy from the lessons learned in the crucible of our tribulations. During caregiving, something deep inside us must fundamentally shift, bringing us to a place where our lives are about possibility.
We can, we will, we must, we are stronger than we know!
All the drawings on our website were created by Dr. David and Francine Silberman on Paper FiftyThree.
Our 9 Strategies book cover was designed by Suki Shavoir.