Forgetfulness is a form of freedom. Kahill Gibran, Lebanese-American writer, poet.
How often do we say, I forgot….the keys, the sweater, the name, the birthday, the number? For most of us of a certain age, some forgetfulness is routine. But what about those whose past has slipped away, those whose last five minutes are gone?
As I interviewed daughters for my book on mother loss, I found it particularly heart-rending when I talked to daughters who are losing or have lost their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. One woman said, “My mother is lost but not gone.” This mother has forgotten her daughter and everyone else who was important to her yet she is still alive and may live for many more years. One daughter’s story exemplified Gibran’s quote. She said, “My mother used to have great anxiety and worry. As a result, she was often angry and depressed. Now, because of her dementia, she is free of worry and is experiencing joy.” This daughter knows her mother’s situation will worsen but in the meantime she is embracing the moment.
Perhaps you have lost or are losing your mother or other loved one to this terrible disease. I can’t imagine what pain you’re experiencing but I can stand beside you and support you through it.
Affirmation: My brain is alive and well.
Coaching question: What does your ability to think, remember, reason mean to you? Don’t take it for granted, be grateful.
Have you ever walked along a shoreline, only to have your footprints washed away? That’s what Alzheimer’s is like. The waves erase the marks we leave behind, all the sand castles. Some days are better than others. Pat Summitt, American women’s college basketball head coach who holds the record for the most career wins.
Every 66 seconds a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of them belong to women. In addition, women make up two-thirds of all the caregivers caring for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. That’s why we must be at the heart of the solution.
Much attention is given to the support of cancer and heart disease research which is necessary and important. We need to add Alzheimer’s to our list. If you’re a woman over sixty, you are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than you are breast cancer. Support the cause and support caregivers. It takes a community to stand up to this devastating disease.
Affirmation: I support Alzheimer’s research.
Coaching request: If you’ve swept Alzheimer’s under the rug, take another look. Become informed, support the research and caregivers.
24/7 helpline – 1-800-272-3900
Watch for your local walk
I want to tell you how much I miss my mother. Bits of her are still there. I miss her most when I’m sitting across from her. Candy Crowley, CNN Chief Political Correspondent
Alzheimer’s is a cruel, cruel disease. The entire family suffers. Interviewing daughters who have lost or are losing their mothers to this horrible disease has taught me much. Early-onset Alzheimer’s and other early dementias are particular horrific.
I had the honor to interview, Allie, a young daughter whose mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s at age forty seven, Allie was eleven. This is a portion of a poem Allie wrote while she was her mother’s part-time caregiver for six years.
Allie is now a successful college student and her mother is in memory care.
Don’t You Forget About Me
I cannot say the words, they are too hard to say
I rue the moment that I fade, the memories went away
I had a beautiful mom whose mind went one day
I had a mom who was too sick to stay
I blame the disease that stripped her that way
I hate that I won’t see her on my wedding day
Affirmation: I care about the suffering of others.
Coaching questions: If you are a care-giver of someone with dementia, in what ways are you taking care of yourself? How can you reach out to others for support? Write a poem or a letter or draw a picture to help release some of your emotions.
The gradual losses experienced by caregivers can lead to sadness, depression, anger, guilt, sleeplessness and other physical and emotional problems. Family Caregiver Alliance Site
Caregivers are frequently referred to as heroes, even super-heroes. But they aren’t. Caregivers are not super-human or intended to be super-heroes. They are simply human beings doing their best to take care of someone they love whose brain is not working properly. Perhaps they may wish they had super powers or mystical abilities but to stay sane they must acknowledge that they can’t fix all the challenges that accompany a dementia diagnosis.
The Family Caregiver Alliance recommends that a caregiver identify her losses, her feelings about the losses and her corresponding grief. The Alliance also recommends keeping a journal or gratitude journal, attending support groups, and doing relaxation exercises.
Affirmation: I take care of myself as I take care of another.
Coaching questions: Whether you are a caregiver or not, in what ways do you try to be a super-hero? How’s that working for you? If you are a caregiver, in what ways do you take care of yourself?
A lot of people underestimate rest, especially sleeping and recovery time. Jason Day, Australian professional golfer.
Did you know that you have a brain-cleaning crew that works the night shift only? While you are sleeping, your brain’s glymnphatic system flushes cerebrospinal fluid through your gray matter to remove proteins that accumulate during the day.
If you deprive yourself of restorative sleep, waste begins to accumulate in the brain and causes a loss of neurological function. In the short term, this might mean poor memory or absent-mindedness. In the long term the trash buildup may be a contributing factor to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Sleep isn’t a luxury.
Affirmation: I get good sleep.
Coaching questions: How much sleep do you get? How much do you need? What’s keeping you from getting the sleep you need for maximum health?
Strong emotions such as passion and bliss are indictions that you’re connected to Spirit, or ‘inspired,’ if you will. When you’re inspired, you activate dormant forces, and the abundance you seek in any form comes streaming into your life. Wayne Dyer, American philosopher, self-help author, and motivational speaker.
The mug from which I drink my morning green tea has three words written on the inside rim, “Always Be Inspired.”
I’m inspired by people who demonstrate excellence and resolve…our garden store assistant who is a “plant encyclopedia” and willing to share, my best friend, Nanc, who doesn’t let being wheel-chair bound dampen her spirits or her fun, writers I met at the writer’s conference who were undaunted by the publishing statistics, caregivers for loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s, the daughters I have interviewed who, though their own loss was great, want to tell their stories to inspire others towards recovery.
Affirmation: I am inspired.
Coaching questions: What/who inspires you? What difference does this inspiration make in your life?
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ Mister Rogers
Mister Rogers’s mother knew that if her son recognized the helpers he would feel calmer about the tragedy, knowing that someone was there to take control and put order to the chaos. Who has helped you in times of tragedy or need? Perhaps it was a teacher or a pastor, a grandmother or a neighbor, a friend or sibling.
As I talk with daughters who have lost their mothers to death, abandonment or Alzheimer’s, the trajectory of their grief recovery is often changed by the helpers who show up. The support and love of older brothers or sisters, grandmothers, neighbors, friends in support groups, hospice workers, or dads, calm the chaos of the moment and become the helpers in their lives.
Affirmation: I’ve been blessed with having helpers in my life.
Coaching questions: Who have been the helpers in your life? How have they made a difference? How have you shown up as a helper in the life of another? What difference did you make?
Even the famous Julia Child needed helpers…lots of helpers!