Memories are forever. This, of course, is totally not true.
Being the primary caretaker for a loved one with cognitive impairment, I found this stupid little saying, well, stupid. This small, framed piece was among Mom’s owl keepsakes. And it raised such an internal emotional fit every time that I looked at it, that I did the opposite of what any reasonable girl might do — I kept it. Now years later I must share it with you.
In the initial years confronting the challenges accompanying my mom’s disease, I cried. A lot. I cried every time I left her. I woke up during the night and cried. Then again when I woke up in the morning. Sometimes the tears were because I was sad for her and how helpless she was, sometimes because I was so mad at the disease and how it robbed her future, and sometimes out of fear for myself. I feared not only that I wasn’t equipped to help her, but also that my own children would lose their momma, me, in the same unfair and wounding way.
I can’t say that I don’t cry anymore, because I do sometimes. It’s still sad. She is declining slowly. Although she still remembers me & Tony, the majority of her memories of her life and family are not present. I miss my mom.
On several occasions I have shared the stupid quote on the owl keepsake and usually found that others didn’t seem to find it as offensive. But if you can understand, if you have a loved one experiencing memory loss, I want to share the following three thoughts that came to mind as I reflected on the last few years.
Just do the next right thing.
When faced with daily decisions, research as best you can and then make the best choices you can at that moment. I was constantly overcome with worry as I made life-impacting decisions for someone else. I experienced analysis paralysis before each new decision and should-have realizations afterwards. Even decisions made with advice from professionals were, in hindsight, not the best for mom. It was an exhausting cycle.
But what I did find is that despite the mistakes I made, the blessings outnumbered the misfortunes. There were countless situations where someone showed up to help – people I didn’t expect, or even know sometimes, that provided what we needed when we needed it. Keep moving forward doing the next right thing.
Surround yourself with friends.
Take time to allow others to embrace you. It was helpful to talk about the frustrations and emotional challenges – to vent to someone that would just listen. I found comfort in support groups and online forums related to dementia hearing that others were able to cope well with the challenges.
Other times it was such a relief to talk about anything else. I am thankful for friends that have prayed with me and for us — always believing the best for my family. They helped me to stay me.
Make new memories.
Cherish little moments. The conversation exchanges between my mom and those sharing her path are precious and make me smile. Things will never be the same but they can still bring love and laughter. Move forward, which sometimes means just being still, and look for happy.
Memories are not forever. Not for someone experiencing dementia. But I have learned that embracing the good today brings comfort to you and to your loved ones. Oh, and when reading quotes, don’t worry yourself with the ones that seem inaccurate — they might just be right for someone else.
YOUR life is beautiful… love it out!