As devastating as Alzheimer’s is, you can look at it as a burden or a blessing. We cannot control so much of our life — like what people think of us or how they run their lives. Or whether we get a disease.
But what we CAN control is our own reactions. While it might be very difficult, as a caregiver you must arrive at a place of acceptance. But you do not get there without grieving first.
Grieving is undeniably a personal journey. Some people progress at a fast pace while others take longer periods at various stages. Some stages they might never experience.
Grieving can consist of many emotions:
You can’t think, speak or react after hearing the diagnosis
Emotional outpouring —
Yell, cry, even throw things at this stage
— Loneliness and a feeling of isolation set in
Physical signs of distress
— You might feel ill or extremely tired
— Worries about what’s going to happen in the future grip you
— You’re mad at the afflicted person, your family, doctors, even God. You then can feel guilty, especially for the anger you have directed at God
— Your thoughts and feelings make you feel guilty, or you feel that you’re not doing enough as a caregiver
Not keeping up with normal activities
— You worry about how others will react or treat your loved one
Healing of memories
— You come to the slow realization that healing memories are often painful memories. This is the time to come to grips with what is happening and realize that life has to change if it’s going to continue. Feed off the good memories to keep you going.
— You start to accept you are in a new chapter of life. If you can accept that, you can get on with your life, and with much less stress.
Realize that you will continue to grieve due to the ongoing changes with Alzheimer’s disease. Even when you might get to the “acceptance” stage, you won’t be at the end of the line — you might cycle through the stages again, or through just a few. This is normal. It will not mean you’re regressing or going backwards. Afford yourself a break. Let yourself feel.
The blessings start to become apparent once you hit the “acceptance” stage. It’s said Alzheimer’s disease can be a person’s second chance in life. Inhibitions disappear. Patients become blatantly truthful, and often funny in the process.
You did not ask for your loved one to have dementia, and you didn’t ask to care for her or him. This situation has been “given” to you. That means it is a gift to you. And you discover that your loved one also is a gift to you.
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