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Letting Go

2013.7.16 paintingWhen someone close to you is developing dementia, first comes fear, then denial.  The attempts to “bring her back” Asking for answers to questions that will reassure you that she is “still there.”

“Do you remember “or perhaps “Don’t you remember?”

The visits become shorter – More of an obligation than a pleasure.

“It doesn’t matter if I visit – she won’t remember anyway.”

“She has left us.”

“She isn’t there anymore; she’s gone.

Then it really doesn’t matter if you visit, as long as she is safe and ideally comfortable until the end.

I’ve been there.

But if you do decide to visit, I promise you, they really are still there.

I am fond of telling people that the first lesson is to let go of the person they used to be and embrace the wonderful person who is with you now.

It’s easy to say but harder to do.  It’s complex and difficult.

I spoke recently with a friend who told me of visiting her mother who is experiencing memory loss.  “I cried every day,” she said.

When I describe the need to let go, she totally agreed but there is a difference between agreeing intellectually and getting there emotionally.

So what helps?  How to begin?

Try taking one small step.  Just decide that once you will not ask her a question she can’t answer.  It stresses her and upsets, you so just one time give yourself permission to join her in the moment.  The pressure goes away – for both of you.

Now what?  Is there something she enjoys that you can share?  Games?  With Mom it was Scrabble. She loved to play and was a fierce competitor.

“I’m going to beat you at Scrabble” I would say as I set up the board. She would set her jaw and tell me with a gleam in her eye, “Don’t be too sure.” Over time her ability to form words declined but never her enjoyment.

No games?  Don’t worry, Sometimes just being there is enough.  A gentle touch, a soothing voice; be present and just listen.  The moment is really quite peaceful when you get the hang of it.

Each week I will share my journey with Mom – how she forgot nearly everything and taught me how to live

I hope it will be helpful…Let me know.