Before you read my post, you might want to take a peek below and read the list of A-Z Caregiving Tips which inspired me to share my own experience related to these tips.
A diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss presents caregiving challenges, each as varied as the person experiencing it. Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis that spelled memory loss for my sweet mom. I have already presented my experience with tips A – G, so let me jump right in where I left off.
H Hear my stories from long ago attentively.
I treasure the rocking chair my husband bought for me in celebration of the birth of our first child. When I walk past it, I sometimes run my hand across the back of the chair and give it a gentle nudge to rock. Sweet memories of rocking my children to sleep or to soothe their tears come to the forefront of my memory. Funny thing is, as often as I rocked my babies, I don’t remember when the last time was that I rocked them. That’s because it happened when I didn’t see it coming.
Similarly, there came a time when my sweet mother told each of her oft-repeated stories from her childhood for the last time. It was so easy to tune them out over time because I had heard them so many times. I find grace in knowing that I really was tired and trying to juggle too many things, but oh how I now wish I had taken more time to listen with my heart. Now that she is no longer here to tell her stories, how I wish I had recorded her voice as she reminisced about her life, and how I wish I had written down more of the stories she shared. Her stories were part of my life’s story too.
I Invite me along on community and church gatherings.
Just as the stories our loved ones tell will one day come to an end, so too will their desire to be social. I’m so glad I carved out time to take my mother on a few road-trips “home” to visit her family in West Virginia and Ohio.
Only God knows the measure of our days.
Even though she was in the early stages of memory loss, traveling with her wasn’t easy, but the effort was rewarded many times over as I observed her quiet joy as she spent time with her family (and mine).
Mom was a woman of faith who served the Lord with gladness as long as she was able. The day did come in the fall of 2015 when, for safety sake, I needed to take her car away (I didn’t earn any popularity awards with that decision). Mom’s need for fellowship with her church family was still strong, so I’m thankful for Mom’s friend Jean, who would take mom to church with her whenever Mom was willing and ready. Mom’s ability to measure time and take cues from what was written on her calendar gradually disappeared late in 2015. Sadly, when Mom’s ability to remember the names of even her closest friends diminished, so too did her desire to attend church. Her “last day” attending church happened when we weren’t expecting it either.
While mom no longer had the desire to go places, I noticed there was still a glimmer of joy when people would come to visit. I soon discovered that the most loving thing I could do for her was to invite family and friends in. Just a few at a time, so as not to overwhelm her.
Mom enjoyed the times when all three of us kids were able to be with her. She didn’t remember the visit for long, and it would usually tucker her out, but the momentary joy was worth the extra effort of finagling Brad’s wheelchair into the house.
Her church family was fantastic – she loved the visits from her pastors and friends who would stop by. Her eyes would light up when her grandchildren (and especially her great-grandchildren) would come for a visit. One granddaughter would bring dinner and her family every Sunday night. One grandson came every chance he could, bringing his girls with him. All of the visiting grands and great-grands would spend time doing whatever she enjoyed: coloring, sorting colorful buttons, working a puzzle a half-dozen times, and such. My sister Vivian would come every other weekend or so to help me out, sometimes bringing her youngest son. Mom dearly loved her family, even if she didn’t always comprehend that we were her family.
My encouragement to fellow caregivers is to make sure you make room for family and friends as often as you can.
We rarely know when time spent with a loved one is the last time. Last times happen in life when we aren’t looking. Only God knows the measure of our days.