Recently, mom celebrated her 96th birthday. In the days leading up to her birthday, I got really excited. I started thinking about the cake I was going to make for her and what little decorations I wanted to put around the house to make the day special.
I know that her brain can no longer process that her birthday is a special day just for her, so it's up to me to choose to make the day as special as I can for her. As I was moving around getting everything together for her birthday, I thought about one of the most important life lessons I've gotten on this journey.
We don't always get to choose what life gives us, but we do have a choice in how to live what we've been given.
When we started this care journey 13 years ago, I had no idea that I would wind up in a place where I'm genuinely happy about what I've done and what I do. Being a family caregiver to an Alzheimer's dementia patient is full of very difficult decisions, most of which I didn't have a choice in making. But I've learned to make decisions and take actions in ways that are satisfying to both of us and that was the catalyst for me learning to choose how to live.
I choose to live in a way that allows me to embrace and navigate the difficult times as well as to celebrate and embrace the good times so that I know I've done the very best I could with what I had.
Walking a dementia journey is not all sunny sparkly rainbows and glistening hearts. It's hard. It's really hard. And there are times when I just don't feel like doing it. But because I've chosen to live in a way that embraces my humanity, I can move through those times in ways that don't make me feel guilty or give me regret rocks for my "life backpack."
I choose to live in a way that builds experiences for me to grow as a person and to build the memories that I want to carry in my life. Choosing how to live has made me an equal partner in this care relationship in spite of how limited mom can engage with me.
My encouragement for you this week is to remember that caregiving is what you do for your loved one. Giving care is what you do for both of you. So care enough about you in order to choose how you want to live.
Be well until next time.
Dr. Sheri L. Yarbrough is an author, caregiver, and founder of Praxis Senior Care-Giving Solutions, a consulting business that provides care-givers with practical and easily implemented strategies that can be tailored to meet their individual care needs.
View Dr. Yarbrough's weekly blog on all things caregiving from a caregiver's perspective.