Alzheimer’s is a waiting room.
Caregivers live there. Often we feel we are held hostage, helpless. We wait for the nothingness we know will come, watching for it but trying to keep it at bay. Our loved ones just wait—they don’t know for what. One day they won’t even care.
It’s hard to be in any waiting room. And harder still to see we have any power there.
But we do have power. We have options. We can sit in the pain and anticipate the inevitable or we can seize the moments given to us, wringing the beauty from each one.
Today we sit on blue upholstered chairs outside the doctor’s office. We were lucky to find three places; most of the chairs were full when we arrived.
Lots of people waiting. It’ll be a long afternoon. My mind goes by habit to the concerns of being in public with Mom.
Do these people look at her and decide I’m an unfit caregiver? Her hair is dirty and matted against her head. As usual. Her shirt is so wrinkled, it looks like she slept in it last night. (She did.) Her hands are folded in her lap, so her long, uneven fingernails take center stage. That light patch on her left pant leg is the skin of her knee showing through a hole in her favorite black slacks.
I watch for signs Mom is getting restless. I pray she doesn’t start pointing and talking about the other people in the room. If our wait is too long, she’ll just get up and walk out. And I can’t let her do that—it took us too long to get her here. But how will I stop her?
When Mom starts rocking in her chair, Dad stands. With his hands in his pockets, he paces, walking the length of the long narrow room in short but purposeful strides. Back and forth. Back and forth. He’s making me dizzy, so I stare at the floor. Mom’s shamrock tennis shoes—the only shoes she’ll wear—are camouflaged against the dingy carpet.
That’s how time passes in the waiting room. It’s hard to find value in it. We have to bring it here ourselves. A book to read, a letter to write, the internet on a cell phone, music through tiny earbuds—opportunities to make the time count for something before it slips away.
While I listen to the jangle of coins in Dad’s pocket and pat Mom’s hand to keep her from pointing, I tell myself again that worth can be found even in the waiting room of Alzheimer’s. Why do I dwell on the negative, expecting the worst when all is well?
I promise myself, one more time, to turn on the lights and turn up the music in the waiting room. I decide to enjoy the satisfaction of small accomplishments—Mom’s hair brushed, her shoes tied. I marvel at the big ones—Mom being here at all, on time for a doctor’s appointment. I pray in thanks for the receptionist who always comes from behind the desk to give Mom a hug and then stays to talk a few minutes with Dad. I choose to delight in Mom’s soft smile at a baby in a passing stroller, to relish the temporary quiet of her hand in mine.
Instead of watching for disaster, Lord, I’ll expect Your help.
You are the light, Lord, and You never leave my side. Help me to stand confident on the rock of Your strength, walk forward in the brightness of Your love, watch faithfully for Your powerful help. When I’m tempted to doubt, to despair, to stop trying, turn my eyes on Your face, and I will be renewed.
“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation…I shall not be moved.” Ps. 62: 5-6 (NKJV)