How can we show them our love?
It’s a painful question most caregivers must eventually face. How can we help someone with Alzheimer’s know, believe, trust our love?In the beginning, we caregivers are almost as confused as those we care for. We struggle mightily to appreciate the difference between our loved ones’ willful actions and the words and actions dictated by Alzheimer’s. We ache with the knowledge of what is to come. We do our best to do it all, do everything for them, and yet everything grows every day and what we do is never enough.
Meanwhile our own fear and frustration are a weight we carry, not entirely invisible, revealed in sighs and frowns and impatient words. Time passes while we learn more about the disease and the role we must play.If we’re wise, we ask for help and accept it when it’s offered. We take care of ourselves as well as our loved ones and in doing so, we keep going. For them.
And eventually we realize that everything we’ve done for them has also been for ourselves. Looking back to before Alzheimer’s, we realize: we’re different. Whether we’ve seen it as a duty to them, a job no one else could or would do, a way to repay the love and care we’ve received, or a privilege we’ve been accorded, our care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s has made us grow.
But we can’t avoid the ugly truth: while we’ve been growing through the pain and the work and the caring, our loved ones have been shrinking. Though we do our best to see them as they were, we must admit they’ve changed.We can’t see the mother she was, the father he was; can’t imagine her twisted hands sewing a wedding dress, his crooked fingers tightening a bicycle chain; can’t hear the words she used to sing while she polished the floor on her hands and knees; can’t feel the solid safety of his arms as he carried us asleep from car to bed.
We can’t see them as they were. But we remember.
And they remember, too. They must. Somewhere inside our loved ones, they still know what love is, and the memories remain. Where else would they go? They weren’t flesh that they could die, so we have to believe they live on, out of reach because of Alzheimer’s, but living in spite of it.
In those memories, they know our love. They remember when we helped them dress and held the spoon they couldn’t manage. They remember how gently we washed them and how slowly we walked with them and how often we answered their questions. They haven’t forgotten, at least not forever.So it’s up to us. We can choose to trust in the pain we see, the sadness of their forgetting; or we can choose to believe in the joy of the unseen, the happiness of their remembering.
For me, it’s an easy choice. I choose joy.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13 NKJV)
Lord, help us to believe. Help us to trust that in Your perfect care for our loved ones, You make certain they know we love them. Thank You, Father that our love for them is only a shadow of Yours. Thank You for being our Guide through the wilderness of Alzheimer’s.