In the battle we wage for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s, we are not powerless.
No, we can’t protect them from the disease. We can’t slow it down. We can’t stop it. If our battle is against Alzheimer’s, we cannot win.
But what if, instead of fighting against Alzheimer’s, we fight for our loved ones? That’s a completely different war. We can win that war.
“Fighting for our loved ones.” What does that mean? It means helping them live as long as possible. So what does that look like?
Dad wants to take Mom on an overnight trip, a drive down to the hill country to see the wildflowers. Bluebonnets, winecups, prairie paintbrushes! But I know spending a night in a hotel room would frighten and confuse Mom to the point of disaster. So I suggest a short drive to some nearby bluebonnet fields. We take sandwiches and eat in the car. It’s good: Mom is relaxed, looking out the car window, chewing her egg salad with serene deliberation. In Dad’s opinion, though, the flowers are a bit sparse. So after we eat, I turn the car toward home. Once there, we take cold drinks out to the back yard and sit in the shade, where we admire Dad’s petunias and periwinkles and coneflowers and the little yellow blossoms on his tomato plants. Victory!
Christmas decorations and brightly wrapped packages cause Mom to ask endless questions. Her shuffling feet show us these sudden additions to the décor are making her nervous. So we back the tree into a corner and put the gifts in the closet for a while. But later we find a funny little motorized tree that we bring to the kitchen table. Only a few inches tall, it revolves, playing carols and shining with tiny multicolored lights. Mom’s not sure about it ’til Dad talks to her, very softly, telling her—the story of the first Christmas tree? No. He’s telling her about the technology that makes the lights glow and fade and glow and fade. And gradually she relaxes. She even smiles. Victory!
Mom has finally had to go to a nursing facility. She’s bedridden with a broken hip, unable—mentally or physically—to do enough rehab to keep the new hip joint in place. Mom’s not talking much, but I’m grateful she seems unfazed by the move from the hospital to yet another unfamiliar place. Dad, on the other hand, is heartbroken. His greatest wish remains unchanged and unfulfilled: he wants her with him. He expected to bring her home from the hospital; instead, she is in another “home.” He will never be happy, he thinks, without her. But the next day, my sister arrives with a small lamp and a comfy chair and a radio, which she promptly tunes to the “oldies” station. And less than a week after the sadness of moving day, Frank Sinatra is serenading Mom while Dad drinks the coffee the lunch room ladies give him every day. Not home, but comfortable. And together. Victory!
Our weapons in the battle for the lives of our loved ones are not complicated to operate, but it does take some practice to learn to use them in this particular war.
Patience—to withstand the onslaught of questions and complaints. Planning—to ease transitions and nip difficulties in the bud. Creativity—to find new substitutes for old habits and favorite activities. Gratitude—to encourage us to accept the help others offer. Determination—to keep us steady in the face of constant change. Optimism—to persuade us that, no matter what new pain Alzheimer’s inflicts, we will find a way to keep our loved ones OK.
And most effective of all, love—to convince us to fight, not simply for our loved ones’ survival, but for their lives.Lord, we can accomplish nothing without You, but with You, we can do everything You call us to do. Thank You for helping us bring Your abundant Life to our loved ones.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)