Finding Joy in Your Alzheimer's Journey
Throughout my mom's ten-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer's, I would often hear people talk about finding joy in the journey. Quite honestly, it used to make me really mad.
I felt like there was nothing joyful about what we were going through as a family. I felt like suggesting otherwise was just a form of toxic positivity. I resented the insinuation that I had to find something good in every bad situation. I felt like it diminished my pain, grief, and stress.
I was under the assumption that when people talked about finding joy in the journey, it meant that the entire journey itself had to be joyful. I thought it meant that I had to find joy in my mom's decline, in my family's suffering, or in the painful process of losing my mom right before my own eyes. I really struggled with it.
How could I possibly find joy in the painfully slow process of losing my mom?
How could I possibly see anything good in her deterioration?
Finding moments along the way
What I failed to realize was that it was never about having an entirely joyful journey — it was about having moments of joy along the way.
It wasn't about finding joy in the process of losing my mom — it was about focusing on what we still had left. And it wasn't about finding joy in my family's suffering — it was about making the most of the time we had left together.
Once I realized this, everything changed. I became far less resistant to the idea of finding joy in the journey and much more open to creating that joy myself.
Relishing the small moments of joy
I realized that it was all about the little things. If I could create small moments of joy throughout my mom's days and our time together, they could add up to huge amounts of joy overall.
Whenever my mom experienced something light and joyful, that feeling tended to stay with her for much longer than the experience itself. If I could find ways to create that feeling for her throughout the day, then I could create a larger sense of joy overall.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to plan some elaborate activity for my mom every day to bring her joy. But I quickly realized that she found much more joy in life's simple pleasures than in any big, planned activity.
A dog barking or a child laughing.
Feeling warm sunshine on her face.
A piece of chocolate.
Listening to the birds while sitting on the back porch.
Singing silly songs together.
Playing with a toy from the dollar store.
Finding joy despite Alzheimer's
All of these little things brought my mom a lot of joy. I found that if I could incorporate many of these simple pleasures throughout the day, my mom and I both had a much more positive experience. It was still incredibly hard, but I learned how to find joy in the journey. And oddly enough, now that she's gone, the joy is what I remember the most.
Does humor help you cope?