Your Loved One Can Still Have a Meaningful Life with Alzheimer's
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, everything changes. Their life as they once knew it is gone. They are forced to let go of the way they pictured their life to be and create a new picture of how their life is now.
Many times, our loved ones struggle with finding meaning and purpose in their new lives. It can be especially hard when a loved one has to leave their job or other roles they once filled. A husband is no longer able to provide for his wife and family. A grandmother is no longer able to babysit her grandchildren. They are forced to let go of these roles and find a new identity.
Finding her purpose with Alzheimer's
My mom always prided herself on taking care of her house and her family. She was always doing something for someone else. She spent her days doing laundry, cleaning the house, running errands, and making sure her household was running smoothly.
Once she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she was no longer able to do any of these things. She struggled with feeling like she was supposed to be doing something, but not knowing what that something was anymore. She didn’t like sitting around all day doing anything. She wanted to feel useful. She wanted to have a purpose.
When I began taking care of my mom, I decided to focus less on what she was no longer able to do and more on what she could still do. I started including her in some of the things she once enjoyed doing. I began asking her to help me with the laundry and cleaning instead of just doing it by myself while she sat alone in front of the television. She was reluctant at first, but she quickly found enjoyment in helping me. She loved feeling helpful and useful. It didn’t matter if she didn’t do things perfectly. It mattered that she felt like she had a purpose by contributing to her household once again.
I also began doing activities with my mom, such as arts and crafts, feeding the birds, or throwing the ball to my dogs. Each day I went to my mom’s house with an activity planned for the day. It gave my mom’s life much more meaning to enjoy painting something or spending time outside than just sitting in front of the television all day.
Focusing on what she's still capable of doing
My mom’s life changed drastically when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While she had always anticipated babysitting her grandchildren someday, she never got the chance to do it. While she had always prided herself on a clean house, she was no longer able to clean it. While she always loved surprising us with little gifts, she could no longer take herself to the store to pick something out. So many of the things that made her life meaningful were stolen from her.
But by focusing on what she was still capable of, we were able to create meaning and purpose in her life. We were able to create moments of joy for her and give her a sense of belonging. And in doing so, we all learned many valuable life lessons that we probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
My mom taught me more during her years of sickness than she ever did in her years of wellness. In some ways, her life with Alzheimer’s was even more meaningful than it was before.
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