If you are a caregiver for someone with dementia or any serious illness, I am sure you've wondered how you are going to handle all the challenges and unknowns. I remember how helpful it was when a wise friend pointed out that I was living in a parallel process to my husband who had Alzheimer's. As he declined and suffered losses, so did I - not least because it took so much energy to be his companion through an ever-changing landscape of loss. When I knew that we were living ever closer to his death, I was forced to face not only his mortality but my own. Living day to day with such challenges, I was grateful that someone had acknowledged the enormity of what I was experiencing.
As someone always looking for inspiration, I was impressed by a recent conversation between Deepak Chopra and a leading Alzheimer's research doctor Dr. Rudolph Tanzi. A Plan to Eradicate Alzheimer Disease with Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi When Chopra asked him about the prospects for finding a cure for Alzheimer's, Tanzi stated emphatically, "we will eradicate it within ten years." He went on to explain that when we state a strong, purposeful intention - and his pronouncements were a vivid example of that! - we energize the desired outcome, making it that much more possible. Bottom line: Our intentions are powerful!
I found myself applying the inspiration of Tanzi's words to caregiving. While we're handling the enormous challenges of Alzheimer's, what happens when we bring powerful intentions to the spirit of our caregiving? What if we lift our vision - at least now and again - to frame our journey with the highest aspirations? While accepting the harsh realities of dementia, we can also cultivate uplifting perspectives to inspire us. What intentions do you have? Give yourself time to reflect on this question. If you write them down, your intentions will be clarified and empowered. Reflect on them periodically.
While living with my husband's illness, these were the intentions and aspirations that I found most helpful:
I intended to make this last chapter of life as good as possible for my loved one. My intention was inspired by knowing that some traditions say that the end of life - including death - is spiritually the most important
I resolved to cultivate what are called the "perfections" or transcendent values - patience, equanimity, loving-kindness, effort, wisdom, and compassion
I affirmed that even amidst the most trying times, my caring presence was the most precious gift I could offer my loved one
I trusted that even though his mind was dissolving, his soul/spirit remained
I took refuge in knowing that our love - and everyone's - was stronger than all the heartbreaks of the disease
It's important to remember that these intentions and attitudes are an inner compass to guide our way when the going is rough. Realistically, we have the hardest job that life has ever asked of us, and most people don't realize the enormity of what you're experiencing. Yet rest assured that affirming your intentions will provide encouragement and transform the spirit of your caregiving.