The long goodbye of Alzheimer's holds a few blessings. One of these is that this slow progressing disease allows us time to adjust to the fact of a loved one's leavetaking; it is somewhat like removing a band-aid very slowly rather than ripping it off suddenly. I've come to accept that the Lord in His wisdom has granted me a good long time to release my mother into His care.
After all these years of caregiving, I think I'm finally recognizing some truths that make this release a little less painful. All human relationships are tainted in some way by sin, and when a sinful pattern of interacting with another person becomes familiar--most often because it began in childhood--we may grieve its loss. Haven't there been days as caregivers when we would welcome familiar sorts of arguments or critiques from our loved ones just for the sake of having them back as they once were? But the Lord isn't with us in grief over what ought to be a release of the burden of human vices that are familiar and thus "dear." Dwelling in a human grief over these kinds of sorrows can separate us from the Lord and block our praises.
When familiar, negative patterns of interacting endure into a caregiver/patient relationship, the results can be just plain awful, and so our challenge is to release human, sin-based ties while keeping the strong bonds of love that run beneath. Love is eternal, and when backlit by the Lord's presence, can bring beauty into the most broken of relationships. This is how we can be sweet to a dementia patient who is displaying anger; we remember the love that runs beneath the negative behaviors and pray for the Lord's love for the patient to shine through us. I visualize His strong, supporting love as a brightness that illuminates what is positive in my emotions toward my mother and powers my own love for her into my behaviors.
When our loved ones die, we aren't to grieve as those who have no hope. What is lost isn't worth keeping (anger, resentment and bitterness can't enter into Heaven) but what is blessed will remain. People we love in the Lord aren't lost to us. We remain connected in the Lord even though Alzheimer's might mask the love a patient once was able to express, and even after our loved ones pass away. In Christ, we remain connected by the strong cords of His love, even through the challenges and sorrows of Alzheimer's disease.