Sunday, September 24, 2017
Letter to A New Caregiver
Dear New Caregiver,
I'm writing to you because I've heard you are at the beginning of an Alzheimer's journey with a loved one. I want to tell you it is going to be ok; you will find help when you don't expect it, respite when you sense you ought not to need it, and heart-healing even if you don't realize your heart has broken.
I want you to know that although God may seem silent and far off, that He hasn't abandoned you.
I remember the days following my mother's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease. For weeks and even months, I observed an extended wake of grieving over the loss of my mother. But...she didn't fade from view, and she certainly didn't die. She was contrary and irritating, vulnerable and sweet by turns, but she remained very present. Gradually I relaxed; my mother obviously wasn't going anywhere for a long time yet. There are many blessings that unfold gently during a long goodbye, and one of these is time to adapt to change.
God has been so kind to us. I suffered no sudden shock of parting, no terrible, tragic blow. My mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis merely provided a visible sign of her mortality; I could no longer hide from the fact that most of us outlive our parents. And so, at age 50, I began the too-long-delayed process of becoming a mature adult, finally able to function without the support of my mother.
Change is difficult, growing up is painful, and there have been challenges along the way. But most of these challenges have fallen more in the category of aggravations rather than tragedies. And now--thirteen years following Mom's diagnosis-- when I make the drive to the nursing home, I am still able to glean encouragement from my mother's smile, comfort from her hug, and to bask in her sincere gratitude for all I do for her.
There have been many changes over the course of Mom's Alzheimer's, but surprisingly, most of them have, in the end, been positive. The struggles we've faced have been temporary, and have taken us to a new status quo where we almost always have had time to gather our wits and adapt before the next challenge has arisen. We are at one of those resting places right now; Mom, at age 93, is doing fine, and I've adapted to visiting her only 2 or 3 times a week. I understand now that these gradual changes will greatly ease my grieving process when Mom finally goes home to the Lord.
This post comes with a prayer that it finds its way to the heart of someone who will find it encouraging today. God bless.
With love and prayers,