As Long As You’re Alive, Dreams Can Still Come True
So many times during my teaching career—and especially during the last years—I would stand inside my classroom, nervously looking at the falling snow outside, and I would promise myself that SOMEDAY I was going to be able to stay home when it snowed. I envisioned having enough supplies to get me through an entire winter and I would stay holed up. I would bunker down in front of the fireplace and read, drinking a nice cup of hot tea as all the working folk continued to have to go out in the muck. And, finally, after waiting three or four winters, my dream came true. Southern Maryland finally got their first real measurable snow this week. I did just what I had dreamed of: curled up in front of the fire, read, drank tea…even made Chili! And I had time to think about other dreams I have had in the past for my future.
My motto is that “with God everything is possible”. I think having dementia, I probably need to qualify that a bit and change the word EVERYTHING to MANY THINGS. After all, it is totally unconceivable that I will become a state senator or start a business, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t do other things just as important and self satisfying. It does mean that I have to be more selective in my activities. For instance, I have been asked if I would “chair” the flea market portion of a large fundraiser. My immediate response, as usual, is SURE! (I love volunteering and flea markets are so much fun.) However, then I got scared...my organizational skills are not what they used to be…I lose track of what I am doing…my mind wanders…will I tire out too easily and not be able to fulfill all that I need to do? I hate to tell the organization NO….
And then, I come up with a solution, or rather a way to figure out whether I should volunteer or not. I will make a list of all the duties and times required. I will include skills that are necessary and what parts can be doled out… With a complete picture in front of me, I can make a decision that is based on reality, not the jumbled up mess that is in my mind right now.
Before dementia, I would have never had to do this “list” thing to make a decision. My mind was able to take it all in, assemble it automatically, and make the decision without hesitancy. My IQ was high enough—genius level, but I don’t like to brag—that so much was computed without even really thinking. Dementia has harmed me in more ways than just cutting off my short term memory, etc. It has made me doubt myself and my abilities. This self-doubt, I’m afraid, is limiting my choices and my chances for a productive life. If Dementia is doing this to me, I KNOW it must be affecting others out there.
I suppose my words of wisdom today, with this self reflection would be these:
For dementia sufferers, push your limits. Change the way you “used” to do things to fit what you need now. Don’t be ashamed of having to make lists, etc. Try each day to find ways to exceed what you think you can do. Be with people as much as you can; volunteer your time to help others. And don’t let anyone tell you that you CAN’T do something just because you have dementia; try to make it work so you CAN do part of it, if not all of whatever it is that was denied you.
For caregivers, encourage your loved one’s efforts. Be pro-active in his/her daily routine.
If you hear the words “I can’t” turn them into words of “I can” by coming up with ways it can be accomplished. Keep your loved one involved with current events—even if you have to repeat yourself doing it. Encourage your loved one to relate with others, young and old. Add a “field trip” once in a while to stimulate your loved one’s mind.
For instance, take him/her to the aquarium; have them describe the fish, etc….anything that gets his/her mind working.
I need to stop now; now, where is some paper so I can make that list? LOL