Maintaining a Positive Outlook on Life With Dementia
As I get more out into the world, pushing my limits, I am finding that many whom I meet are being affected in one way or another by dementia. Most are caregivers or children with a parent or two with Alzheimers. Many others are dealing with old age dementia in their parent(s). I am fortunate to meet the people who are able to leave these parents to go to meetings or dinner, etc. We talk and usually the conversation will come around to their parent’s situation. Not once have I heard one say they are angry about the situation or mad at the parent. That is comforting to me. I know somewhere in the (hopefully distant) future, my husband may have to take care of me. As a matter of fact, most of the people with whom I get into deep conversation concerning dementia can find some humor in it. They are not making fun of their parent…but of the disease. It’s a healthy way of letting off steam, I believe.
Now, onto other matters. I am dancing in life in life despite dementia!
I gave a dinner party!! It’s been almost two years since I tried it, if my memory serves me correctly. (LOL) And, I was able to make three new dishes, following recipes. It took me days to do it. I made list after list of ingredients, pans needed, time lines…much more effort than I would have had to expend four or five years ago. It was important that I be super organized. Of course, the dishes were quite simple with as few ingredients as possible, and they ended up all tasting good. I had never made them before—that’s one thing that dementia has not changed in me. I have always gone against experts’ advice to make a new dish before the event. Not me, I like the suspense. I assume it will taste good if it looks good. I made a string bean with pine nuts, Armadillo potatoes, and a spinach strawberry salad. None sound like making them involves rocket science. But to someone with dementia, making them does feel like rocket science. The dinner party ended up being smaller than expected as the flu hit one of my guests. Even with that, the gathering was enjoyable and I was able to spend most of my time with my guests.
This is a busy time for me, one that presents great challenges. I have my volunteer activities plus:
• Write the family newsletter to be given out at the reunion
• Keep all the family reunion committee members on task (oh, right—how did I ever get THIS job???)
• Write and teach my next class on Strengthening Your Mind for the senior center
• Deliver another spiel about the Telephone Reassurance Program to yet another senior center
• As newly elected Vice President of the Cooperative Ministry of Aging for my county, help with getting funding through grants
• Get signed up for grant writing classes
This sounds like an awful lot—and it is! I have to work very hard to accomplish it all. Thankfully, I have support through my friends and family who help to keep ME on track! I have to admit that sometimes this all gets the best of me. If I am not extremely careful to write everything down, to follow my lists, and to constantly have someone look over what I am doing, I can get into quite a mess. And, sometimes, it all seems just like too much and I can feel my heart start to race and a mild form of panic begin to take over. If I begin to feel consumed by it all, I get frightened. When that happens, I take a break. Mentally, I say “Screw it all! I’m taking a break!” And I do. I go off to my favorite chair with a nice tea or lemonade, my dog in the chair beside me, my kitten traipsing over my book, and read.
I know it sounds like a normal life for most, combined (of course) with house work and laundry…it’s anything but normal to someone with dementia. The slightest responsibity can almost seem unsurmountable at times. Everything—even doing the dishes—has to be broken down into incremental steps. And laundry? How many times have I had to rewash clothes which have been forgotten, left to sit in the washer? Remembering to complete a load of clothes is really hard when I get involved with other things along the way…
What a busy life! I think it’s the secret to being the best one can be!