Choose Life Over Dementia
This week's post is directed to those people with some form of dementia.
You are not alone. You are not going crazy. You are not losing it...well, maybe a little...but not all at once. There's still time to be YOU to live a full life.
Dementia is a diagnosis. A tragic one, to say the least. But it does NOT have to be so...final. When I received my diagnosis, I was devastated. Newly married, I was beside myself with grief and uncertainty. I didn't want to put my husband through what I thought would be instantaneous "daffiness". My first reaction was to offer him an out...a divorce...so he wouldn't have to go down this path with me. Luckily, he refused... This first hysterical reaction upon facing my diagnosis lasted but a short time. It was followed by a period of denial...I was going to be just fine. I would fight it. Nothing would change. Dementia wasn't going to get me!
Once my immediate response of grief and then denial over the diagnosis waned, I went into the fight mode. I am still in this mode. It has, however, combined with an acceptance of having dementia. Both stages are extremely important for those of us with dementia.
Dementia does NOT define us. It is NOT who we are! We are still who we were, but different, with different needs. However, dementia is not like having a cold, which we can throw off through the course of time. Dementia is a life sentence. The question is: What kind of life do you want to lead?
I have chosen activism...to look outside of myself. It would be very easy to withdraw from life, be angry about the diagnosis, and shrivel up, waiting to die. But what a waste!
There is so much time left-and, yet, so little. What to do? How to cope? The first avenue to take is to reach out to others. Talk about your dreams; they may STILL be possible. You may have to tweak them to make them fit, but you'll never know unless you try. By reaching out to others, talking out your dreams...and your fears...you unleash a new sense of energy.
A future that seemed bleak becomes full of promise, even now, even with dementia. I have found, and it's nothing new to many, that by helping others, my dementia is pushed to the background. By giving of my time and talents, I can help my community...and, at the same time, just those actions help me a hundred fold. Volunteering is what I am talking about. I can remember thinking, while I was working as a teacher, that someday I would have the time to volunteer. Once I retired, I continued to just think about it. And, then, WHAM. The screen door hit me in the face-DEMENTIA. It took me a while to understand that I still could be of service to others. I started off gradually, one day a month, helping at the local senior center as the check-in person for people coming to see Social Security agents at the off-site center. This activity gave me the impetus to begin researching and developing a set of Strengthening Your Mind classes for seniors, which I then went on to teach at the senior center. That, in turn, empowered me to seek other volunteering activities, including reading the lessons in church Even with dementia... no, IN SPITE OF DEMENTIA, I continue to live a very full life. My volunteering activities, which range from 4-18 hours per month (depending on the month), have put me back into the mainstream of life. I deal with my inadequacies and work around them. I've made tons of new friends who have enriched my life. I look outward to the living, not inward to my fears of the future. But, then again, I have no fears for the future. I will be okay-not the same, but okay. And so will you!