What Alzheimer’s Disease Has Taught Me (so far)

I’ve been in long term health care for 15 years now.  I’ve worked with and cared for numerous individuals and families who have been touched by the heartbreaking disease known as Alzheimer’s.   There have even been a few of my own relatives who have lived with AD–few aunts and uncles.   Then, a couple years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

My knowledge base has grown and grown over the years I’ve worked in geriatric care.   More than most anyone, I am well trained and equipped on what to expect and how to handle the myriad of twists and turns that accompany AD.   Still, as anyone will tell you, when it’s *your* close family member who is part of the Alzheimer’s equation, all bets are off.   It’s impossible not to be emotionally invested in whatever happens on this journey.

Granted, I’m a pretty easy-going person.  I try to look for the positive and the lessons that can be found in any situation, no matter how hard, sad or devastating.  (I get this trait from my dad, I believe).  And while my dad is in the early stages of AD at the moment, I realize things can change quickly and that there is no more taking things for granted where he is concerned.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful online support forum filled with tons of people who either are caring for someone with AD or who are dealing with the disease in some way, shape or form.   I  recently was inspired to add to a great thread where forum posters list what they’ve learned from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far:

  • Many people with AD can still keep their sense of humor through most of the disease process. Looking for the humor in those not-so-great moments can be a life saver!
  • People will forget what you say and what you do for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
  • Hugs and kisses go a long way, especially when you don’t know what to say.
  • We’re a society that prides ourselves on our “intellect” and we are trained to live in our heads. Perhaps AD is here in part to teach us to live in and with our hearts more.

I wish this disease did not exist, but I continue to remain open to what it has to teach on an individual and collective level.   The lessons are always there, you just have to be open to finding them.

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1 Comment

Filed under advocacy, aging, dementia, loss theory, social work skills

One response to “What Alzheimer’s Disease Has Taught Me (so far)

  1. I love your final words. I believe we can learn from everyone, even when their experiences/abilities diverge from our own. It has been so much of the attraction to social working for me – finding strength, beauty, hope, wisdom, humor, blessing, brilliance where they are unexpected. Great post.

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