As caregivers, we are called on to become a sort of human interface between the recipient of our care and the larger world. We do this in so many ways, some intuitive and relatively easy, others incredibly difficult. We are often the keeper of finances, of medical records, dispenser of medications, the nurse, the liaison with doctors, the housekeeper, the personal shopper, the chef, the confidante. We, in essence become the eyes, ears, hands & heart of our loved one -- protecting them from harm in every way possible and taking up their cause when they are not able. In a sense, that is what makes it so wrenching when our loved one cannot be "cured", as is the case in Alzheimer's Disease.
Often, I think we feel a sense of failure as caregivers (daughters, sons, spouses) that we aren't able to somehow miraculously save them from the fate of the illness. But, even in the midst of such feelings of helplessness, we can find the greatest of gifts: the power of living in the present moment. If you could boil down all of life's peaks and valleys and distill its very core into one simple sentiment, it is finding value and joy in the present moment. This was the precious gift I received daily from my mother.
In her world, there was nothing but the present moment -- and she never lost her childlike joy in discovering and savoring it. Whether she was opening a greeting card and admiring it (for the first or the fiftieth time), petting her cat, eating a bowl of ice cream or watching a sunset, she experienced true delight in that moment. And I did, also, in witnessing the beauty of her response.
If I spread a nice-smelling lavender lotion on her skin, her palpable enjoyment was uplifting because it was so simple and honest. She became alive to her senses with a focus on "now" that was amazing. What if we could all live our lives in this direct, worry-free way? How would it change us? Change the world?
If you are in the midst of your caregiving role, I urge you to take a step back from the "have-to- dos", the "shoulds", the anxiety over possible future problems (which most times never actually happen), and be totally in the moment with your loved one -- feeling the rich reward of a heart full of love, sharing a simple pleasure and making this moment good. Cherish the gift. It is a life-transforming and life-affirming one!