"There exists only the present instant, a Now which always and without end is itself new. There is no yesterday nor any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence."
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!
This moment in time is the ONLY moment you have. Truly "getting" that, viscerally knowing it is both a simple concept and a lifelong challenge. Living a life steeped in that belief is the highest goal toward alleviating suffering and bringing a vibrancy and joy into our existence. Yet our western culture doesn't allow for this very easily, as we are continually being pushed into worrying about the future or pulled into agonizing about the past -- places where our actions and angst can change exactly nothing. Yet we persist in our "human-ness" in trying to do just that! If there is one precious gift a person with Alzheimer's Disease can impart, it is that of living in the present moment, because that is all they have in many cases. If the present moment is filled with love, comfort, goodness, and kindness, then life is good. That is perhaps the very best gift of insight my mother gave to me. What gifts has caring for your loved one offered you? Sometimes one has to look very diligently to find them, but they are there. Uncovering and appreciating these rare and special gifts is an excellent coping skill to develop!
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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