As humans, we are natural planners. We like to gather as much information as possible and create detailed and vivid images of how the future is going to turn out. It’s a good thing – planning helps us anticipate challenges and protects us from danger.
But life often does not turn out like those pictures in our heads, and that can lead to a lot of disappointment. We tend to be very hard on ourselves when we don’t get the results we expected.
I witness a lot of love and dedication at my job. I talk to care partners who go above and beyond to make sure their parent, spouse, sibling, friend – whoever they care for – is comfortable and happy. And yet, it seems every day I hear these dedicated care partners frustrated at themselves. They’re guilty that their mom is suddenly so quiet all the time. They feel like they’ve made a poor choice in choosing a residential care facility for their wife. They’re sad their husband can’t play his favorite sport anymore. In taking steps to care for their loved one, they feel they haven’t lived up to what they thought life would be looking like right now.
There are so many conditions in life that we simply cannot control. Everything from the weather, to the behavior of those around us, to unexpected and costly accidents. These are all things that can make a big impact on the daily life of a person with dementia and a care partner. It’s not your fault that you can’t control all those things.
There are certainly plenty of things you can control, and at Alzheimer’s San Diego, we try to maximize those controllable things through education, emotional support, and by providing you with information on community resources.
When you put your stringent idea of how things should have been on pause – and spend a little time tuning into how things are – you might find some magic. Sure, you were hoping mom would be more social at her new memory care facility, but if you pay attention, you might find that she’s developed a warm relationship with one of the caregivers who works there. Dad might not play tennis like he used to, but he’s been having a grand old time with the puzzles you’ve gotten him. We hear stories all the time from our ALZ Companion volunteers of unexpected moments of laughter, joy and connection. These are things that couldn’t have been planned, but happened because the environment was safe and comfortable. Those moments are a great example of controlling what we can, and working with what happens beyond that.
Every new phase in life brings with it new needs. At certain times in our lives, we need excitement. At other times, we need challenges and opportunities. Sometimes, all we need is a little quiet. It’s not fair to ourselves to judge our lives based on the needs of a different time. And more importantly, it’s not fair to judge ourselves based on plans we made when we had no idea what life would be dropping on our laps.
Of course, some things are worth our concern. Dignity, safety, and health deserve their spot in the front seats of our minds. But when all those things are in place, ask yourself: If I suspend the images of what things are “supposed” to look like, can I find some good? Can I honor the hard work I put into caring for my person, or caring for myself?
At Alzheimer’s San Diego, we’re here to help you work through those questions. We can talk about the concerns you have and help you reflect on what can be changed and what can’t. We can provide disease education on things that are common and typical. We can also be honest and let you know if something needs to be changed, and hopefully help you find ways to make those changes.
If you think you could benefit from that kind of conversation, we’re a phone call away. One thing is certainly true in all stages of life and the challenges they bring – you can’t do it alone. And you don’t have to.
Get free support by talking with Mina or another Alzheimer’s San Diego social worker. We’re here to help! Drop by our office or give us a call at 858.492.4400.