Don’t White Wash Alzheimer’s!

Don’t White Wash Alzheimer’s!
Recently, I received a heartfelt email from a caregiver who felt that I had sometimes white-washed Alzheimer’s disease in my advice to caregivers, making this terminal illness sound spiritual. She explained: “It is a clear deterioration for 80 per cent of the patients of their ability to handle anything that is a stressor or imaginary stressor. My mother is aggressive, hostile, sometimes violent and depressed. You know this and the truth needs to be spoken.” I agree wholeheartedly that this truth needs to be presented. However, this truth does not negate the other.

Life is filled with contradictions; in fact Zen philosophy thrives on it. In order to define a concept one usually needs an opposite to see it more clearly. The tension between these opposites releases an energy used to explore, dispute, redefine and personalize. Externals do not make up the truth the way one sees it. Much of our own truth is internally driven: personal perception.

Having taken care of two parents with Alzheimer’s – not at the same time, but consecutively – I often wondered how to positively reframe this dread disease. Since my line of work is stress-management, a major principle stands at the center: Reframing negatives with a more positive story. This is why after many moments of silent tears, I realized that the darkness of Alzheimer’s has shaped my consciousness with light; it has transformed me with priceless self-growth by leaps and bounds.

Here are the positive life skills I have learned and wish to share.

  • Compelled me to let go of unrealistic expectations
  • Encouraged me to live in the moment and be truly present to whatever I was doing
  • Demonstrated that one moment could be bad and another better
  • Helped me to see the world through a different lens, not my own
  • Reinforced the right that every person has to dignity and needs to be encouraged to contribute even in the smallest way
  • Showed me visceral parental love (both parents) that is always palpable, even when they don’t know your name
  • Reminded me of simple things that bring happiness; back to basics
  • Taught me patience
  • Activated my sense of humor, laughter as medicine
  • Reminded me of the powerful role of music as sound therapy
  • Demonstrated the importance of physical exercise, aerobics and strength training
  • Made me grateful for being above ground
  • Encouraged me to find my purpose
  • Opened the window to creativity, personal time and space for me to imagine
  • Inspired me to redefine my identity

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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