5 things I’m learning from those with Alzheimer’s

Friday's Fave Five at Living to Tell the Story Even though my mom isn’t very verbal anymore,
she’s still teaching me life lessons as I watch her.
learning lessons chalkboard

Here are five things I’ve been learning from her and others in her assisted living facility.  

1. Take baby steps.
Tasks that we find simple, like washing your hair, can be quite overwhelming to those with Alzheimer’s. We don’t think of them as the multi-step processes they are.

So I’m learning that breaking things into baby steps—one thing at a time—works far better with my mom. Don’t say, “We’re going to the doctor.” Start instead with, “Let’s stand up.”

So when I’m overwhelmed with my own tasks, sometimes looking only at what I need to do next works best for me, too

2. Ask for what you need.
I’ve noticed that many of the residents have no hang-ups about asking any passerby for what they need. I’ve been asked to take people home, to make phone calls, to find their husband, to get drinks, etc.

I’m not usually able to fulfill their requests but I appreciate their understanding that to get what you need, sometimes you’ve got to ask for help. I’m slow in this area; I’ll often go without, if it means asking for help to get it. This lesson I really need to take to heart.

3. Staying put is easier than moving on.
     But it’s not always better.
My mom does not like transitions. At all. She may want to go to bed, but she doesn’t want to leave the chair she’s in to get there.

I don’t always like taking the actions required either to get from where I am to where I want to be. But sometimes we just gotta take ‘em anyway. If Mama can do it, I can, too.

4. Life won’t always make sense.
Mrs. B told me yesterday, “This is a strange place.” They keep taking her to a strange room, she said, instead of her own room.

Yes, Mrs. B, this is a strange place for all of us.  

But that’s okay. We don’t always have to understand life to live it well. We just need to know that there is Someone who knows exactly what’s going on, and who is loving us through it.  

5. Your most important moment? This one.
     Live here.
While thinking about our past and planning for our future are definitely worthwhile and necessary activities, the present is where we should live. I’m learning that, too, from my mom. More and more.

She now lives with no regrets, no guilt. Neither does she worry about what the future holds, what she will eat or wear tomorrow. She’s present in the moment.

Not a bad example to be setting, Mama... Thank you.

31 Do not be anxious, saying,
'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you. 
34  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6

* * *

What lesson have you learned from your mama lately?

For more Friday favorites, meet with our friends at Susanne’s.

More reflections on Alzheimer’s

18 comments:

emily wierenga said...

oh Lisa, i'm crying... my mum has a brain tumor... she teaches me these things too. thank you for articulating it so well. e.

emily wierenga said...

ps. i've added you to my blog-roll.

Lisa notes... said...

Emily,
My heart aches with yours. Praying for your peace in this day and for God to plant special surprise moments of joy with your mom...
Lisa

Melissa said...

Wow, I love how you've applied these lessons to your own life! I'm getting better at #2 and #4, but especially working on #5. Thank you so much for sharing this!

momma24 said...

Great post and great reminders.

Barbara H. said...

We've had some of the same experiences with people asking for help in my MIL's assisted living place, and she doesn't like change at all, either. My kids could get overwhelmed like that if I just told them to go clean their room, and breaking it down into more easily managed steps helped. I thought of that on a recent solo road trip when it seemed so long, but then just traveling along, I had gone several miles before realizing it, then soon was halfway, etc.

Faith said...

wow...you have written this so eloquently...thank you for this. My mom is possibly at the beginning stages of this disease...we aren't fully sure yet...one thing I HAVE learned from her is to take each moment as it comes and give it to the Lord! May God bless you!!

Laura said...

I really like #4. And I love "being present in the moment." You should write a book about what you've learned -- really. This was great.

I think what I'ver learned from my mom ties in with Father's Day. Since my dad went to heaven, my mom has been surprisingly courageous and independent. I'm proud of her!

ellen b. said...

I really love your creativity in coming up with your fave five. I'm glad you have your eyes and ears open to the learning situations in otherwise not pleasant circumstances. May God continue to teach and comfort you and may your mom know that God is still with her.

Tea Norman said...

I read every bit of your post about Alzhiemer's and your mother. It's really the best points I've read about this disease. My parents and my inlaws are no longer with us. Still, I might need to help a relative or a friend.

Brenda said...

God bless you as you care for your mother during this time. I hope it helps you to write some of these things down. I know when things were hard for me, writing the good things down helped a lot.

cindy said...

"What lesson have you learned from your mama lately?"

Cancer came and took my mama away, but before that there were a lot of life lessons and about ever second day or so one pops up and reminds me, it is great. Working with the elderly most of my life has taught me baby steps, I was able to manage them at work however I have a hard time applying them in everyday life I keep trying

Dee said...

Even in difficult circumstances like these, your mom can teach us all important life lessons. Thanks so much for sharing your week with us.

Susanne said...

Wow, what awesome lessons to realize and learn from your Mom. The first one I learned when I worked with handicapped children. I think I'm learning the "Life doesn't always make sense" lesson right now.

nikkipolani said...

These are tremendous lessons, Lisa. Thank you for taking the time to share what you're learning in such a deep way. These are beautiful.

Icy BC said...

Oh I love your fave five! There is so much to learn from old people, as I watch them in nursing homes.

Blessing to your mom and you!

Moira said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I really love the personal application notes!

Willow said...

I don't have a mama anymore; cancer took her more than 17 years ago. One thing she told me a few years before that was, "When I was twenty, I worried about what people thought about me. When I was forty, I didn't care about what people thought about me. When I was sixty, I realized no one was thinking about me in the first place!" How freeing. Makes it easier to live in the present.

Lovely tribute to your mom.

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