Choosing to be the caregiver for our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease is a conscious, deliberate, and willing choice of sacrifice, selflessness, and, ultimately, love.
However, in the big scheme of things, this choice, this action on our parts is our acknowledgement that we are fulfilling the circle of life for parents – and, in some cases, grandparents – who made conscious, deliberate, and willing choices to make sacrifices in their own lives, to act selflessly, to love unconditionally when they brought us into their lives.
Like many of our loved ones become, if they live long enough with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, we were totally helpless, utterly dependent, and needed 24/7 care and attention, as well as love, soothing, and comfort.
There was no reticence, no holding back, no wavering in the commitment our loved ones made to us in those needy, weepy, sometimes trying, sometimes scary, sometimes exhausting beginning days, weeks, months, and years of our lives.
Instead there was gratitude.
The sacrifices – and they made many, some deep and hard and of which we are totally unaware, sacrifices – along the way for us were worth whatever they were giving up.
The selflessness involved was never an issue because they loved us that much. It was always less about them than it was about us.
And that love was always unconditional. Even when we tried their patience without end. Even when we got into one thing after another, sometimes making little messes and sometimes making huge messes. Even when we unknowingly embarrassed them with unapologetic frequency in front of both strangers and friends. Even when we were, at best, a handful, and, at worst, out of control.
At the end of each day, we knew we were loved and that no matter what else happened, we always had a safe place in the world to count on, to come home to, to be comforted in.
Did they get tired? Yes.
Did they get frustrated? Yes.
Did they get angry? Yes.
Did they sometimes just want to throw their hands up in the air and say “Enough already?” You bet.
Did they handle everything with grace and perfection? Absolutely not.
Did they try? Absolutely.
Did they quit us, even when we had ripped the sleep out of their nights, the peace out of their formerly-tranquil lives, and the color out of their hair? No.
Because gratitude trumped all those temporary setbacks and disruptions. They saw us as gifts from God and they saw being able to love and care for us as an opportunity to thank God for the gifts He had given them.
And herein lies the reasons we should be thankful for the opportunity to take loving care of our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Our loved ones have been and are gifts given to us by God. How best to show our gratitude to them and to our Creator than to love and care for our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, as they did for us, when they need us most and depend on us most?
Caregiving is not easy. It is hard, demanding, and often thankless work that requires an unshakeable commitment to persevere in spite of obstacles, in spite of hurts, in spite of the numerous losses it will bring to our own lives.
Caregiving, then, is a gift that each of us has the opportunity and choice to accept or reject.
If we reject that gift, then we are rejecting an incredible opportunity to fully appreciate and to be eternally grateful for the sacrifices, the selflessness, the unconditional love that our loved ones and God Himself, through His Son, made, showed, and gave us, not because we asked for them, but simply because we mattered that much to them.
If we accept that gift, on the other hand, we are the beneficiaries in so many ways that far exceed the challenges we are also accepting.
With this gift, we become kinder people, gentler people, more empathetic people, more understanding people, more patient people, more long-suffering people, more merciful people, more self-controlled people, more humble people, and more loving people.
The gift of caregiving for our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Diseases also gives us the blessings of becoming more courageous, more comforting, more forgiving, stronger, more compassionate, and more sympathetic.
And finally the gift of caregiving increases our faith and our faithfulness: faithfulness to the commitments, physical and spiritual, that we make in our lives; and faith in God and His word and His promises that a time is coming when all things, including our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease as well as those of us who care for them with our limitations, our faults, our flaws, our mistakes, and our missteps, will be completely healed.
There is much to be grateful for as we love and care for our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease. I have not even scratched the surface of covering all the areas where we experience gratitude in this journey with our loved ones.
But my hope with this post is that each of us will think about and find the gratitude in our personal experiences that overshadows the pain, the sorrow, the losses, which temporarily sting and grieve us, but in the balance transform us in more mature and more thankful iterations of ourselves.